For those looking to purchase a property, a survey of the intended purchase can be a literal money saver. With a range of survey options open to them, however, it can become confusing as to which will suit them best. A HomeBuyer survey, of course, is considerably cheaper than a full Building Survey– yet key details can also be missed. Property Typing works closely with some of the industry’s best professionals here in the UK… so here’s our top tips on choosing the best survey for your clients.

How do the two building surveys differ?

The easy answer is that a Building Survey is the more comprehensive of the two. But what does that really mean? In short, it is that the Building Survey is the better option for any case where you have reason to doubt the property, be it through its current condition, age and construction method, or anything else.

The HomeBuyer report is an easy, simple document provided as a quick check-up by an expert on properties that already have strong indications of a clean bill of health, where no major renovations are anticipated or planned (or have been done in the past), and where a good maintenance history is known.

The Building Survey is more appropriate for any other case, be it poor maintenance, suspicion of issues, unusual construction/materials used, the potential new owner’s future plans or simply their peace of mind going forward.

When should I opt for a HomeBuyer’s report?

Although the less detailed of the two RICS-advised surveys, that doesn’t mean that the HomeBuyer survey doesn’t have value to the right consumer. There’s still many cases where the HomeBuyer survey could be the best option for the buyer’s needs. This includes properties that match the following criteria:

  • Built within the last century
  • Use conventional, recognised designs
  • Use common building material
  • Appear to be in good condition

Of course, the main catch lies in that ‘appear to’. It’s fully possible for an unpleasant surprise to be lurking in the wings. However, with a property in great condition, with a known history of maintenance, the HomeBuyer report is likely to cover everything a client needs at a more attractive price tag and involves considerably less work for the surveyor too. This correlates to less time on site, faster turnaround times and less administrative hassle for all parties involved.

What is covered by the RICS HomeBuyer survey?

The HomeBuyer survey is still undertaken by a RICS accredited surveyor, so there’s still a quality eye viewing the property. This form of survey is the one which replaced the older HomeBuyer Survey and Valuation as of March 2010. While a valuation can be undertaken as part of this survey (which would require the prospective buyer to use the services of a registered valuer), it is not an essential or default part of the survey and must be specially requested.

As a layman, this is the easiest form of survey to digest. The layout is simple, with information colour-coded for easy accessibility. Energy efficient considerations are also typically added to modern reports. The areas evaluated are fairly comprehensive, but the surveyor doesn’t venture ‘off the beaten track’ to conduct the survey. The surveyor will examine areas which commonly display issues in the average building. This includes things such as the insulation and damp-proofing, a general damp evaluation, drainage (although the drains themselves will not be examined), obvious signs of rot and woodworm, and any other openly visible structural threats. In short, it addresses major faults which the surveyor observes on a thorough-but not comprehensive- evaluation. Carpets and other floors will not be lifted, nor will the condition of electrical wiring be checked. Think of it as an overall picture of the house’s condition, rather than an in-depth evaluation. The client will, however, receive some commentary on the condition of the property overall, its defects, rebuild costs, maintenance advice and a valuation if one was requested.

What does the colour coding on the HomeBuyers report mean?

In order to make the HomeBuyer report more accessible to the layperson, a ‘traffic light’ colour-coding system is used. Condition rating 1, or green, indicates that no repairs are expected to be needed and nothing of concern was seen. Amber, or Condition Rating 2, shows areas where defects were spotted, but they are neither serious nor constrained by time. These issues probably don’t have much of an effect on the property value, but should be addressed in time. Unsurprisingly, red Condition Rating 3 is indicative of trouble. These issues need to be addressed urgently, and will likely severely impact the new homeowner. They could be poor enough to invalidate the purchase, or at least grant re-negotiation power to the potential buyer. The costs involved with addressing these issues will likely be high, and the need pretty immediate.

When is a Building Survey more appropriate?

The Building Survey is the strongest tool in the surveyor’s box. It aims to address almost everything to do with the property, and this makes it most appropriate for properties in the following criteria:

  • Older (even Historic) properties
  • Properties which have been extended or altered in a major manner
  • Large properties with many rooms
  • Properties which the potential owner intends to alter
  • Properties with non-traditional construction styles or materials
  • Properties already demonstrating visible issues

In a Building Survey you receive all of the same information that is received in the HomeBuyer’s report and more. The analysis is more in-depth, and some areas of the property which will not be examined for a HomeBuyer’s report will be examined in the case of a Building Survey. Detailed advice on the defects, repairs and maintenance will be included. Some surveyors opt to include estimates for repair, too, based on their long years in the industry. This provides potential owners with a ballpark figure to make decisions on. Again, a valuation option can also be chosen.

While the final decision on survey type rests with the client, a good surveyor should always be prepared to guide them to the correct survey for their needs and desires. Remember that, once you’ve done the hard work of the survey itself, we at Property Typing are here to help you present the very best face of your practice, with skilful, customised, accurate and thorough reports created by our talented UK-based typing team.