When a purchaser is looking to buy a property they will typically make two viewings, both of which on average will last 30 minutes or less, sometimes, but not often, they last longer. The second viewing tends to happen after an offer has been accepted, and is aimed at measuring up for curtains, carpets, who is having which bedroom, and the like.
The majority of purchasers are unlikely to know much about the construction of a property, what alterations have been made and how old those alterations are likely to be. They are equally unlikely to be able to interpret any cracking or distortion in a property, and whether or not any specialist advice or works are required.
Commissioning a detailed private survey is therefore a pragmatic, sensible approach that could save you a considerable amount of time, money and heartache.
Most purchasers of Residential Property in the UK rely on the Mortgage Valuation report carried out on behalf of their lender by a surveyor. HOWEVER, what they do not always fully appreciate is that a mortgage valuation report is little more that an risk assessment tool devised by the lender for their own purposes. As such it will provide little detail, and an inspection is unlikely to last much longer than 20 minutes on average, if that.
There is no contractual duty between the surveyor and purchaser, only a lesser duty of care.
Detailed Surveys - The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the governing body for surveyors, has set out three standardised report formats to cater for different levels of reporting, based on the age and complexity of a house or flat. These are the Home Condition Report (level 1), Homebuyer Survey (level 2), and Building Survey (level 3).
The Building Survey was formerly referred to as a Structural Survey, this name was dropped to avoid potential confusion with reports carried out by Structural Engineers.
Levels of Survey
This level of report is an entry level report appropriate to modern buildings, where no significant alterations have been made. It provides an over view of the property and its construction, permanent outbuildings and grounds, it is a non-intrusive inspection. It lists faults or repairs but nothing more. It categorises faults/repairs on a condition 1,2, or 3 basis, with the first (1) requiring no attention beyond normal maintenance, and the last (3) requiring immediate attention/rectification.
This level of report does not include a valuation.
This is often referred to as a middle level survey. It is aimed at properties built shortly before 1900 through to the present day, and where extensions and alterations have been carried out. It is a more detailed examination of the property, permanent outbuildings and grounds, and is a non-intrusive. Similarly, commentary in the report is more detailed, but still succinct. As per the level 1 survey it lists faults according to severity, using the same 1 to 3 or Green-Amber-Red system. Faults or wants of repair are listed, along with a suggested repair.
A Homebuyer Survey report can either include or exclude a market valuation of the property. It will also include a guide to reinstatement costs for insurance purposes.
The building survey is the most detailed level of survey available. It is a thorough and detailed examination of the property, its grounds, and outbuildings. Commentary is much more detailed, with defects, cause (where this can be ascertained) and a suggested repair. Faults are again categorised using the 1 (Green), 2 (Amber) and 3(Red) system.
This level of report is suited to larger older buildings. These typically will have a fairly uncommon form of construction, be Listed as a building of Historic or Architectural importance, and/or have been altered and extended on a number of occasions.