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DIY Conveyancing and Surveyors

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 10 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Survey Surveyor Valuation Structural

Whether or not DIY conveyancing is right for a particular sale it may still make sense to engage a professional surveyor before exchanging contracts.

When land, or the property on it, is purchased the old legal principle of caveat emptor applies. Caveat emptor – or ‘let the buyer beware’ – generally means that the purchaser of a property is responsible for any faults or defects inherent in the property. (However, different rules may apply in the case of some new-build or newly converted properties which may be covered by a builder’s guarantee.)

Conveyancing and Surveys

A professional conveyancer should always advise a purchaser to commission a survey prior to exchanging contracts. A survey could reveal structural or other problems which could make the property a less appealing purchase than originally thought - or even render it virtually worthless. Defects could mean that a property is un-mortgageable or that it has little re-sale value. Once contracts have exchanged a buyer will be obliged to complete on the sale regardless of the true state of the property or face losing the deposit. Therefore the cost of a survey could be money well spent.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors is the leading professional and regulatory organisation which certifies surveyors in the UK and all over the world. A prospective purchaser should feel comfortable relying on a survey carried out by a member of the Royal Institution.

There are different sorts of surveys available. Not all of these will examine the structural quality of the property.

Property Valuation

Where a property is being purchased with the help of a mortgage, a valuation will be required by the mortgage lender before they agree to advance the mortgage monies. The lender will want to ensure that the property is worth what the purchaser proposes to pay for it and a valuation will be a pre-requisite of the advance. The mortgage lender may insist that the purchaser uses a valuer that they have chosen and then charge a fee to the borrower for this service. A surveyor carrying out a basic valuation has a responsibility to both the lender and the borrower and the borrower is entitled to a copy of the report he produces.

The cost of commissioning a valuation directly from a surveyor may depend on the price of the property. Research carried out in 2009 by one of the UK’s best known consumer advice organisations suggested that the average basic cost of a valuation survey on a property costing £250,000 would be about £230. However, many mortgage lenders charge much more than this and include ‘administration fees’ in the cost which the borrower has to pay.

Home-Buyer’s Valuation and Survey

This type of survey should give more information than a basic valuation but will not be as detailed as a full structural survey. The surveyor may not carry out a detailed inspection and may only include visible parts of the property. The report compiled by the surveyor may carry terms and conditions which set out what is covered by the report. The surveyor would not be held liable for any defects that could not be detected by this, superficial, level of inspection. A home-buyer’s valuation and survey is likely to cost about £500 for a property priced at around £250,000. It is possible that a mortgage lender could be persuaded that this kind of survey should be carried out instead of the basic mortgage valuation.

The Full Structural or Full Building Survey

Only a full structural survey will give a purchaser a real idea of the condition – and value – of the property they intend to purchase. A full structural survey – also known as a full building survey - will be particularly advisable in the case of older, unusual or expensive properties. Even a full structural survey may exclude the surveyor from liability for some aspects of the property – the small print on the survey report should make clear what is or is not included in the survey.

Again, the cost of the survey is likely to depend on the price of the property as well as any particular complexities or difficulties in relation to conducting the inspection. A full structural survey is the most expensive of the three types of survey and the cost may be start at around £1000. For this price the buyer should receive a detailed report which covers details such as the electrics and plumbing as well as the structure of the building.

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