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A Guide To Home And Building Surveys

Moving house is a long, stressful process. You’ve got a lot of things to organise and arrange, as well as a never-ending ‘To Do’ list.

You need to clean your current property, the solicitor needs chasing up about that important document, your mortgage broker wants to arrange a meeting to talk about some issues, the list goes on.

There’s a lot to think about, and rightly so. Buying a property is likely to be the most expensive purchase you will ever make, so you want to ensure it’s right.

Your finances and budget have probably been stretched to breaking point with all the associated fees that come with moving, as well as the price of the house itself. However, one thing that many don’t account for – especially first time buyers – is a building survey.

A survey? You don’t need one of them, do you? Well, you really do, especially if you want to save yourself cash in the long run.

It’s easy to get carried away with the property you’ve fallen in love with, so much so that you become willing to pass off some defects and issues as ‘character’. Unfortunately, this could end up costing you in the long run.

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Given the significance of this purchase, it is incredibly important to know exactly what state the property you’re about to buy is in.


Having a survey carried out on the property means you can dodge the stress and cost of unforeseen repair work further down the line. However, shockingly, one in four buyers rely solely on their mortgage valuation to get a picture of the condition of the building.


It’s a massive risk to take, and is it worth it? First, lets cover the basics….

What Is A Survey?

In short, a survey is a health inspection of a property that is carried out by a chartered surveyor.


The type of survey dictates how thorough it is and what kind of areas will be inspected within the property. More on the different types of survey later.


In the end, the person who arranged the survey (buyer or seller) receives a report detailing the building’s exact, current, structural state. It also covers all the findings of the survey.


Many buyers will use the results to either confirm or adjust their offer on a property or re-evaluate whether they want to continue in the sale at all, especially if any large problems arise that will be expensive to fix.


For some buyers, certain problems are not worth the time, disruption, or cost.

What Is A Chartered Surveyor?

A chartered surveyor’s job is to evaluate the condition of a property and its structure, identifying any issues that may be present.


They can also provide their clients with advice on construction, property, and other related environmental issues.


Once completing education, the next step for a surveyor is to become qualified under the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), a professional body accrediting chartered surveyors.


All surveyors at Barker Associates are fully qualified and certified with RICS, which ensures they can provide the best level of service to all clients.

Buying A Property: Considerations You Should Make:

Buying a house is daunting, but when you’re choosing your dream property, it is important to make sure you are not skipping the important things.


After all, this property will be your home for the foreseeable future.


Here are some areas we suggest you think about.

Is A Mortgage Valuation Enough?

Alarmingly, 25% of buyers seem to think so!


In reality, if you want to be 100% confident in the property you are buying, and for the price you are paying, a mortgage valuation doesn’t cut it. The point of a mortgage valuation is to confirm to your lender that the property you are buying is in fact worth what you are paying.


This means that if you stop paying, they can get the money back via repossessing your property and reselling it. Ultimately, a mortgage valuation is purely for the benefit of the lender, and not the buyer.


You can request to see the brief report they put together, but it bears no indication of the condition of the property. Because of this, relying on just the valuation is very risky, and you could be faced with sizeable repair costs that you never accounted for.


Do You Really Need A Homebuyer Or Building Survey ? Is It Worth It?

The short answer is yes! Many home buyers don’t bother with a survey. That’s a vast amount of people taking a massive risk, and for some, it can end up costing them a lot of money.


What’s more, 25% of individuals who relied on just their mortgage valuation had to have unplanned work on their home within the first year. This work came to an average of £1,100+!


In most cases, a home survey costs less in the long run, far quicker, and causes much less disruption to your life. Is skipping the survey worth the possible time, money, and stress?

house survey

Uncover Hidden Issues

Most home buyers rely on a HomeBuyer or Building Survey to uncover any possible issues that could raise their heads further down the line after the sale is complete.


Once they appear, sorting these defects can be a nightmare, especially if they are costly and take a long time to rectify. If you choose to have a survey conducted before completing the sale, these issues will be listed in your report and you can decide whether you will adjust your offer and undertake the work, or pull out.


Examples of some problems include damp (rising or penetrating), dry rot, wood worm, subsidence, lack of insulation and breach of building regulations


All of these can be sizeable, money draining problems that can, in some cases, take much upheaval to correct.


