TSPC Jargon Buster: Building Survey
31 March 2023
The aim of our Jargon Buster series is to break down the terminology of the property industry to help you feel confident and in control of your home-buying journey.
In this article, we’re discussing the term ‘Building Survey’, and what it means when buying a home in Scotland.
What is a building survey?
A building survey is a report prepared on the condition of a property for sale. It can also be known as a structural survey.
There are different levels of survey available depending on your budget, the condition or age of the property you're hoping to buy, or how much information you'd like to know about the property before committing to a formal offer.
Do I need a building survey in Scotland?
Unlike in England, properties for sale in Scotland have to have a Home Report as a legal requirement of the sale.
A Home Report is a type of building survey, which tells buyers everything they need to know about a property in terms of its condition and market value. Sellers are legally required to order a Home Report on their property before listing it for sale. Home Reports should be carried out by a RICS qualified surveyor.
A Home Report will typically include the following elements:
- A single survey, which looks at the general condition of the property
- A generic mortgage valuation, which assesses the typical market value
- An energy survey (or EPC), which assesses the property's energy impact and output, and utility costs
- A property questionnaire, completed by the seller, which covers any queries buyers may have about the property
So, as a property buyer, you don't necessarily need to order a building survey for a property in Scotland, as for many properties, the Home Report will cover everything you may wish to know.
Why should I get a building survey?
In some cases, a property may require some extra assessment, or a buyer might wish to know more in-depth information about the condition of a property before committing to buy - this is when a building survey can be very useful.
A building survey can be useful for listed properties, older properties, unusual properties or a property that you are intending to renovate, or for a property which has some concerns raised in the initial Home Report. This is because you can choose from different types of surveys to suit the property in question, and to find out more about its history, any limitations or potential issues that the general Home Report didn't uncover.
What kinds of building surveys are available?
Usually you can choose between three kinds of building surveys, depending on your needs: a mortgage valuation report, a home buyer's report or a full structural survey.
Mortgage Valuation Reports
Also known as a Scheme 1 Survey, this type of survey may be requested by buyers or mortgage lenders as an alternative to a Home Report. This is usually the case if a property is not being listed on the open market, such as if it is being sold privately.
A mortgage valuation survey will examine the value of the property, and will detail any obvious defects or structural problems in the property. However, this type of report is not as thorough as a Home Report, which may mean that your mortgage lender will require more details.
Home Buyer's Report
Otherwise known as a Scheme 2 Survey, a Home Buyer's Report is a more detailed version of the Home Report that the property will be listed with. This type of report includes a valuation and a more detailed investigation of any issues with the property. However, it will not include close inspections of the property's roof or floors, so buyers should be aware that structural issues could be missed when ordering this type of report.
Full Structural Survey
This is the most in-depth type of building survey, and also the most expensive kind. A full structural survey is usually requested, ordered and paid for by the buyer, and this can happen prior to them making an offer on a property.
If a property is particularly old or characterful, or has listed status, it's quite common for a buyer to decide to carry out a full structural survey, so that they know what to expect from the property. The surveyor will thoroughly assess the property's condition and any defects, and will deliver a detailed report to the buyer, up to 20 pages long in some cases.
How much does a building survey cost?
A mortgage valuation report/Scheme 1 Survey is considered the most economical survey, and usually starts from around £200.
A home buyer's report/Scheme 2 Survey has a starting price of around £250.
A full structural survey is the most expensive kind of building survey, and depending on the property's value, size and condition, buyers can expect to pay up to £1000 for this kind of survey.
When should I get a building survey?
If you are interested in a property and would like more information than the Home Report can give you (such as more information on the condition of the property's structure, roof or floors), then you can order a survey for your own peace of mind.
In some instances, a mortgage lender may not accept the Home Report as a basis for lending, and so in this case you will need a separate building survey.
You should order a survey to be carried out before you make an offer on a property. In Scotland, if you make an offer on a property and it is accepted, you will be legally bound to buy the property, so it's important that you're content with the condition of the property, and that you're confident your mortgage lender will be prepared to lend you the money.
An alternative option is to make an offer 'subject to survey', which means that you will have a survey carried out if your offer is accepted. This offers extra protection for the buyer, as it allows you to legally withdraw your offer if the survey delivers unsatisfactory results. However, buyers should be aware that this makes offers on properties less attractive for sellers.
A building survey can be very useful in helping you get a mortgage on an older or more unusual property.
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