Do I Need A Survey When Buying A House?
Anyone buying a home will be told of the importance of having a detailed house survey carried out by a professional surveyor, but a question that is often asked a lot is "do you need a house survey?" By law you do not need a house survey, it is not part of the legal process required to purchase a property, however, it is highly recommended that at least a Home Buyers Report (survey) is conducted. This is different to the valuation offered by a mortgage provider. The lender valuation ensures the value of the property is correct and that the home is in a fit state to be mortgaged to secure the loan amount.
Why are house surveys important?
There are many different types of surveys, and even if you opt for a simple house valuation - which verifies the value of the property from the bank, it still gives you peace of mind based on the banks value (for mortgage purposes this is the minimum survey requirement). Most people, especially first time buyers choose a traditional home buyers report, level 1 or 2 house survey, mainly to inspect the condition of the property, which could give you as the buyer peace of mind, especially if you are unsure of property defects.
When you buy a property in the UK the legal principle of caveat emptor applies. In other words, ‘let the Buyer Beware’. In the simplest of terms, this means that the seller is not required to disclose unknown defects in the property and it is down to the Buyer to investigate the home they are planning to buy.
Sellers are required to provide a range of information in a Property Information Form, yet this is limited and additional formal searches may not show issues and defects with the property or the land.
The Seller or their Agent must disclose any information they are aware of, yet in reality, the danger is they don’t in case it puts a Buyer off!
House surveys - What happens if I don't get one
For most people buying a property, it will be the largest financial decision they make in their life and could see them effectively tied to the home by a mortgage for more than 30 years.
Failure to spot a defect before you buy could be a very expensive mistake. If you discover any defects after you have completed the sale then there is very little recourse against the Seller to have the defect made right.
For example, it is advisable that as a house buyer you get the gas, electrics and plumbing checked if no recent test certificate is available from the seller. If having moved into the home you find that the electrics, gas and plumbing are unsafe or damaged then the expense will fall on you, which can be expensive, unless you can prove misrepresentation by the Seller or their Agent, i.e. that they did know about the defect and failed to disclose it.
If you have a full survey conducted including additional checks by the relevant professionals, and it reveals an issue then you may be in a position to renegotiate the sale price to take into consideration some or all of the cost of the works required to remedy the defect. Don’t be afraid to thoroughly inspect the property you are visiting – just think how much money and time you are investing in the purchase.
Common things that Buyers should probably check initially when going to view a house are the boiler (especially in the summer when the boiler is likely to be off), ask the Seller/Agent to switch it on, inspect water pressure by turning taps/shower on and off, flush toilets and check exterior door locks, handles, do the windows open and close etc.
One common thing that Buyers fail to check is behind furniture within the home. Have you moved out that wardrobe in the corner to see whether it is hiding damp for example?
Of course, if you have a survey it will look at all these things – and it reveals nothing and then you move in and find an issue that the survey should have revealed you may have legal recourse to take action against the surveyor for failing to notify you.
The role of the conveyancer
We as your solicitor/conveyancer are only able to pursue enquiries based on the information provided by the Seller’s property information forms, the Agent’s particulars and by any information provided by you, the Buyer. We do not physically inspect the property, and we rely on the Agents or the Buyer to provide a copy of the brochure so that we can get a visual of the property.
The National Conveyancing Protocol recommends that solicitors and conveyancers should only ask the Sellers questions which:
• clarify issues relating to any documents submitted;
• are relevant to the particular property; or
• the Buyer has expressly requested.
On top of this we will check the legal title, search results, ensure planning permission and building regulation certificates are in place for any alterations to the home which may stand outside of permitted development and raise enquires based upon the results of these searches and surveys.
What happens if a person buys a home without a survey and later wishes to take action against a Seller?
It can be expensive to sue a Seller for misrepresentation and due to the legal principle of ‘Buyer Beware’ the case is not likely to go in favour of the Buyer unless a Seller goes out of their way to hide defects or acts fraudulently by supplying doctored documents – this is very rare. The best course of action is to factor a survey into the cost of purchasing a home and do your research on the best surveyors near to your property – check the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors website if you are unsure.
Having the right checks conducted ahead of a purchase can help avoid costly mistakes and significantly reduces the risks of your home purchase ending in tears.
Written by Sarah McGregor, Associate. Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors
T: 00 44 (0) 20 7240 0521
Posted on: 27 August 2018