Additionally, unless the case is extreme, most of these problems are only likely to be discovered by an expert chartered surveyor who knows that they are looking for.

damp house

The Cost Of Repairs

The potential cost of repair work can vary greatly, ranging from a few hundred to tens of thousands of pounds.


The price tag mainly relies on a few different factors, the severity of the damage, the amount of work needed, the difficulty of the job, how qualified and experienced your chosen tradesman is, the property’s location, if the property has any restrictions i.e. A listed building


If any faults are found with the property, the best thing to do is gather some quotes for the repairs. Three quotes from different tradesmen will give you a good idea of what the job will cost. Using these quotes, you can then adjust your offer on the property to make up for the expense of the repairs, or ask that the seller carries out the repairs before legal completion of the sale.


When gathering quotes, you should also ask for advice on how long the job will take, and discuss how much of a disruption it will cause. Will it mean you can’t move into the property until the work is complete? Using all this information, you can weigh up if the property is worth the repairs and time spent making them, or if you’d prefer to take your search elsewhere.


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house repairs

Get A Detailed Valuation

A HomeBuyer report offers the option of including a valuation with the survey, unlike the others available.


This valuation, unlike the one undertaken by your mortgage provider, includes an insurance reinstatement value. This is the sum you would receive if the building were to burn down, to cover the costs of rebuilding the property.


Some lenders will allow you to combine their valuation with a HomeBuyer report, saving you the hassle of arranging two different appointments.


If you’d like to do this, you’ll have to choose a surveyor from an approved list provided by your lender.


Barker Associates can help! As a trusted and approved surveyor, we can provide a RICS Home Buyers Survey for you.

house valuation

Selling A Property How To Pass A Survey

A lot of pressure comes with selling a property, especially if you are relying on its sale so you can move.


To make the process as smooth as possible, you’ll want to eliminate as many problems as you can.


Organising a survey of your property will bring any potential issues to your attention, meaning you can sort them before they could affect a sale.


But how exactly do you ‘pass’ a survey? We’ll talk through the processes that can help.

Common Structural problems To Check For

Before you arrange a survey, you should check for any issues that you may be able to rectify beforehand, saving you from a bad report.


Common problems include:


  • Damp (rising and penetrating)
  • Dry rot
  • Insulation
  • Subsidence
  • Wood worm


Depending on the stage at which you catch these issues, there could be an easier option to fix the problem, rather than going through the hassle of a bad survey report


More on what these problems mean later.

Why You Failed Your Survey And The Possible Repercussions

Before we get into it, it’s important to clarify that you can’t actually ‘fail’ a survey. That’s not how it works, there is no pass or fail. You can, however, receive a bad report. If the surveyor finds lots of issues with the property, especially larger problems, this can land you with what would be deemed a bad survey report.


There is no definitive line that, once crossed, means the results are ‘bad’. Some people may consider any kind of negative findings, however big or small, as a ‘bad’ report. Alternatively, others may feel that the presence of insulation issues aren’t that big of a deal. That being said, if multiple, larger problems are found, then that report won’t look good. You could face a couple of repercussions from a not so ideal survey result.


Firstly, buyers could use that information to adjust their offer. This usually means that they drop it in relation to the cost of getting the issues fixed. Depending on the scale of the issues, this could be a significant reduction in what they’re willing to pay.


On the other hand, the buyer could pull out altogether. For some, certain problems are too much to take on, and instead, they decide to look elsewhere. This can be a massive blow when you’re trying to sell a property quickly.


What’s more, there are laws in place that mean you must disclose any information to buyers that could affect the value of the property.


Therefore if you or a previous buyer have had a survey reveal some issues, you legally have to let new buyers know. Even at the risk of losing the sale.


If you don’t disclose the information, and the problems become apparent to the buyers not long after completion, you could be facing time in prison.


If you, or a potential buyer, receive a bad survey report on your property and the sale falls through, make sure you inform your estate agent. They will have to inform new buyers of the results, but then any negligence falls to them.


However, this also means new buyers will be going forward knowing the condition of your property instead of getting nasty surprises.




Tried and Tested: Ways to Increase A Home’s Value

The time to try and increase your home’s value is before you put it on the market. An estate agent will only take one set of photos, so make sure they are taken after work is done.


Start With The Small Jobs


The easiest place to start is with the small jobs. If the kitchen tap drips, you should fix it. Buyers will probably notice it and, considering the amount of work it will involve it’s not worth the possible negative impression it could cause.


