Before a property can be purchased, it needs to be valued. In some cases, it also needs to be physically surveyed. There are different types of surveys when buying a house, each of which serves a different purpose for buyers. We’ll explain what it all means in this guide.

What is a house survey?

In a nutshell, a house survey is a process of assessing a property. Among the common types of house survey, there are:

  • Physical valuations for mortgages
  • Complete structural surveys
  • Homebuyers’ reports

When purchasing a property with a mortgage, a dedicated mortgage valuation is a compulsory step. Lenders will always arrange one, even if you have already organised one yourself. You can also arrange full structural surveys and homebuyer surveys separately, but these are not mandatory.

If you do choose to order a structural survey or homebuyer’s report, it must be scheduled for after your initial offer has been made. It is best to get it done before submitting your mortgage application. Generally speaking, the type of home survey needed for a property will depend on factors like:

  • The property’s age
  • Any structural anomalies that are present
  • Your intentions regarding having major renovations carried out
  • The information you want to know

Types of house surveys

Mortgage valuations

Before a lender makes an offer of money for a property purchase, they are required to arrange a formal mortgage valuation. These are often known as valuations for lending purposes. Lenders will make arrangements with their chosen qualified surveyor, and it may be done either before or after initiating the underwriting of your mortgage application.

A mortgage valuation is relatively straightforward, involving less detail than other types of survey. Essentially, the surveyor will ascertain whether or not there are any major problems with a property. This means issues that would make the property unlivable or unsellable – for example, the lack of a working kitchen or bathroom.

Mortgage valuations are a tool for lenders to establish whether the property you aim to buy is genuinely worth the minimum value required to justify the amount you’re seeking to borrow. They let the lender know if the property is adequate security for a mortgage. In some cases, an internal inspection isn’t actually necessary – a surveyor may be able to carry out the process via a computerised valuation.

A computerised – or desktop – mortgage valuation isn’t technically a formal survey. This is because the surveyor doesn’t physically visit the property to perform an inspection. When necessary, a lender may order a physical valuation after a computerised one, if the initial process reveals the potential for major issues like flood risk or local subsidence issues.

You may be required to pay for the cost of the valuation, but some lenders will cover it themselves.

Homebuyer’s reports

A homebuyer’s report is sometimes called a ‘home survey report’. These types of house surveys contain more detail than a mortgage valuation, including a report for buyers on the state the property is in. It will outline any work that may be needed on the property in the future, such as rewiring, replumbing or repairs.

You can find a surveyor to carry out your homebuyer’s report, or you can pay to have the lender’s mortgage valuation surveyor do it. Organising the homebuyer’s report through your lender may be cheaper than seeking one out by yourself. The lender isn’t entitled to see the homebuyer’s report, even if their surveyor carries it out. The ongoing maintenance of the property will be down to you.

If the house you are looking at is 10+ years old, we recommend organising a homebuyer’s report. Get a HomeBuyer Report quote now.

Full structural surveys

These types of house surveys are sometimes called a full building survey, and they are the most comprehensive. This means they are also typically the most expensive type of survey for a property. For most buyers, it won’t be necessary, as it is all about exploring the structural integrity of a building in great detail. It is aimed at revealing any potential work that may need to be done on the property.

Structural surveys are not mandatory, but for properties that are 200+ years old, they are strongly advised. The same goes for if there’s a structural anomaly, like being attached to a windmill, or if you are planning to undergo extensive structural work like renovation or an extension.

Lenders do not arrange full structural surveys, so you will need to find an independent structural surveyor yourself.

Get a Building Survey Quote.

How much does a house survey cost?

The prices of house surveys are not set in stone, so there will be variation. The amount it costs will depend on the surveyor you use, the type of survey, and the stated value of the property.

Mortgage valuations Cost

For the most part, mortgage valuations are less expensive than full structural surveys and homebuyer’s reports. This is because there is less detail and they take less time to complete. Depending on the property size, you can expect to pay anything from £150-£1,500, though some lenders will offer free valuations for applicants.

Homebuyer’s reports Cost

Homebuyer’s surveys are more expensive than mortgage valuations, but cost less than full structural surveys. Typically, they cost upwards of £400.

Full structural surveys Cost

Thee are the most expensive types of house surveys because they go into a great deal of detail. Expect to pay at least £600, but for higher-value properties it will be considerably more.

How long do house surveys take?

When it comes to mortgage valuations, surveyors will sometimes perform a simple computerised valuation, which can be completed in minutes. If they have to visit the property, the valuation could be completed in about 15 minutes (more for larger properties).

More complex surveys will take considerably longer. Both structural surveys and homebuyer’s reports can take several hours. As a general rule, the level of the survey will dictate how long it takes, alongside the size, age and condition of the property.

Different lenders will take different amounts of time to arrange valuations. Some will want to get it done immediately while others tend to wait until after underwriting the application.

If you’re arranging a homebuyers report and/or a full structural survey, the timeframe will depend on you and the availability of the surveyor.

Remortgage surveys

When you plan to remortgage a property, you are essentially taking out a new mortgage whilst remaining in the same home. The new mortgage will replace the old one.

A mortgage valuation will have been carried out when you first applied for the mortgage to buy it. What’s more, if you’ve been living there ever since, you will know the state the property is in. You shouldn’t require anything too detailed in terms of surveys, unless you are planning an extension or another extensive renovation. The lender may be satisfied with carrying out a simple computerised valuation, though it will be up to them to decide.

Start your own search

Are you ready to make your next move to a new property? Perhaps you want to change areas, or simply escape the private rental market and gain some more independence. Whatever your reasons, applying for a mortgage can be a complex and stressful time. It is a huge advantage to have genuine expertise in your corner, and that’s what we offer at Think Plutus. We can help you zero in on the perfect mortgage from over 10,000 products, and oversee the entire process, including securing the right surveys.

If you would like to learn more about how Think Plutus can help, make an enquiry today and we’ll answer any questions you have.

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