Valuations and surveys
Once you have found a property that you like, you may need to get a valuation or have a survey carried out to establish what the property is worth and if there are any problems with it.
Do I need a valuation or survey?
If you're interested in buying a property the seller is required to provide you with a home report, containing information about the property, including a survey and a valuation.
You may still wish to get your own survey done, for peace of mind. However, the home report survey should be reliable. In some circumstances you may need to get your own, independent survey carried out if your mortgage lender does not accept the home report as a basis for lending you money.
If this is the case, you should get your valuation or survey carried out before you make an offer. If you make an offer and it is accepted, you will be legally bound to buy the property. Before you make this commitment, you need to know that there are no major problems with the property and that your mortgage lender will be prepared to lend you enough money.
Alternatively you can make an offer 'subject to survey'. This means that you will only get a valuation or survey carried out if your offer is accepted. If the valuation or survey is unsatisfactory, you can still legally withdraw your offer. Making an offer subject to survey saves you having to pay for lots of reports if your offers are not accepted. However, some sellers won't accept offers that are subject to survey.
Valuation or survey?
There are three different types of report that you can obtain. We've given an indication of how much you might expect to pay for each. In addition to these reports, you might want specific reports by experts on aspects like damp and timber treatment, and these may be free as part of a quotation from that company.
Mortgage valuation report (Scheme 1 survey)
A mortgage valuation report will simply provide a valuation of the property. Your mortgage lender will offer to lend all, or a percentage, of the valuation price. If you choose to offer more than the valuation price, you will have to fund this yourself.
Whoever is compiling the valuation report is obliged to report any major defects in the property. They will not make a thorough investigation so will probably only note any problems that are obvious. This is the least expensive type of report. This might cost around £250.
Home buyer's report (Scheme 2 survey)
This will include a valuation and a more detailed investigation of any problems. Whoever is compiling the report will not go to the extent of lifting carpets or closely inspecting the roof, so structural problems could still be missed. This is more expensive than the valuation above and will vary depending on how indepth it is an dthe property itself, so expect to pay £250+.
Full structural survey
A full structural survey will provide a thorough and detailed report of the condition of the property. It is the most expensive type of report but should give you a good idea of what you might be letting yourself in for. It is particularly advised if you are buying a very old or unusual property. You will probably pay up to £1000 depending on the property value
How do I get a valuation or a survey carried out?
Your solicitor or mortgage lender can organise a valuation or a survey for you. You can also organise it yourself. If you do, make sure the valuer or surveyor is registered with either:
The Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers
Your mortgage lender will have a list of companies that they will accept reports from. If you or your solicitor are arranging the valuation or survey, check that the company you are using is included on your mortgage lender's list to avoid having to pay for two reports.
What if there are problems with the property?
When you get a copy of the report, read it carefully to check for any problems that have been highlighted. Ask your solicitor if you are not sure what something means. If problems are mentioned, you can:
decide not to make an offer, or withdraw your offer if it was made subject to survey
proceed with buying but ask the seller to fix the problem before you move in
get a quote for the costs of the repairs and ask your solicitor to negotiate a lower price with the seller.
What if the surveyor doesn't find a problem that later comes to light?
If the surveyor does not survey the property thoroughly and fails to detect a fault that later costs you a lot of money (for example, in repairs or a reduction in the value of your home) they may be liable to pay you compensation. This will depend on the type of report you requested and you will have to demonstrate that the problem existed or could have been anticipated at the time the survey was carried out.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has a complaints procedure and an arbitration scheme for sorting out disagreements. You can use these if your surveyor is a RICS member (most are). It is legally binding. For further advice, contact your local Citizens Advice.
If you are happy with the valuation or survey and your mortgage lender has confirmed that they will lend you enough money so that you can afford to buy the property, you can make your offer.
Last updated: 29 December 2014
Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.