Clean the carpets! If they’re showing signs of wear, and it has been a while since they have been cleaned, either hire a professional or just the machine.


Dirty carpets never look good and could turn buyers off, no matter how modern the rest of your home looks.


If any mould has grown in moist areas such as the bathroom, or around windows, now is the time to scrub it off.


Most people don’t realise that cleaning mould can be quick and easy, especially given the positive impact it will have visually. So put on those marigolds and get scrubbing!


Do Some DIY


Any small DIY jobs should be taken care of first. If the doors need a fresh lick of paint, or the window sills could do with some varnish, or a hinge is loose on a cupboard door, get it sorted.


Your buyers are looking for somewhere they can move into straight away, not a property that needs work done to it.


Leaving these jobs to the new owners isn’t a good stance to take because they’re easy jobs. Look at it from another angle: If you can’t be bothered to repaint a door, what other maintenance have you not kept up with?


Put Yourself In The Buyer’s Shoes


Doing this is key. If you were viewing your house, what would you think? Would you want to buy it? Would you think anything looks like it needs work?


Being biased is easy. You live in your home, you are attached to it, you have made memories there, so it’s easier to ignore imperfections.


A buyer doesn’t have this same attachment. They want it, but they haven’t got it yet, and because of that they will be taking your property at face value.

Buyers are looking for a property they can move straight into with minimal to no work needed.
Try walking around your home as if you were viewing it for the first time and take note of the things you notice.


Even better, ask a trusted friend or relative to do it for you. As they don’t live with you, they will be more likely to notice things you are used to and now don’t see. You probably forgot about that mark on the living room carpet, but others will notice it.


Tips For The Survey

Once you have booked the survey, there are still a few last-minute adjustments you can make to ensure the inspection is a smooth process and hopefully produce better results.


Tidy Up


Tidying, most people hate it, but if you’re one of the lucky few who loves it then this tip is right up your street.


Tidying your home before a survey is key because of one main point: The surveyor is looking for a home that is well maintained.


Think about it from the surveyor’s point of view; if you can’t keep your home tidy, how can you be expected to keep up with maintaining the property as well? When they walk into a messy, unkempt home, they will be expecting to find things wrong.



Protect Your Belongings


Depending on the type of survey you’re having, the surveyors will need different amounts of access to your home.


A Building Survey is more intrusive than a Condition Report, meaning they will need to get to more areas in your home.


The experience can be stressful if something gets knocked off the window sill because the surveyor needed to inspect the top corners of the windows, and so on.


Plan ahead: Pack away any delicate items in shelves or surfaces. Move furniture away from the walls. Speak to the surveyor before they arrive and ask if you can do or move anything beforehand.


Doing this will mean less disruption and possibility of anything breaking while making the surveyor’s job much easier and quicker.


Contact us today to discuss our range of quantity surveying services – and discover which is best for you!

The Types Of Survey Available

We have talked about surveys quite a lot, so now it’s time to detail the different ones you can choose from, what they cover and how much they cost.

Mortgage Valuation
RICS Home Condition Report (HCR)
RICS Homebuyer Report (HBR)
RICS Building Survey
New-Build Snagging Survey

Mortgage Valuation

Who: Your mortgage provider or a RICS Chartered Surveyor if combined with a HomeBuyers Survey.

Cost: £150 – £1,500. The cost is based on the value and size of the property. Some lenders will provide a valuation free of charge.

How Long: Around 20 minutes

When: This valuation needs to be carried out on any sale involving a mortgage.


What it covers: This valuation is purely for the benefit of the lender. It proves that the property is worth the price you are paying, or the amount they are lending you.

As it is just a valuation, it will not point out any defects or repairs needed on the property. Although some lenders may refer to it as a ‘survey’, it is not a proper house survey.

RICS Home Condition Report (HCR)

Who: RICS Chartered Surveyor

Cost: £375+

How Long: 1-2 weeks

When: Best used when buying a newer home or a conventional property in good condition.


What it covers: This survey describes the condition that the property is in. It also identifies any risks and any possible legal issues, as well as bringing to attention any urgent problems with the building. That said, it does not go into detail.

An HCR also uses an easy to understand ‘traffic light’ rating system to show the condition of key areas in the property.

It is the most basic survey you can get…

RICS Homebuyer Report (HBR)

Who: RICS Chartered Surveyor

Cost: £450+

How Long: 1-2 weeks

When: Suitable for conventional properties in a reasonable condition.

