Over 7 million homeowners didn’t have a survey before buying

Ryan Fowler

August 10, 2016

Some seven million homeowners did not have a survey completed on their current property, research from Churchill Home Insurance has found.

This includes 3.5 million people who did not have any type of independent checks completed and 3.6 million who assumed a mortgage valuation was sufficient.

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 homeowners, however, having the comprehensive building survey has reduced significantly, from 28% 20 years ago to just 6% in the last 12 months.

Martin Scott, head of Churchill home insurance, said: “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. 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.”

Nearly a quarter (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. One homeowner had a HomeBuyers 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.

Some 13 million (42%) UK homeowners have needed unexpected works doing to their property within 12 months of moving in. Almost one in ten (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 those who had a building survey (47%).

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 one in eight (12%) who only needed minor work done to their home, however, said knowing about the work would have influenced their decision. This is more prominent among those who had a condition report (32%) and HomeBuyers report (24%) than those who had a building survey (14%).

Scott added: “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. 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.”

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 (33%), problems with the roof structure (23%) and subsidence (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.

Nearly two fifths (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 HomeBuyers report (51%).

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