Property Surveys and Mortgage Valuations: What UK Home Buyers Need to Know


Considering the scale of the investment required to purchase a property in the UK, it is somewhat surprising that approximately only 20% of buyers take the trouble to have a professional survey carried out before they part with their cash.

According to research carried out by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the lack of a professional survey could result in the homeowner having to find an average of £5,750 in repair bills to correct defects that would often be identified beforehand in a full survey.

Many agents often try to provide some guidance to prospective purchasers about the need for a full survey as there does seem to be some confusion about the difference between a mortgage valuation survey and a full structural survey.

Mortgage valuation

If you are applying for a mortgage to help you buy a property, the lender will require that you pay for them to have a surveyor carry out a mortgage valuation.

Mortgage valuations are not surveys. They are primarily intended to establish whether the house is worth what you are paying for it so that the lender can sell it if you fail to meet your repayments.

In doing this valuation a surveyor will carry out what is only a cursory inspection of the property and note nay major defects or issues that they think might affect the value of the house.

In a challenging housing market, it is not uncommon for a surveyor to apply a fair degree of caution and apply a very conservative valuation of the property, which can cause a problem with borrowers not being able to get the full amount of money they wanted.

The important point to remember is that although you are paying for it, the mortgage valuation survey is for the benefit of the lender and not you, so they are primarily interested in reducing the risk to the mortgage lender over any other factors.

Full structural survey

One of the main reasons why house buyers can often elect to skip having a full structural survey is cost.

A full structural survey is expensive in comparison to the mortgage valuation but if a detailed inspection identifies some major issues or potential repair costs that you will be responsible for when you buy the property, that cost can soon seem like money well spent.

Most surveyors will be RICS qualified and the survey they carry out will look for important defects such as structural problems, identify major repairs or alterations needed and provide a detailed description of house such as the type of walls to the type of glazing it has.

Another vital point to remember is that a professional RICS surveyor will have professional indemnity insurance, which means that you might be able to make a claim against them if they fail to spot a serious defect during their survey that comes to light after you have completed the purchase.

There are a number of different surveys that you can pay for and although the full structural survey is recommended, you might want to consider a condition report or a homebuyer report, which vary in the level of detail they provide and the cost.

The main point to consider is that if you are investing your money in a property, it is advisable to consider paying a bit more to get a more detailed professional opinion of its condition, rather than just finding out what it is worth.

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