Millions of UK home owners fail to get a survey on their property

Over seven million UK home owners have taken a serious financial risk by choosing not to have a survey completed on their current property, new research has found.

Some 13 million home owners have needed unexpected building work completed on their property since moving in and 56% of those who had major building work said knowing this in advance would have influenced their decision to buy the property.

Surveyors say the top three problems with properties which can be detected by a building survey are damp, roof issues and subsidence, according to the research rom Churchill Home Insurance.

But millions choose not to do so and this includes 3.5 million who did not have any type of independent checks completed and 3.6 million who assumed a mortgage valuation was sufficient.

With the price of property stretching many home owners’ budgets, it appears people are scaling back on the level of surveys completed on their property pre-purchase and choosing to go down the cheapest route.

The number of people having at least a base level survey has increased over time, from 63% 20 years ago to 91% in the last 12 months. The number of home owners, however, having the comprehensive building survey has reduced significantly from 28% 20 years ago to just 6% in the last 12 months.

The research also found that 36% of UK surveyors have seen a change in the trend for people requesting surveys in recent years, the main one being an increase in the number of surveys requested compared to previous years. Some surveyors said buyers look for the cheapest survey as they want to save money throughout the property purchase.

‘It’s encouraging to see the number of people having a survey has increased over time. Only by having a qualified surveyor assess a property are prospective buyers fully informed of the true state of that property, so it is an essential part of the buying process,’ said Martin Scott, head of Churchill home insurance.

‘Those relying on a mortgage valuation alone should be wary as this is just a cursory look at a property from a mortgage lender to assess how much it is worth, not a survey looking at the state of the property,’ he added.

The research also reveals that 23% of surveyors have had clients who needed expensive building works doing to their property soon after moving in, which would have come up in a more comprehensive survey.

Indeed, one home owner had a Home Buyers report that missed the full extent of subsidence affecting the property while others needed roof repairs, had problems with dry rot, damp or heating issues, all of which would have come up in a full building survey.

Overall 42% of UK home owners have needed unexpected works doing to their property within 12 months of moving in, some 9% needed major works completed, while 15% needed moderate remedial work. Demonstrating that scrimping on a thorough survey can be a false economy, those that had a condition report, 62%, needed more work on their property than the 42% who had a building survey.

More than half, 56%, of those who needed major work doing to their property within a year of moving in said the issues were serious enough to have influenced their purchase, should they have had prior knowledge.

Just 12% who only needed minor work done to their home said knowing about the work would have influenced their decision. Some 32% of those who had a condition report, 24% of those with a Home Buyers Report and 14% with a building survey said it would have been an influence.

‘While home surveys are expensive, they can potentially save buyers’ thousands of pounds as they can identify uninsurable risks. It is imperative to find out what you are dealing with at as early a stage in the buying process as possible,’ Scott said.

‘Home surveys can uncover damage caused by rot or fungus or even more discrete damage by beetles, moths and woodworms. This knowledge can be used to renegotiate the price, ask for repairs to be made or even pull out of the sale. No matter what, it’s always better to be informed,’ Scott explained.

According to UK surveyors, the three most common problems with a property that wouldn’t be detected unless buyers had a comprehensive building survey are damp at 33%, problems with the roof structure at 23% and subsidence at 15%. UK surveyors report that less than 10% of their clients instruct them to carry out a full building survey when they buy a property.

Some 63% of surveyors said there is a correlation between the type of survey people ask for and the type of home they are buying. The majority of surveyors, 91%, said those buying an older property were most likely to have a building survey done, whereas those buying a new build were most likely to have a Home Buyers report at 51%.