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Looking to buy a house this winter? A building survey could save you money on your new home

By: Kelly Bellerson

If you’ve been keeping up with the latest property news, you’ll know that now is a probably the best time to get on the property ladder in 2023.

We’re not saying things are great but they are better, so for those eager to own their own home you’re probably looking at other ways to save on that big investment too. Luckily, we know one with multiple benefits… a building survey!

How can a building survey help me save money?

Let’s start at the very beginning, before a sale is even agreed. The purchaser, or the Estate Agent, may appoint a Chartered Building Surveyor to inspect the building for various reasons.

Whether you’re looking to get an accurate cost estimate of the property, check for snags, or understand your prospective building’s current condition before you buy, this is where a building survey could save you money (we’ll go into detail about the different types of building surveys later on).

For those who have already bought their new property, it’s good practice to carry out maintenance checks every year. You may find that there are hidden issues such as damp or draughts which are costing you more to run your home.

A building surveyor can identify these problems and even tell you whether your home is prone to further issues down the line, allowing you to budget for any essential repair works.

If you’re a buy-to-let customer or considering letting your property out in the future, you’ll need to keep a record of the building’s condition before your tenants move in. This is so responsibility can be fairly delegated at the end of the tenancy if there has been any damage that was not there previously.

But how do you know if your property is being returned in its pre-let condition at the end of the lease? A Chartered Building Surveyor will be able to tell you through their reports, ensuring any damages are rectified financially by the responsible party.

Maybe you’re considering renovations or extension works for your new property but you’re not sure where to start or how much you will need to make your visions come to life. A Building Surveyor is a good lifeline here, taking care of your project needs and ensuring your construction works stay within budget whilst also preserving the quality of works.

Finally, if you’re looking to sell or re-mortgage, then a Chartered Building Surveyor can help you do just that by carrying out a final building survey to ensure that your property is not being undervalued.

Types of building surveys

Did one, some or all of the above apply to you? In order, here are the different types of building surveys that can help save you money for your unique situation:

Pre-Acquisition Survey: Also known as a Home Buyers Survey or a Residential Building Survey, a Pre-Acquisition Survey can be undertaken before a purchase is finalised. This is to ensure that the buyer has a thorough understanding of the building’s condition.

If the Pre-Acquisition Survey reveals that there are pre-existing issues with the property that need extensive works and financial investment, this can potentially shave a bit off the asking price.

Occasionally, an Estate Agent can overestimate the value of the property they are selling. A Chartered Building Surveyor can carry out a property valuation on your behalf to ensure that you’re paying a fair price for your new build by assessing the property’s current market value.

A Level 2/Level 3 Building Survey: Whether you’re a first-time buyer or lived in your home for a little while now, it’s always good to ensure the maintenance of your home is kept in good working order.

A Level 2 or a Level 3 Building Survey will be able to reveal the reality of your home’s current state; outlining whether it’s costing you more than it should to run, identifying where you can save, and how.

There is a slight difference between a Level 2 and a Level 3 Building Survey that we discussed in a previous article, which you can find right here.

Schedule of Condition: This is the building survey you will need if you are looking to let your property out.

A schedule of condition is a detailed document that provides a comprehensive and objective record of the physical condition of your property. This document includes written descriptions and photographic evidence of the building’s existing state, highlighting any visible defects, damages, or areas of concern.

The purpose of a SoC is to establish a baseline reference for the property’s condition, which can be crucial for various purposes, such as determining liability for repairs and maintenance, assessing potential dilapidations, or settling disputes related to damages that may occur during a lease.

Schedule of Dilapidations: Like a SoC, a schedule of dilapidations is a detailed document that outlines the necessary repairs, maintenance, and improvements required for a leased or rented property. Typically prepared by a landlord or their appointed surveyor, this schedule serves as a formal record of the tenant’s obligations regarding the condition of the property during their lease period.

It itemises any damages, wear and tear, or alterations that exceed the standard wear and tear expected over the tenancy. Is also ensures that tenants return the property to its original condition, as specified in the lease agreement, before vacating the premises.

This document plays a crucial role in negotiations between landlords and tenants regarding the financial responsibilities for property upkeep and restoration at the end of a lease.

Project Management/Monitoring Surveying: Homeowners may require the help from a Project Manager from time to time, primarily to ensure that complex home improvement or renovation projects are executed efficiently and successfully.

Home projects often involve multiple tasks, contractors, timelines, and budgets, which can quickly become overwhelming for someone without the necessary expertise. A Project Manager serves as the homeowner’s advocate, overseeing all aspects of the project, from planning and budgeting to hiring contractors, scheduling, and quality control.

They bring valuable knowledge and experience to the table, helping homeowners make informed decisions, avoid costly mistakes, and keep the project on track.

Valuations: Finally, valuations. We touched on this briefly when discussing Pre-Acquisition Surveys, but did you know you can get a valuation at any point to find out how much your property is worth compared to current market rates – including when selling or re-mortgaging?

If you’re looking to sell or re-mortgage, a property valuation can ensure your property is not being undervalued when going back on the market. You can read more about valuations here.

Why now?

According to Nationwide and Zoopla, property prices stabilised and are down 5.3% (£14,500 on average) on the same period in 2022, with no month-on-month change.

Zoopla also stated in their latest House Price Index that they are expecting to see house prices continue to fall into early 2024, along with a steady decline in mortgage rates, which should see more buyers return to the market in the weeks to come.

Additionally, by getting a building survey now, you are taking a proactive step towards protecting your property (or future property) from the winter elements.

Whilst October’s temperatures have been uncharacteristically high, the UK is starting to experience more and more extreme weathers and inconsistent environmental factors that can cause considerable damage to property.

As the weather gets cooler, defects (if any) will start to surface – proving quite costly to rectify so close to the holiday season.

Ultimately, the final quarter of 2023 is shaping up to be the best time of the year to get on to that property ladder and get yourself a building survey.

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