Structural Survey Benefits

structural survey

If you are thinking of purchasing a property, you’ll need to have some kind of survey carried out. But do you need to have a structural survey done, or will a more basic survey be good enough?

In this article, we’ll take a look at the different types of house buying surveys available to home buyers. We’ll also explain the advantages and disadvantages of each type of survey, and explain why having a structural survey carried out can save you a lot of money in the long run.

The Three Main Types Of Property Inspection Reports

When you buy a property, you’ll first need to get a qualified surveyor to take a look at it to make sure it is structurally sound. If you want to purchase a residential property, there are three types of building surveys to choose from:

  1. Mortgage Valuation Report. A building surveyor will visit the property and carry out a very basic inspection to ensure that the property is in reasonable condition, and worth the purchase price. This is the cheapest type of survey, and it will not highlight any defects which aren’t immediately obvious. For example, building surveyors would spot any tiles that are missing from the roof, but would not generally test for damp problems.
  2. Homebuyers Survey.This is a mid-level survey which is more in-depth than a Mortgage Valuation Report, but not as comprehensive as a complete structural survey. When a firm of chartered surveyors carries out a Homebuyers survey, they will make an overall assessment of the condition of the property. In addition, they will also report any problems which may require urgent attention or repairs.

    Once the survey has been completed, you’ll receive a comprehensive report which includes an approximate calculation of the rebuilding costs of the property. This report will also highlight any problems which have been discovered which could affect the value of the property in the future.

  3. Structural Survey. A full structural survey is the most comprehensive type of building surveys. A firm of structural engineers will carry out a detailed structural survey of the property from top to bottom. In this structural inspection, they will look at all aspects of the building structure (for example: the types of materials used, the condition of the roof, the state of the foundations and the integrity of the walls)

    When carrying out a structural survey, structural surveyors will actively search for potential problems and building defects – even if they are not immediately obvious! Once the survey has been completed, you’ll receive a detailed structural survey report which will identify any problems found.

What Other Areas Does A Structural Survey Look At?

In addition to looking at the design and construction of the property, a structural survey will pick up a wide range of property related problems such as:

  • Damaged or removed lintels
  • If any supporting walls have been altered or moved
  • Any DIY “improvements” which have been carried out without the necessary planning permission
  • Presence of hazardous materials (e.g. asbestos) that may need to be professionally removed
  • Damp related issues such as dry rot or rising damp
  • Evidence of woodworm or other insect infestations
  • Problems with the roof
  • Rotten or damaged window frames
  • Damage to brick or stonework (e.g. frost damage)
  • Evidence of subsidence or land-slip
  • Poor plumbing, electrical work or insulation
  • Possible areas of concern {e.g. party wall issues)

So as you can see, a structural survey is far more involved than the other more basic types of survey.

Do You Need To Have A Structural Survey Done?

If you are planning on buying a newly built property (i.e. one that has been built in the last 10 years) then it should still be covered by a warranty or guarantee. This warranty will cover the property against all major defects, so a Mortgage Valuation or Homebuyers Survey will normally be sufficient. You will normally only need to consider having a structural survey done if the property appears to be in a poor state of repair.

But you should always consider having a structural survey done if:

  • The building obviously needs structural work (i.e. if it’s in a dilapidated or run-down state)
  • The property is of unusual construction (e.g. it’s thatched or timber framed)
  • The building is more than three stories in height
  • The property is over 50 years old
  • You intend carrying out major alterations (e.g. converting or adding an extension to the property)
  • The property is expensive

In all the above situations, a full structural survey really is essential.

More Benefits Of Having Structural Surveys

what is structural survey

If you have a basic Mortgage Valuation Report or Homebuyers Survey carried out, you have very little (if any) comeback down the line if you find any problems with your property. This is because these types of survey are very basic in their scope, and won’t find all the problems that a property could have.

In contrast, when you have a structural survey done, the structural surveyors are acting on your behalf and have a legal responsibility to find any major problems. So if you do subsequently find problems which should have been picked up in the structural survey, you may be able to claim compensation from the structural engineers.

In addition, the final structural survey report is very comprehensive. Not only does it detail any problems or concerns which have been found during the survey, but it may also give an indication of the likely costs of carrying out the necessary repairs to fix these problems.

This can be really useful. In a worst case situation, you may decide to not purchase the property if the structural survey indicated that a lot of remedial work is needed. Equally, if the work is more manageable, you can go back to the seller armed with an estimate of the costs and ask them to reduce the selling price. The property seller is more likely to accept a reduced offer, as the problems have been independently identified by a RICS qualified structural surveyor and detailed within your structural survey report.