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Purchasing a Property- Do I Need A Survey?
When you are purchasing a property the principle of “caveat emptor” (let the buyer beware) will apply. This means that you must rely on your own inspection, enquiries and survey before committing yourself to purchase. Should any problems surface after exchange of contracts has taken place, then they will be your responsibility – you will have no come back or claim against the seller.
Our job as your solicitors is to ensure that the seller can give “good title” to the property concerned, but it is rare that we visit the property. The actual state and condition of the property is a matter for your surveyor to advise. Once you have his report, we are happy to review the contents with you and in some circumstances we may be able to negotiate with the seller’s solicitors to include additional provisions in the final contract or have it amended.
If you are obtaining a mortgage, your lender will carry out a valuation on the property which will establish, for the lender, whether the property is sufficient security for the money it is advancing. It is not a detailed report or survey and should not be relied upon as such.
A full or structural survey, reports on the property in much greater detail. You would be well advised to have one carried out if the property is in an area which may be prone to subsidence, heave or landslip or if the property is old or has been recently converted or the property is large and likely to be very expensive to maintain.
You may wish to consider whether to have a survey of a less detailed nature for your own peace of mind. This can cost a few hundred pounds possibly more, depending on the type, age and value of the property but will in any event provide the necessary information you need about the building.
One of the most common surveys is the RICS Home Buyer Report. The report goes into a fair detail and may bring things to your attention which are not apparent in a basic valuation report. It may also suggest you obtain specialist reports if there are any serious problems alerting to issues before you contractually commit yourself.
Although the cost of a survey is an additional expense, especially coming at a time when you may be working to a tight budget, the cost should be looked at against the cost of repairing any defect which appears later but which may not have been revealed by a valuation.
If you decide to have a survey carried out it is possible to arrange with your lender for this to be carried out at the same time as their valuation, which could save you fees if the surveyor of your choice is on their panel.
We would be happy to provide names of local chartered surveyors who are in our opinion, practical in their approach. Alternately you can always visit the RICS website and locate one that is close by.
If You Are Buying A Flat
You may feel if you are purchasing a flat, that a survey is not justified. This is wrong. There is a similar RICS report available, tailored for leasehold properties (i.e. flats). This may give you an indication of any likely future expenditure which may be incurred by the freeholder / management company in maintaining the structure, exterior and common areas of the whole building.
This expenditure will normally be included in the service charge payments which you are obliged to make under the terms of the lease and as a result, future payments you incur may be higher than those presently payable. If you are made aware of such matters you could either review your offer for the property to take this into account or budget for increased payments in the future.
All in all, we want to ensure your property purchase is exactly what you had envisaged when the initial offer was made. Always seek professional advice and leave no stone unturned and as part of that process, seek a surveyors report.