Home Buyers Survey
Your questions answered by a RICS Surveyor in your area
BSc Dipl. HI MRICS, MRPSA
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Should we go for a Full Structural Survey, Building Survey or HomeBuyer Report on a home in UK and which is cheaper?
The Full Structural Survey has been renamed by RICS as a Building Survey, although it is essentially the same level of survey.
If the UK property is an apartment, or is 100 or more years old, or has been substantially modified, or is of non standard construction, RICS advise the cheaper Building Survey.
If you are planning to do any major works on the UK property, you should you go for a Building Survey. The Building Survey is less cheap but it will offer an in-depth analysis of the UK property's condition as well as advice on defects as well as maintenance options .
For more detailed advice get a UK Home Survey Quote via our website or call 0800 038 6667 to speak to our survey team.
What is a home survey, and what will the surveyor actually do?
There are three main types of home buyers survey, the HomeBuyer Report, the Building Survey and the Property Valuation Report. Each of these has a different focus, so buyers should consider which of the three is the right choice for them:
HomeBuyer Report - A general survey of a home, including any visible defects or issues. If the property to be surveyed is of standard construction, and was built after 1900, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) recommend that the HomeBuyer Report is usually the best choice. The report is delivered in a standardised format for easy reference. The HomeBuyer Report includes a valuation.
Building Survey - A more in-depth survey of a property, including all accessible areas of a home. RICS recommend the building survey for older properties, or those of non-standard construction. Building survey reports are tailored by the individual surveyor, and can address any additional questions or concerns. Note that this home buyers survey does not include a valuation as standard.
Property Valuation Report - The most basic of the three, this report is primarily a valuation, and will not include details of particular defects.
For more detail please see the detailed survey comparison table.
Is mining related subsidence common?
Mining related subsidence is considered common enough in certain parts of the UK for it to warrant a specific search of the Coal Authority database during the conveyancing process. The Coal Authority owns the definitive database of coal and brine mining which includes the locations of all known opencast
and deep mining activity - past and present. It is hardly surprising that subterranean mining activity should impair the stability of the surface and any property which is built upon it. The search will certainly indicate if the property is in an area of big risk such as Cheshire where Brine mining was commonplace.
Ultimately however, it is for the Surveyor to note whether any settlement has actually occurred during the Homebuyer report or Building Survey. Subsidence is the biggest cause of concern for home buyers (and insurance companies) as remedy is typically expensive. Your surveyor will bring their knowledge of the local area and the associated ground conditions to give a context to any cracks they may discover during a survey (for example - homes in North London commonly exhibit signs of historical settlement (as clay sold is prevalent) and a local surveyor will be aware of this.
Typically, when cracks are found, the debate as to whether they are due to historical or on-going movement ensues. This can mean a protracted period of monitoring and ultimate buildings with buildings insurers. It is therefore imperative that the cause of any suspected subsidence is uncovered before buying a property to prevent potentially serious unplanned expense.
What is wychert (wychert), should I be concerned and will the surveyor pick it up?
Witchert, or wychert, is a walling material consisting of white clay and straw. It is commonly used in thatched houses in central England, but variants and similar materials are found elsewhere, such as 'Cob' in the South West. Witchert is sensitive to environmental conditions and must be kept well ventilated. It can crack and crumble if allowed to dry out, and can turn to slime if it gets too wet. The material therefore requires careful maintenance, and any render used to cover and protect the wychert must be breathable, such as lime.
A RICS Chartered Surveyor may offer general maintenance advice, but it is likely that, given the sensitive nature of witchert, a conservation expert's opinion should be considered before major works are undertaken. Correctly rendered wychert can have a long lifespan before re-rendering is needed, but amateurish maintenance or use of a non-breathable render can exacerbate any existing problems or damage.
On a HomeBuyer Report, what does 'E1' refer to?
An example may be a total chimney height which is too short. Potential defects covered by Section E are visually reviewed from ground level as required.
RICS HomeBuyer Reports are transparent, detailed surveys of residential property, unlike some more complex survey reports. The surveyor uses a scale between 1 and 3 to show to what extent any problems or notable points may negatively impact the property. Parts of the report which do not apply to the specific residence being surveyed will be indicated with a 'NI', or 'not inspected'. Where the surveyor is unable to gain access to some areas, e.g. the roof of a block of flats, these aspects of the report will not be completed.