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Which survey do I need?

Anyone contemplating a substantial purchase should take independent advice before doing so.

For most of us, buying a property is the largest single purchase we will make and it therefore makes good sense to obtain specialist advice from an experienced chartered surveyor, before making a legal commitment to the purchase.

Do I need a survey?

Do I need an independent survey?

Buying a house is one of the largest financial commitments you will make in your lifetime. It therefore makes sense to establish whether the property that you are buying has any issues that might affect your decision or might justify renegotiation of the agreed purchase price. Forewarned is forearmed and of course it is best to obtain independent reliable advice before making a legal commitment to the purchase, in order to avoid any unexpected surprises later.

Will my Mortgage Valuation be sufficient?

If you are buying a home with the assistance of a mortgage, the lender will probably commission a valuation report to confirm whether the property provides acceptable security for the loan. You may be paying for this but the valuation is intended solely to satisfy the requirements of the lender. It is not a survey and you should not rely on it when deciding whether or not to proceed with the purchase.

Before exchanging contracts, therefore, you should obtain independent, specialist advice from a Chartered Surveyor.

So what are the options?

There are three levels of survey for home buyers defined in the RICS Home Survey Standard, broadly summarised below:

  • Home Survey – Level One
  • Home Survey – Level Two
  • Building Survey – Level Three

More information on what is generally included in each survey can be found below.

ISVA Members offer the following surveys

ISVA BuildingSurvey
Level 3 Report

Building Survey - Level 3 Report

Based on a detailed, visual inspection of the building, its services and grounds.

ISVA HomeSurvey
Level 2 Report

ISVA HomeSurvey - Level 2 Report

Will comment upon those major defects and shortcomings that might affect your decision to purchase.

Levels of report

Building Survey - Level Three

A Building Survey is suitable for all types of buildings but is advised if the property is pre-1850, Listed, in need of extensive repairs or if it is constructed using non-traditional building methods and materials. The service consists of a detailed visual inspection of the building, its services and the grounds and is more extensive than a Home Survey Level Two. Concealed areas normally opened or used by the occupiers are inspected if it is safe to do so. Although the services are not tested, they are observed in normal operation. The report objectively describes the form of construction and materials used for different parts of the property and their condition. It provides an assessment of the relative importance of the defects/problems. Additionally, it will describe the identifiable risk of potential or hidden defects in areas not inspected and propose the most probable cause of the defects, based on the inspection; outline the likely scope of any appropriate remedial work and explain the likely consequences of non-repair; make general recommendations in respect of the priority and likely timescale for necessary work. A full description of the service is given in the Terms of Engagement and Scope of Work which your surveyor will provide.

There may also be an option to include, as an additional service to be agreed with your surveyor:-

  • An opinion of the Market Value of the property
  • An estimated rebuilding (or “reinstatement”) cost of the property for buildings insurance purposes.

Home Survey - Level Two

The ISVA HomeSurvey is broadly equivalent to RICS Survey Level Two and is available exclusively from members of the Independent Surveyors’ and Valuers’ Association (other types of Level Two survey are available). The information is provided in a straightforward concise format, which is easy to read and understand. The report is based on a visual inspection of as much of the interior and exterior of the building as is reasonably and safely accessible. A full description of the service is given in the Terms of Engagement and Scope of Work which your surveyor will provide. This type of report is suitable for most conventionally built residential properties. Your surveyor will advise you further in this respect, during the preliminary discussion.

The report includes comments on: the internal and external condition of the property (including an overview of the service installations); major defects or other shortcomings that, in the surveyors’ opinion, are likely to affect your decision to purchase; the overall condition of any permanent outbuildings and the site; and any particular points or issues that you should refer to your legal adviser. However, it is not as comprehensive as a Level Three Survey.

Home Survey - Level One

This is not offered by most ISVA members as it is considered to include too little information to be of any real value when making informed decisions about the condition of a property before purchase.

Whichever survey you choose, a full description of the service will be given in the Terms of Engagement and Scope of Work which your surveyor will provide.

To assist you further in choosing the appropriate survey level, examples of differences between the Level 2 and Level 3 Survey are set out on their individual pages.

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