What Survey Should I Get When Buying a Flat?

By James Brook FRICS on and updated on

After navigating numerous viewings and having an offer accepted on your perfect flat, it might feel like all your essential decisions have been made, but there’s one more to go. What survey should you have to make sure the offer is fair, the property is in the condition you expect, and you’ve made the best possible decision?

What is a survey?

A survey is essentially an expert inspection of a property to highlight any problems to a potential buyer. When you have a survey, a surveyor will visit the flat and assess its condition. How detailed this is will depend on the type of survey you choose. The surveyor may only inspect visible parts of the property or delve more thoroughly into the structure and highlight possible future issues. The results of the survey will be recorded in a report that also provides an essential commentary on the flat, giving detail on things like the materials used in construction and the type of glazing in the windows.

What is a valuation?

You’ll also have to have a mortgage valuation when buying a flat. While this can seem quite similar to a survey, they serve very different purposes. A valuation is a more cursory look at the flat to determine its worth. It is carried out on behalf of your lender so they can be confident that their investment is safe. Your lender will choose the company they want to carry this out, although you will have to pay for it. The cost will vary depending on the size of the property.

Do I really need a survey?

It can be tempting to think that if the mortgage valuation comes back as expected, there’s no need for a survey, but the valuation is only a basic check, and it’s done purely based on the needs of the lender. A survey delves more deeply into the true state of the property. Using a RICS qualified surveyor means you can be sure you’re getting an impartial professional who will act in your interest and provide guidance and advice based on your individual needs while always following industry best practice.

While not required by law, a survey will help you to understand the flat you’re buying, whether that’s by highlighting hard to see issues such as a need to upgrade the electrics or by offering peace of mind that cracks in the wall aren’t of structural concern. If unexpected issues are found, the detail provided in the survey will give you the opportunity to renegotiate the price or help you decide that the flat isn’t right for you after all. A survey could save you serious amounts of money – not to mention time and effort – if it uncovers previously unknown issues.

What survey should I get?

There are a few options here, with a more basic report starting at around £500. The best choice for you will depend on the age and state of the property and if you have any specific concerns about its condition.

1. RICS HomeBuyer Report

This Level 2 survey is designed for flats and modern houses of a standard construction. It involves a visual inspection of the property to report on its condition and highlights issues with a simple traffic light system.

2. HomeLevel Report

At Novello, we also offer the HomeLevel Report, which gives you all the same detail and clarity as a HomeBuyer Report but with several added extras. Our RICS qualified surveyors will examine at least 20 crucial interior and exterior elements of a property. And, utilising mobile technology to our advantage, we guarantee to have your concise but comprehensive report to you in just a few days. The Novello HomeLevel Report is suitable for flats and more modern houses, which are reasonable and worth less than £1,000,000.

3. Building Survey

While a HomeLevel Report may be sufficient for many flats, if you’re buying an older or reconfigured property, if it’s a doer-upper or if you’re concerned about a particular aspect of the flat, a more comprehensive building survey can be a good idea. The Novello+ Building Survey will delve much more deeply into the bones of the flat to give a comprehensive insight into its construction and condition.

While a HomeLevel Report looks only at the visible elements of the flat, a building survey will go deeper, utilising pole cams to access trickier to reach areas and offering detail on flood maps, broadband speeds, asbestos and energy efficiency. Photos will be taken of any defects so you can see what you’re dealing with. And, if you have particular concerns, you can discuss these with your surveyor to ensure they’re checked thoroughly. The extensive building survey report offers clear, actionable information in a timely manner, covering everything from damp and insulation to information on services such as gas, electricity and water. Potential legal concerns will also be flagged.

4. Snagging List

You may think that if you’re buying a newbuild flat, you won’t need to have any checks done as the property will be in perfect condition when you move in. However, some research suggests more than half of all newbuilds have defects, so it’s always worth getting in an independent snagging specialist to give the flat a once over before completion. While not a survey, a snagging list will highlight concerns such as cosmetic issues or joinery defects. It will also make sure that smoke alarms and heating systems operate as they should while ensuring building regulations have been complied with throughout. Photos will be taken of defects, and an estimated repair cost will be included, so you’re armed with the detail you need to spur your developer into action.

Whichever option you choose, your surveyor will prepare a report based on their findings which will be delivered to you and your solicitor, so you have all the information you need to move forward with the purchase with confidence.

How to find a surveyor

Your lender or estate agent may well suggest a surveyor for you to use, and while this can be helpful, it’s important to find a truly impartial professional who is focused on your best interests.

It’s always a good idea to look for a local surveyor who understands the market you’re buying in; ask friends or family for recommendations and check out reviews online. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for copies of previous reports so you can see if they deliver the kind of information you think you’ll need.

Be sure to check your preferred surveyor is a member of RICS – they’ll have the letters MRICS or FRICS after their name. This way, you can be sure you’re getting a surveyor who maintains professional standards and operates to an agreed code of conduct, so you receive the level of service and expertise you expect.

To find out more about what to look for in a surveyor, read our blog How to Choose a Surveyor.

The Novello Approach

At Novello, we know what an exciting time it can be when you’re buying a home; we also know how stressful it can be, which is why we aim to help the process run as smoothly as possible. Whichever survey you choose, you can be sure you’ll receive an accurate, timely and easy to understand report that gives you all the information you need in a clear, concise way. Our expert team will also remain on hand at all times should you require further information or advice.

Contact us today to find out more.

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