Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions we’ll make and that's why it is critical that we are equipped with as much right information as possible. That's where home surveys come in.
Finding out more about the condition of a property has gained traction in recent years as it is starting to become increasingly understood that a valuation report is not a survey.
It merely tells a lender whether or not the property is reasonable security for a loan.
Condition-based surveys put concise information in the hands of homeowners and buyers and are becoming a vital part of making someone’s dream home theirs to own, as it provides a complete picture before contracts are signed.
These surveys have been around for decades. Although not mandatory or legislated in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, they are sought and purchased independently by consumers during the home buying and selling process.
However, government guidance on home surveys has also improved in recent years, with clear recommendations for consumers to strongly consider having a survey carried out. Their advice also highlights that these surveys should be carried out by a trained professional; listing the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors as an example.
Surveys predominantly delivered by RICS chartered surveyors who have the competence, skills and experience to be able to spot defects and issues with the subject property and advise consumers accordingly. At Countrywide Surveying Services, we have over 450 in-house RICS qualified and registered valuers. We offer confidence to consumers as we are able to give clear, impartial and expert advice, act in the client interest, are tightly regulated by strict rules of conducts and standards and deliver the highest level of service to consumers.
The home survey service includes an inspection of the property followed by a report which contains facts about the property and the surveyor’s opinion on the overall condition.
The most common survey products in the market are the RICS licenced home survey products currently known as RICS Condition Report (Level 1); RICS Homebuyer Report (Level 2) and RICS Building Survey (Level 3). The RICS products can only be carried out by qualified surveyors licenced to do so by RICS.
RICS Condition Report (Level 1)
This report is suitable for buyers or sellers of a conventional house or flat built from common building materials and in a good condition. It focuses purely on the condition of the property by setting a clear traffic light rating of the condition of different elements of the property, services, garages and outbuildings by showing problems that require attention. It also includes a summary of the risks to the condition of the property and other matters including guarantees, planning and building control and other issues for the legal adviser. It does not include a valuation.
RICS Homebuyer Report (Level 2)
This report provides more extensive information when buying or selling a conventional house or flat in a reasonable condition. It includes all the features of the condition report plus a more extensive inspection. The surveyor’s professional opinion on value can also be included and identifies a list of problems that may affect value. It includes an insurance reinstatement figure for the property and advice on repairs and on doing maintenance. It highlights issues to the customer that need to be investigated to prevent serious damage or dangerous conditions and includes information on location, local environment and energy efficiency, whilst also highlighting issues for the legal adviser.
RICS Building Survey (Level 3)
This level of survey is appropriate for larger, older and/or more complex properties that are unusual or altered. It includes a thorough inspection and detailed report on a wide range of issues and a detailed description of visible defects and potential problems caused by hidden flaws. It also includes an outline of repair options and the likely consequences of non-repair. It provides advice for the legal adviser and details of serious risks and dangerous conditions. It doesn’t include a valuation or estimated costs of repairs, which can be added as additional options.
An increased consumer demand
Although we are seeing an increase in consumer demand for home surveys, feedback conducted by RICS in 2019 showed 40% of those who didn’t get a survey did not believe they needed one, with 28% of those dissatisfied believed the information didn’t meet their expectations, 23% reported the language of the information was unclear and 11% believed their survey didn’t accurately report the condition of the property - so RICS set out to address these issues with a new home survey standard. (RICS Home Survey Standard) with a set of mandatory requirements for chartered surveyors and regulated firms. This has also included an update of the existing reports which ensure all the information critical to this process is easy to navigate, clearly presented in plain English, while using more visual images, is factual and provides a balanced perspective of the condition of the property.
This exercise has also delivered extensive collaboration with industry stakeholders across the home buying and selling sector to further elevate the profile of home surveys and their key critical role in improving the home buying process for consumers.