What is a structural survey?
Anyone preparing to purchase a property should familiarise themselves with the different types of property survey available, what separates them, and which ones they will need to undertake before finalising their purchase. If you’re applying for a mortgage, your lender will want to carry out their own surveys of the property to ensure it’s in a reasonable condition and its value will cover the value of the loan you’re applying for.
Structural surveys, also known as building surveys, are the most comprehensive type of building survey for a house purchase. A structural survey involves an in-depth inspection of a property and returns a detailed report that fully describes its condition. The survey goes into considerable detail about every element of a home or commercial property and explicitly identifies any areas requiring further investigation or representing a cause for concern. It also details any needed repairs and offers advice on how they should be undertaken.
Who Undertakes the Survey?
Structural surveys need to be completed by a qualified surveyor. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors maintains a directory of regulated and accredited chartered surveyors who are qualified to carry out these surveys. You should only ever hire a surveyor who has RICS accreditation; otherwise, the report they produce won’t be considered valid. This accreditation will also give you peace of mind that the structural survey is being conducted by someone competent and will highlight any serious issues with your property’s structure that could present a safety issue.
Buyers can request structural surveys on any type of property, but they are essential for certain types of property:
- Listed buildings
- Properties that are more than 50 years old
- Buildings with an unusual construction
- Buildings that require renovations or you plan to renovate in the future.
- Buildings that have already been extensively modified or undergone significant renovations
Wherever possible, you should try to hire a surveyor who is familiar with the local area. They will have a better idea of local property prices and markets values, meaning they can provide more accurate valuations and incorporate their understanding of the local market into the final report they produce for you. Similarly, if you are purchasing an unusual or specialist property, it’s worth commissioning your survey using a surveyor who has assessed these types of buildings before. They will understand the nuances of surveying those types of properties and can offer you a more accurate and complete valuation than someone without the benefit of experience.
Why Structural Surveys are Important
Where they are required, structural surveys are very important documents. They provide a detailed assessment of your property’s state and value and give homebuyers peace of mind regarding the state of a property they are preparing to purchase. Buying a property is always a big decision, whether it’s your first property purchase or not. Given the large sums of money involved and the long-term commitment a property purchase represents, it’s only natural that buyers are on edge throughout the process. Anything that reduces uncertainty and improves the buyers’ security is worth doing. Structural surveys reveal any defects or other issues with the property before you sign on the otted line and hand over the money.
Structural surveys lead to the most detailed reports of all forms of structural survey. They will precisely document any visible defects in the property’s construction and will uncover the majority of hidden problems that would escape the attention of a bury conducting their own visual inspection of the property. Where a contractor can rectify these problems with repair work, the final report will also outline what work is required and set out the potential risks to the property they involve.
The overview of the property’s general condition that structural survey reports provide helps both homebuyers and lenders. It gives confirmation that the property is a sound investment for homebuyers and won’t be burdened with expensive repair work after finalising their purchase. If the property requires extensive repairs, the structural surveys will alert buyers to these before they make their final decision about whether to purchase the property or not.
Structural surveys are usually requested by homebuyers, but there are other circumstances in which they can be required. For example, properties that have been modified extensively or are expected to be renovated significantly in the future should be surveyed to ensure they can withstand the physical strain of any construction works. Many people buy properties with the intention of altering them in some way; for these buyers, a structural survey is the most important type of house purchase survey available. Undertaking major renovations without the benefit of s structural survey can lead to unnecessary property damage, which is difficult and expensive to correct after the fact.
How Much Does a Structural Survey Cost?
The cost of a building survey will depend on the size and value of your property. Average costs range from £500 to £1500, with larger homes costing more to survey. These costs make the structural survey one of the most expensive types of property survey available. However, if you need a detailed assessment of a building’s condition, there really is no alternative; other house purchase survey options don’t produce anywhere near the same results.
For properties valued at £100,000 or less, a complete structural survey should cost somewhere in the region of £630, although prices will always vary slightly between different surveyors. The prices rise gradually for every £100,000 of the property’s value, topping out around the £500,000 mark. Highly-specialised properties might cost more to survey. For example, lighthouses, farmhouses, and other unusual buildings might cost more and are best surveyed by someone with experience.
Another factor that might add to a structural survey’s costs is the need to conduct an environmental survey for the house purchase. There are numerous laws and regulations in place designed to ensure areas of ecological interest and endangered plants and animals are well-protected. If a structural survey reveals the presence of protected animals or other wildlife, additional surveys may be required, potentially incurring additional costs.
How Long Will the Survey Take?
The survey itself usually takes between four and eight hours to complete, although this will vary according to the size of the property. Once the survey is complete, it takes an average of five working days to compile the resulting report. Once the report is complete, it will be passed along to your solicitor, ready for you to view. Your solicitor will talk you through the report and what it shows.
Structural surveys are often commissioned after the sellers have accepted the buyer’s offer. Most offers are accepted on the condition that the subsequent survey doesn’t reveal any serious structural defects or other issues that might affect the value of the property. Therefore, pulling out of a house purchase after the survey is generally acceptable and is reasonably common in cases where the survey reveals areas where the buyer will need to spend a significant amount of money to bring the property up to a liveable standard.
Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from proceeding with the purchase, irrespective of the report. If the report shows that extra money needs to be spent on repairs or other issues, buyers can often renegotiate the price on this basis.
What Does a Structural Survey Report Look Like?
Structural survey reports are designed to be understood by any reader. While they are in-depth documents that cover every aspect of a property’s condition, they aren’t overly-technical documents; a layperson should be able to understand their contents. Reports use a traffic light system to make them as easy to understand as possible. Each area is assigned a colour; green, amber, or red, depending on their condition. The system is pretty self-explanatory, but here’s a breakdown just to clarify:
- Green / Condition Rating 1: Green areas are in excellent condition and don’t require any repairs. You should continue to maintain green areas in the same way they have always been maintained.
- Amber / Condition Rating 2: Areas with an amber rating have some defects and will require repairing or replacing, either now or in the future. However, the issues are not considered severe and are unlikely to affect the value of the property. However, they will require work at some point.
- Red / Condition Rating 3: These areas are in need of urgent repair or replacement due to severe damage or degradation. The severe state of these areas makes repairs or maintenance a matter of urgency. These are the areas that might make you think twice about going through with the purchase and give you grounds to renegotiate the price.
Structural surveys are an essential part of the homebuying process. Without a structural survey report from an accredited chartered surveyor, you can’t be sure of the property’s condition. Many potential structural issues are difficult to detect, especially for someone without the relevant training and experience. If the survey reveals issues that you weren’t aware of, you can renegotiate the price or even pull out of the purchase if necessary.