As a first-time buyer, thinking of purchasing in Islington or Newington Green, one of the best pieces of advice you’ll receive is to have a homebuyer survey carried out before you exchange contracts. There are three different types of survey – the Condition Report, HomeBuyer Report and Building Survey – and it’s worth understanding the benefits and limitations of each.

If you’re new to buying property, you might be surprised to learn that such a significant purchase as a home comes without the protections given by law to much smaller items. The Consumer Rights Act, which requires any product or service to be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose, does not apply to the sale of houses and flats.

Sadly, this means that if something goes wrong further down the line, and the property requires unexpected and extensive repairs, there may not be much you can do. It’s also the reason every buyer is strongly advised to commission a professional property surveyor before contracts are exchanged.


Don’t confuse a survey with a market valuation

According to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), one in five buyers fails to commission a survey of their own. Many, who are using a mortgage to help fund their purchase, rely on the valuation provided for their lender as the only inspection of the property’s condition.

The problem is that this is merely a market valuation, designed to confirm the property’s worth and highlight obvious defects. It won’t tell you everything you need to know about any potential pitfalls.

Unless you are purchasing a new-build home that comes with a 10-year warranty, you’re advised to commission a survey.

Which of the three main types of survey is right for you will depend on the age, condition and price of your prospective purchase. We explore them all in more detail…


1 RICS Condition Report

The RICS Condition Report uses a traffic light system to describe the condition of the property. The report includes risks and potential legal issues and will highlight any defects, which urgently require attention. This type of survey can cost as little as £250 and is most suitable for new-builds and conventional homes, which are clearly in good condition. The report will not offer advice or provide a valuation.


2 RICS Homebuyer Report

The RICS Homebuyer Report is an analysis of the property, which will reveal most major issues. It does have limitations, though; the surveyor will not look behind furniture or lift flooring. It may be supplied with caveats, limiting the liability of the surveyor, which could be an issue if you do later discover a major problem.

The Homebuyer Report is best suited to conventional properties, which are less than 150 years old and will cost you from £400. It will include:

  • an assessment of the location
  • the estimated cost of rebuilding the property for insurance purposes
  • an assessment of any drainage or damp-proofing in the building
  • the condition of timbers and whether rot or woodworm is present
  • the identification of subsidence or damp
  • information highlighting urgent problems that require attention
  • details of faults in easy-to-access parts of the property that could affect its value.

Some Homebuyer Reports include a property valuation.


3 RICS Building Survey

Previously known as a full structural survey, the RICS Building Survey is the most comprehensive choice, and the most expensive. The cost of a RICS Building Survey usually starts at around £600 and can reach as much as £3,000 for larger properties.

The surveyor will conduct a full assessment of the property, both internally and externally and the report could be a lengthy document. It will cover everything from subsidence to invasive weeds and will highlight repairs and maintenance, which you will need to undertake.

It will explain what could happen if you don’t carry out the repairs and might also include an estimate of the costs involved.

Building Surveys are the best choice for older properties and those which have been substantially renovated or which you know require major works.

Unlike a Homebuyer Report, the Building Survey does not have a standard format. Instead, the surveyor will tailor the assessment to the individual property and include anything you specifically want looked at.

The survey will present the information clearly, using a rating system to make it easy to interpret.

You can expect the survey to cover:

  • the estimated cost of rebuilding the property for insurance purposes
  • all defects of the property and its general structural integrity
  • the results of tests for damp in the walls
  • an assessment of woodworm, dry rot and any other damage to timbers
  • the condition of existing insulation and damp-proofing
  • information on the materials used to build the property
  • the identification of invasive weeds and their location
  • the condition of the electrics
  • recommendations for further investigations on the property.

A Building Survey involves an in-depth investigation of a property’s condition, which means it can take up to a day to complete and it may be two weeks before you receive your final report.

However, it may well be worth the wait; by digging deeper into the current state of the property, and its history, a Building Survey can uncover any structural problems that would otherwise be missed.

M&M Property is Newington Green’s longest established estate agent, specialising in the sale and rental of property in the Newington Green, Highbury, Islington, Stoke Newington and surrounding areas.

If you are looking to buy or sell locally, we might just be able to help – please contact us today.