Commission a new survey

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QWhy should I waste more money on another survey when I’m already paying for one to be done by the building society?

AThis touches on a very important point. After all, buying a home is the single biggest investment most of us ever make – so it’s only common sense to want to be reassured that everything is OK before we commit ourselves.

And that’s why you shouldn’t be misled into thinking that the building society’s valuation is the same as a survey. It isn’t. It is designed solely for the lender’s benefit, to judge whether the property has enough collateral for them to lend money against. Although the borrower has to pay, it is arranged – and legally owned – by the lender. So, not only are you unlikely to receive a copy, but should the valuer fail to spot a costly defect, you won’t have any claim against him (or her). The only way you as a buyer can be truly confident about the investment you are making is to commission your own survey.

Many buyers pay a bit more for a so-called RICS Homebuyer Survey and Valuation. These are specifically designed to be as user-friendly as possible for the layman, presenting information in a clear, easily-understood format. And, since you are employing the surveyor yourself, you can sue him (or her) if he (or she) fails to spot a defect – or at least, make a claim on his (or her) public liability insurance.

The cost will be in the region of £400-£500, and your lender may even agree to accept it in place of their own valuation, saving you paying twice. However, you will have to request this well in advance.

Homebuyer Surveys are fine for relatively modern, traditionally constructed properties, but if you are buying a period property, or something unusual like a barn conversion, then you may be better off commissioning something rather more comprehensive.

Which brings me to the full Building Survey. This will be a much more thorough investigation.

You should expect the surveyor or engineer to bring ladders and wear overalls. They should open manholes, remove bath panels and even lift carpets and floorboards (with the seller’s permission).

The price of a full Building Survey will generally range between £700 and £1,000, depending on a variety of factors such as the size, age and value of the property in question. But in view of the peace of mind that such a report represents, this is still a small price to pay.