A RICS Surveyor inspects a property. SAM Conveyancing discuss the risks of buying a house without survey
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Buying a House Without a Survey - What Defects Can Be Missed?

07/10/2019
(Last Updated: 14/12/2023)
18,838
8 min read
Buying a house without a survey is an option you can choose but you should ask yourself what defects can be missed if you do...and might any of these cost you far more money further down the line than would the price of a survey?

When you buy a house without getting a home buyers survey (be it a HomeBuyer Report or a Building Survey), you leave yourself a hostage to fortune where a serious property defect such as subsidence is concerned.

You also remove a great source of information from examination by your solicitor - who, after all, is looking to protect your interests regarding your intended purchase - and leave them reliant on the Contract Pack and the conveyancing property searches as sources for the raising of potential enquiries.

Buying a home? Want a RICS survey you can trust?

It's well-known that those who didn't get a home buyers survey and subsequently had to remedy defects normally had to pay out more than £3,000 on average - many times more than the price of an actual survey - and never had the option to bargain with their seller or even pull out.

Call us and we'll provide you with an experienced and local RICS surveyor from our nationwide network; whether you're buying with cash or with a mortgage, our 'expert' in your court can easily end up saving you £1,000s.

RICS Surveyors – Local Knowledge – Same Week Availability


This article looks at:



    1

    Do you have to get a home buyers survey legally?

No - but we'd strongly advise that you do before you move to exchanging contracts .

Whether you're buying a home with cash or a mortgage, it's understandable that you'll want to save money where you can in the conveyancing process given the overall expense.

But you should think: if you don't have the money for a home buyers survey now, is it likely that you'll have the money for repairs a few months into moving in, if you discover damp which you hadn't been aware of before? 

Although as a cash buyer, you're likely to be less pressed than a mortgage buyer, it makes no difference if you subsequently discover there's a defect that could have been found out about...and you may well have decided to pull out of the purchase if you had known.


    2

    What sort of defects can a home buyers survey uncover?

Buying a House Without a Survey - You could miss faulty plumbing which will cost you in repairs and potential water damage. Advice from SAM Conveyancing
Your RICS surveyor, armed with their years of experience and local knowledge, inspects a property and looks for suspicion of large number and wide variety of property defects, focusing mainly on those which are likely to be the most difficult and expensive to remedy.

A non-exhaustive list of possible defects includes:

What happens after a survey on a house?

With our surveyors, your surveyor calls you on the day of the inspection after the inspection itself to discuss any major concerns (there might not be any!) and you are emailed your property survey report within 5 working days of the inspection date (you can also receive your survey by post).


    3

    Do I really need a home buyers survey?

Four in five homebuyers don’t bother with a survey according to some recent estimates, which may make you think 'is a survey necessary when buying a home?'

16% of homeowners discover defects

In our recent survey, 16% of homeowners found defects; including 2% who were able to pull out of a bad purchase, 7% who were able to negotiate a better price, and sadly, 7% of homeowners who did not get a survey and discovered defects after the purchase.

12 of the 39 who remembered how much these defects cost to remedy spent over £5,000

Don't burn your money, book a survey.

RICS Surveyors | Fixed Fees | Same week availability | Access arranged

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Before considering whether you should get a home buyers survey, it's worth noting the reasons why people don't, which include, among others:
  • (mortgage buyers only) believing that the lender's valuation survey is a defect survey (it isn't);
  • believing that they'll find out about any serious defects through other means, such as conveyancing property searches, property information forms and solicitor checks; and, most of all
  • deciding that a home buyers survey is just another, and considerable, expense alongside all the other costs of buying a home.
The first of the above is based on a misunderstanding on the reason for the lender's valuation survey and its scope: the lender simply wants to check if the property you're looking to buy is worth the price you're looking to pay for it, to protect their own interests, and, because of this, there might not even be a site visit, rather a 'book valuation' alone or if there is a site visit, the surveyor might take just five minutes and never look into the property's interior.

The second idea is based on a gamble on factors such as how comprehensive the seller decides to be in their property information responses (they might opt not to refer to any suspicion of a defect).

A misunderstanding about the scope of, for example, a local authority search – these searches are focused on the land and services the property forms a part of and don't have excessive information on the property itself.

Finally, although some conveyancing solicitors are amazing at detecting issues from the material they check, it's much to hope that they'll detect things that only an expert might form suspicions about following an inspection.

The third reason is perfectly understandable – people are often 'strapped for cash' during a home purchase – but this is an area where you might end up seriously regretting what could turn out to be a false economy.

A recent media report about one person who didn't get an appropriate survey told of how she ended up having to pay £30,000 in repairs for dry rot, suspicions of which weren't flagged up and were house survey missed problems. 

Various items of research estimate that, of those who didn't get a survey before buying their property, for the cases where defects were subsequently discovered, the average remedy cost was more than £3,000 i.e. many times the cost of a RICS survey.

Some people even ask 'can I do my own house survey' - we would only recommend this if your line of work or experience included surveying houses and or building. 

You only have to ask yourself how a residential home surveyor becomes qualified and stays in business - it takes hard work and the building up of years of experience!

So briefly, why bother getting a home buyers survey?

  • Find out about suspicions of defects and, depending on the level of survey, often much more including, for example estimates of costs of repair etc.
  • Strong suspicions in the survey report can be the initial basis for bargaining for a reduction in price with the seller, or at least for the seller to contribute towards further investigations or remedies.

    In the worst case, there might be so many signs of serious defects that you choose to pull out of the purchase entirely, which naturally brings with it disappointment, but realistically could save you possibly tens or hundreds of £1,000s further down the line.

Given that by some estimates one in three conveyancing matters fall through, it's a fair bet that not a few didn't complete because of suspicions of serious defects flagged up by a home buyers survey report.



    4

    Do I need a RICS HomeBuyer Report or a Building Survey?

The good news here is that when you come to us, we can normally determine whether your property requires a HomeBuyer Report or a Building Survey very quickly.

It's all about which survey your property is best suited to; as a rule of thumb, the more extensive, non-standard, old and redeveloped/refurbished a property is, the more likely it is to benefit from a Building Survey, which is the highest level of visual inspection on offer from RICS. 

A simpler, smaller, standard and more modern property is more likely to benefit from a HomeBuyer Report.

You can understand that your surveyor will need to spend more time on site if they're surveying a sprawling, highly refurbished Georgian mansion compared to a 2000s-build one-bedroom flat; this is one of the differences illustrated.

The good news is that Building Surveys don't cost that much more than a HomeBuyer Report for the same property but, as stated, surveys are sold on how matched they are to the property in question.

For a more in-depth look at this topic, please read What Type of Survey Do I Need?


Buying a home? Want a RICS survey you can trust?

It's well-known that those who didn't get a home buyers survey and subsequently had to remedy defects normally had to pay out more than £3,000 on average - many times more than the price of an actual survey - and never had the option to bargain with their seller or even pull out.

Call us and we'll provide you with an experienced and local RICS surveyor from our nationwide network; whether you're buying with cash or with a mortgage, our 'expert' in your court can easily end up saving you £1,000s.

RICS Surveyors – Local Knowledge – Same Week Availability


Frequently Asked Questions

The buyer arranges the survey
RICS Surveyors – Local Knowledge – Same Week Availability
Surveys are usually done after your offer has been accepted, but before you exchange contracts as this is when your transaction becomes legally binding.

You don't want to waste money on a survey before your offer is accepted, but you need to know if there are any defects during the negotiations stage so that you can agree a fair price with the seller, with the true state of the property considered.

Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing
Written by:
Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.
Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Reviewed by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.

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