What it covers: This survey includes everything from an HCR but also gives you more detailed advice on any issues that may affect the property. It will inform you of any structural problems both inside and outside, such as damp. That being said, it is not a full, in-depth survey.

It also provides repairs and ongoing maintenance advice.

With an HBR, you have the option of including a valuation. This can be combined with the mortgage valuation if you are using a Chartered Surveyor approved by your lender.

A valuation with an HBR will also inform you of insurance rebuild costs if the building were to burn down, which a standard mortgage valuation does not do.

RICS Building Survey

Who: RICS Chartered Surveyor

Cost: £600+

How Long: 1-2 weeks

When: For larger or older properties, or properties in a poor condition. If you are planning major works, this is also the best option. Generally only conducted on houses, not flats.

What it covers: A Building Survey is the most comprehensive type of survey available. It provides an in-depth analysis of the structure and condition of the property, as well as listing defects and advising on repairs.

This survey can also include estimated costs and timings for any repair works.

A Building Survey is a more ‘hands-on’ inspection, meaning the surveyor will want to move furniture around to get to every area in the house and even check the attic. This allows them to gather more information on the condition the property is in, and give more accurate and thorough advice.

More intrusive inspections may be carried out, such as drilling holes in walls or checking under floorboards. However, these checks will only be undertaken with prior agreement from the property owner.

New-Build Snagging Survey

Who: Snagging Company

Cost: £300+

How Long: 1-2 weeks

When: Only for new builds, after building work is completed but before the legal completion date.

What it covers: A Snagging Survey is an independent inspection identifying defects with a new-build. It should cover everything from minor issues such as a door not closing properly, all the way to structural issues.

Your developers should fix the faults found before you move in. However, some companies won’t allow a Snagging Survey to be carried out until after completion.

If this is the case, your new build should be covered under a two-year warranty in which the developer should fix any issues.

Comparing Surveys

Now that we’ve explained the different types of survey available, it’s easier to compare them.


The most obvious comparison is that a mortgage valuation doesn’t provide any information on the property. Although this is the only mandatory inspection in the house buying process, it will not protect you in the instance you discover major defects with a property after legal completion.


If this does happen, you will be left to foot the bill with nowhere to point the finger.


Alternatively, the RICS Home Condition Report, HomeBuyer Report and Building Survey give you details on the property and its condition in varying levels.


When choosing which type of survey, the most important thing to think about is the house itself and what you plan on doing with it.


If you are buying a property that you intend to do major works on, it would be wise to choose a Building Survey. This means you can make educated decisions about the work and inform builders of any issues beforehand, selecting specialists in the areas of any found problems.


If the property is only around 20 years old and still in good condition, a Home Condition Report is more likely to be the best option, especially if a Snagging Survey wasn’t carried out.


Notably, a HomeBuyer Report is the only type that can include a valuation and be combined with your mortgage valuation. It is only possible, however, if you are choosing a surveyor from an approved list supplied by your lender.


Both a Home Condition Report and Building Survey are carried out in addition to the mortgage valuation.

Understanding Your Survey

So you have received the results of your survey, and there’s a lot of jargon in there. You might not be sure of which area of the house is being referred to or know a certain thing by a different name.


It can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t understand what the report is telling you, or the wording that is used.


Luckily, RICS has created this handy diagram telling you what the various parts of your house are called under their specification.



Problems On Your Survey Report? Don’t Panic!

The results are in, and they’re not looking good. The surveyor has found a few problems, and some of them might be a big issue.


The important thing is not to panic and evaluate your options.


Most Common Problems And What They Mean

Firstly you want to make sure you understand the results, and what the issues referred to mean.

Penetrating Damp
Rising Damp
Breach Of Building Regulations


We all know that condensation forms when moisture-rich warm air comes into contact with a cold surface.

Issues with condensation in a property are usually down to ventilation and heating in a property, but can also signal other problems with the building itself or insulation materials.

Penetrating Damp

This form of damp appears when moisture gets into the building from the outside, forming a damp patch on a ceiling or wall.

This issue can affect any property of any age but is more common in older buildings.


It is usually a result of a leaking rainwater pipe or cracked flashing, allowing water to seep into the property and soak into unprotected materials.

Rising Damp

Another form of damp, rising damp forms when water soaks up from the ground and seeps up through building materials.

