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25 Oct 2016

Two thirds use problems revealed by house surveys to renegotiate

Only 15% fail to persuade sellers to fix problems or reduce price

House surveys range from basic reports to full structural surveys

Homebuyers are successfully using the findings of house surveys to renegotiate the price they pay for their property.

The 2016 Which? home movers survey has revealed that fewer than six in 10 (56%) recent homebuyers hadan independent house survey done, while 15% only had a mortgage valuation survey. A quarter (24%) said they hadn't had any kind of survey done at all.

However, of those whose house surveys revealed problems with the property they were buying, two thirds (67%) were able to either negotiate a lower price or get the seller to fix the issues before exchanging contracts.

Why should you have a house survey?

The primary purpose of a house survey is to reveal any potential issues prior to buying so you can make an informed decision on how - and whether - to proceed. But a survey that doesn't find any problems is far from being a waste of money, due to the peace of mind it provides.

In February 2016 we asked 1,831 members of the general public who had bought their current home in the last two years about their experiences of house surveys. Of those who'd any form of survey, nearly half (47%) said it uncovered minor problems and a further 8% were alerted to major issues.

Most buyers used problems revealed by the survey to their advantage, with 43% negotiating a lower price for the property and 24% successfully asking the seller to fix the issues before exchanging contracts. Not everyone was so lucky, though: 15% tried but failed to secure a lower price or get the seller to make repairs.

Nearly a quarter (23%) didn't take any action at all after discovering problems through their survey, while 8% said they'd been so put off by the results of a previous survey that they'd pulled out of the purchase altogether.

David Blake of Which? Mortgage Advisers says: 'Surveys will either give you peace of mind about the condition of the building or, if there are problems, provide you with a powerful bargaining chip for negotiating or asking the seller to fix any problems.'

  • Learn more in our full house surveys guide, where you can download an example survey and discover what the different types of house surveys typically cost

Which type of house survey should you choose?

When buying a property, there are three main types of survey to choose from: a condition report, a HomeBuyer's report and a building survey. If you're buying a new-build home, you'll need a snagging survey.

Different types of house survey
Condition reportRelatively new homes with no known issuesA basic overview of the property's condition, offering some reassurance that everything is OK
HomeBuyer's reportMost properties that are less than 50 years old and in a reasonable conditionInformation about problems such as damp and subsidence, guidance on anything that doesn't meet building regulations, a market valuation and a rebuild cost
Building surveyProperties that are 50+ years old or in a poor conditionAn in-depth look at the property detailing any problems with its structure and condition plus advice on repairs and maintenance
Snagging surveyNew-build homesA list of cosmetic and structural defects that need to be fixed, which you can give to the developer before you move in

The HomeBuyer's report is the most common type of survey, as it's suitable for the majority of properties. More than one in three (35%)of those who'd had a survey chose a HomeBuyer's report, while a quarter (26%) chose a building survey, 8% a condition report and 5% a snagging survey.

What is a mortgage valuation?

One in five (21%) of those who said they'd had a survey had only had a mortgage valuation carried out. However, despite often being referred to as a 'valuation survey', a mortgage valuation should never be considered a substitute for a proper house survey.

A mortgage valuation is a simple check carried out on your lender's behalf to establish whether the property is worth roughly what you're planning to pay for it.It won't tell you anything about the condition of the property, and you often won't get to see the findings at all - even if you're footing the bill.

What isn't included in a house survey?

Nearly one in five (18%) of those who'd had a survey told us that they encountered problems after moving in that weren't picked up in the survey.

While surveys should identify most issues, even building surveys won't cover absolutely everything. Some problems are impossible for a surveyor to spot and others, such as internal electrical or plumbing issues, are simply not covered by surveys.

If the current owner has any documentation or reports relating to the property's electrics or plumbing these should be included in the information they provide during the conveyancing process, so it's worth asking your solicitor about this.

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