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Why do we need to have a survey done when buying a house

01:00 Fri 15th Feb 2002 |

A. The only time a survey is not required is when the house is brand new.

Otherwise a survey is essential to highlight the condition of the property, both the good and the bad. All lenders will insist on seeing a survey before lending you the money.

Q. Whose responsibility is it to have one done

A. As the law stands at the moment it is the buyer's responsibility to commission a survey, although if the government's reforms of the way we buy property and the house-seller's pack ever actually see the light of day the responsibility will transfer to the vendor.

Q. Aren't there different types of survey

A. There are three basic types of survey: a lender's valuation, a homebuyers' survey and a structural or building survey.

The first is the least detailed so the cheapest and the third one the most comprehensive and so the most expensive. There are no fixed rates. The cost of the survey will depend on a number of factors including the size of the property, where it is, how long it takes and the firm used, but for an average property to range is anything from 150 to 600.

Q. So what is a lender's valuation

A. As the name suggests this is a survey which all lenders require to make sure the property is worth enough to secure the loan.

It is comprised of a short inspection looking for any major faults. Armed with this information their knowledge of the local property market the surveyor comes up with a valuation of how much the place is worth.

It will not, however, tell you if the roof is about to come to the end of its life or the whole place needs rewiring.

Q. If you're planning to buy and older property that doesnt sound adequate. What's the next stage up

A. This is the homebuyer's survey. It is a standard survey drawn up by the industry's two professional bodies, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers, which breaks the house down into sections and reports on each.

Although it is only visual it is much more comprehensive and will recommend further investigations if there are potential areas of concern. It is now quite common for firms to offer a combined valuation and buyer's survey in one at a slightly higher cost.

Q. So when would you go for a structural survey

A. If you are planning to buy an older property, certainly one that is over 100 years old, or have good grounds to believe it will need some major work then this is the one for you.

You can set the parameters with the surveyors and ask them to look at specific aspects, e.g. the wiring, or whether a wall you wanted to knock through is a load-bearing one.

The surveyor will also get his hands a bit dirtier and have a detailed look at the roof, the damp coursing, the walls, the plumbing, the floorboards etc.

Q. And it's once you've got the survey that you can begin to negotiate the price, is that right

A. A recent study showed that 25 per cent of buyer's managed to get the price reduced on the basis of the survey.

However, what you do after getting the survey done is where things can get tricky. Even if it needs work, is it enough of a bargain to settle for the price How open to negotiation is the vendor If there are delays this is more often not when these matters are being hammered out between solicitors.

One way of avoiding this and speeding up the sale is for the seller to take the initiative and have a survey done before putting the property on the market.

This way the buyer will have the information they need before them and it helps put an accurate initial price on the house. It can often be written in that the buyer pays for the cost of the survey as part of the agreed price.

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By Tom Gard

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