Imagine standing a piece of paper upright in water; the water will absorb upwards. The same thing is happening with rising damp.

It’s an issue more likely to affect older properties.

Breach Of Building Regulations

If the property has any form of alteration such as an extension, the surveyor will need to check that it complies with building regulations.

If the work were carried out without obtaining the correct documentation first, this would flag up in the survey.

Wet Rot
Dry Rot

Wet Rot

Wet rot is exactly what it sounds like, rot caused by moisture. It results from timbers coming into prolonged contact with a wet surface like penetrating damp, which can then spread the rot to less prominent areas like the floor.

It can also be a result of inadequate maintenance on outside joinery like window frames and doors.

Dry Rot

Dry rot is a little different to its wet counterpart, but funnily enough is still caused by exposure to moisture.

It is a type of fungus that feeds off wood as it grows. As it spreads, it leaves behind weakened timber meaning the core structure of the building is left fragile unstable.


Subsidence is the result of the ground under and around your property moving, generally in an uneven manner.

The results are usually cracking to the inside of the property, outside or both.

If left, subsidence can cause major structural damage as the ground continues to move.


Beetle larvae burrow into timber leaving behind easily recognisable small, rounded holes on the surface of the wood.

It commonly affects flooring and roof structures, of which aren’t easy to spot. The wood is left weakened, resulting in a fragile structure.

What To Do Next

The next step is to start gathering information relating to the issues that have come up and use that information to decide how you will move forward. There are a few things that you can do.


Ask the surveyor to provide an estimate. If this is a service included in the survey type you chose, ask the surveyor to give a cost for the work, so you have a better idea of the figures you are facing.


Are the problems covered by a guarantee? If so, contact the company the guarantee is with to discuss your options and arrange a fix.


Get a builder’s quote. When presented with a larger issue, meaning it will be a larger job, it is worth getting a professional’s quote to do the work, even if you got a quote from the surveyor.


Renegotiate. Use the quotes to adjust the buying price, or ask the seller to fix the issue before completing the sale. If a solution can’t be reached, it may be worth considering if you want to carry on with the sale.

Where To Find A RICS Chartered Surveyor

Choosing the right surveyor is important, even if you are restricted by your mortgage provider. Finding one can be a bit of a daunting task, but you have a few options to help you.


Friends And Family

It’s likely that you will know someone who has moved house and had a survey. You can ask them if they can recommend anyone they have used, how the service was and if it helped them in any way.


They can also warn you of any bad experiences they’ve had.


Your Estate Agent

Your estate agent should be able to connect you with various chartered surveyors, both self-employed and those part of a company.


Be aware that some estate agents will suggest certain surveyors because they receive a commission, of which cost could pass onto you without you knowing.


This isn’t always the case, but it’s good to keep in mind.



Search RICS Surveyors

You can find RICS surveyors directly through their website with their handy search tool.


You can search by your location and the type of survey you want. The list of survey types you can search by is long, extending into specialist areas and commercial work.


Using this tool means you can see all the surveyors in your area, then carry out further research.


The search results include a link to their website, email and phone contact details, and a short description of the company/surveyor.


Choose A Trusted RICS Surveyor

You are putting a lot of faith in the surveyor you choose, so you must be confident in that person and their skills.

Barker Associates are proud to have a team of trusted RICS building surveyors in Essex and Cambridgeshire working all across the South East of England. We recently expanded our services and now also have teams of building surveyors in London and Birmingham.

We have been serving the area since 1987 and have become established in providing a quality, dependable service to all of our clients.

You only need to read our testimonials to see what we mean.

To Conclude

We’ve covered a lot of topics in this guide, including what a survey and a chartered surveyor is, sections specific to whether you’re buying or selling, and what surveys you have available to you.


One of the main takeaways is that you shouldn’t rely on just the mortgage valuation to know what condition a property is in. Having a survey done gives you added protection against costly problems further down the line.


Don’t become part of the percentage of people that don’t get a survey and end up footing a big repair bill.


You want to love your new home, not resent it.

If you still need help deciding what type of survey will be the best option for your property, or you are looking for a qualified RICS chartered surveyor in Essex, speak to our friendly team at Barker Associates today.


Barker Associates provide a wide range of expert services across residential, commercial, ecclesiastical, and education sectors. As well as conducting surveys on a variety of buildings, our teams win Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) bids for schools, manage the conservation of historic buildings, and much more.

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