Insure Yourself Against Property Defects – Get a House Survey!

Insurance comes in many forms and when it comes to buying a property, probably the most money you’ve spent on a single thing in your entire life, there’s no substitute for covering yourself as much as possible.

Getting a home buyers survey is one way you can do this so you can be as sure as you can be that what you’re buying doesn’t suffer from property survey defects, something which might end up costing you tens of £1,000s further down the line.

Critically all RICS surveyors have to be indemnified up to the value of any property that they inspect and if they make a mistake or miss a detail which ends up costing you huge sums, you can sue them to be reimbursed.

Getting a survey for the property you’re looking to buy is normally a key stage in the conveyancing process. The results can help you to determine if you are going to proceed with the current asking price or negotiate with the seller due to defects (or even pull out of the transaction all together).

There are two main types of survey that you can get for your property which are a HomeBuyer Report and a Building Survey and they are suited for different types of properties.

You would normally get a HomeBuyer Report for bungalows, flats or generally relatively modern properties, whereas a Building survey is suited for older, larger, run down, developed or unique dwellings.

This article will inform you of what your surveyor actually does on the day of the survey, also what is and isn’t to be inspected.

The Survey’s Stages 

Collecting the keys

Access is arranged with the estate agents as well as the owner of the property then your surveyor either collects the keys for the property from the estate agent’s office or from the vendor. The estate agent gives the surveyor an Electricity Performance Certificate (EPC) and the sales particulars which the surveyor uses during their inspection.

The Inspection

Your surveyor visits the property and inspects both the exterior (including gardens and any outbuildings are included in the property) and the interior of the dwelling. They make notes on any defects they find and write down many other relevant observations, focusing on the condition of the property.

Building Surveys and HomeBuyer Reports are non-intrusive surveys, meaning that the surveyor doesn’t drill into walls or lift up floorboards etc. They will, however, inspect the dwelling from top to bottom including, for example, examining the drains and taking pictures of the roof (they often use a selfie stick angled through an upper window for this).

They access all areas they can actually get at, so if there is loft space and it’s accessible, they inspect it. If areas are locked or blocked, however, they don’t but it is possible to arrange a further inspection when these places are available are clear or unlocked. 

Call on the day post-inspection

Not all surveyors do this but it’s a huge benefit if you can find a surveyor who does. The surveyor calls you on the same day of and after they completed their inspection and gives you a quick overview of what their findings are and in particular, whether or not the property contains any serious defects. It’s always better to receive key information as quickly as possible so you can think about your likely strategies.

Surveyor sends you your completed survey report

Your surveyor should normally send your completed report, by both Royal Mail and email, within 5 working days and both you and your conveyancing solicitor can digest all the findings within it as part of your conveyancing process.

What does your survey include? 

Both the Building Survey and the HomeBuyers Report include the following among other things:

  • Checking for signs of subsidence
  • Checking for signs of damp
  • Checking for signs of wood rot
  • Checking for asbestos
  • Checking for infestation
  • Checking drains

Additionally, a HomeBuyer Report also contains a valuation and a reinstatement value as standard. A Building Survey does not contain these but they can be purchased as an add-on.

What isn’t included in your survey?

Your surveyor will neither test the electrics nor gas and will not give advice on matters like removal of load bearing walls or about planning permission for proposed extensions, loft conversions, etc.

For matters like subsidence, they report back on their suspicions on whether the defect is present; if they think that there is a strong likelihood of it, they can advise what your next steps should be in terms of which appropriately-qualified professional can advise you further.

Can you be present when the survey is taking place?

You won’t normally be offered the option to attend the actual survey inspection because a surveyor’s professional indemnity insurance does not cover them for this and additionally, they’ll want to get on with the task in hand and focus their efforts entirely to inspecting the property for you.


Marcus Simpson


SAM Conveyancing

Author: Oliver Curtis

Hi there. I’m Oliver. I’m just a young boy from the outskirts of… Okay, that’s a lie, I’m not a young boy anymore, although I certainly feel that way at heart.

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