Should I have a Homebuyers Report?
What is a Homebuyer’s Report?
This is a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors standardised survey that is carried out by RICS Valuers and Surveyors. We would add that we do not carry out this type of survey as we are Structural Surveyors and carry out independent full structural surveys and building surveys.
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We are Independent Building Surveyors
Our highly qualified Independent Building Surveyors can offer advice and help on buying a property. We carry out good quality building surveys (also known as Structural Surveys) and engineer's reports.
Please free phone us on 0800 298 5424 and a surveyor will call you back.
Independent means Independent
All our Surveyors are independent, by this we mean they are not attached to or owned by Estate Agents, Banks or Building Societies or have any vested interests in them.
Background on Homebuyer’s Reports Homebuyer’s Reports have taken many names. X number of years ago the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) decided to have a standardised survey format. This was for a format survey above the valuation report, as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and then the Consumer Association were concerned that people were purchasing properties worth many hundreds and thousands of pounds based on a valuation and although the valuation stated it wasn’t a structural survey, this was being carried in the majority of cases.
From what we understand, the RICS was looking for some way of encouraging more people to have a survey. At the time, there was only the choice of the valuation or the full structural survey and because of the time, there still is much discussion on the Homebuyer’s Report and the quality of its usefulness to the purchaser of the property. Putting that aside, the Homebuyer’s Report has taken various forms and various names over the years, the common factor being that it is an RICS standardised form and if meant for a modern property, should have few alterations or improvements over the years and show no ugly signs of problems.
What’s an ideal property for a Homebuyer’s Report?
We would first advise you that you need to remember that the Homebuyer’s Report comes from what we would term as a valuation background. Homebuyer’s Reports have to have valuations. So often the Surveyors expertise was carrying out the report as a valuation. Let’s say the skill in valuations doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t carry out surveys, it simply means that it is an additional skill they believe they have.
Georgian/Regency Terraced property
Post War semi-detached property
Do you have to be a Chartered Surveyor to carry out a Homebuyer’s Report?
We also advise that you don’t have to have a specific qualified Chartered Surveyor to carry out a Homebuyer’s Report like you do with other RICS disciplines for example, to carry out valuations you just have to be a regulated valuer. Indeed interestingly, you don’t have to be a Chartered Building Surveyor to carry out a full structural survey or building survey or a schedule of condition or dilapidation.
What’s the advantage of having an RICS Chartered Surveyor carrying out a Homebuyer’s Report or for that a matter a survey of any kind?
First of all you need to be aware that only an RICS Chartered Surveyor can carry out a Homebuyer’s Report. There must also be a regulated valuer as the valuation is carried out.
What format does an RICS Homebuyer’s Report take?
As mentioned, it is a standardised report for a standardised modern property and as such it focuses on the key elements and those that may affect value. The Chartered Valuer/Chartered Surveyor is required to give them a grading of one to three gradings. Generally, they will use standardised wording to identify the condition of the property.
I’m confused, should I have a Structural Survey or should I have a Homebuyer's Report?
We believe that buying house and home is such an important purchase that you need to have the best possible advice that you can receive. No shortcuts should be taken which is why we recommend a structural survey also known as a building survey. What's more we recommend your own independent building Surveyor carries out the structural survey so that you know that the Surveyor is working specifically for you. We have experienced independent building Surveyors that can help answer your property questions.
Call us on free phone 0800 298 5424 regarding property issues.
Can you meet the RICS Chartered Surveyor who carried out the Homebuyer’s Report at the property?
Generally in our experience, valuers won’t want you to meet them at the property as they are very busy and not only are they carrying out your Homebuyer’s Report, they are also carrying out a valuation for the Mortgage Lender/Bank or Building Society. We would say this is one of the difficulties with a Homebuyer’s Report, from a Chartered Surveyor’s point of view often they are working for another party at the same time. It is probably more accurate to say not confident 99 times out of 100 with the larger Surveying practices it is probably a higher percentage than this.
Ask to meet the Chartered Surveyor
You should always ask if you can come and meet the Surveyor at the property as you will learn a lot from chatting to them and indeed we would go so far as to say, that if the Chartered Surveyor doesn’t want you present at the survey, we would look for someone who is happy to be there after all they are working for you (as well as the Valuation Company).
Most Surveyors are happy to meet you at the property
We would add that with a full structural survey, most Surveyors are happy for you to meet them at the property to discuss or phone up afterwards. You do need to check and ensure that this is acceptable to your particular Surveyor. As Independent Buildings Surveyors we always offer to meet you at the property during our Surveys. We always recommend people make a copy of the full structural survey as just like cars, there are many different types and qualities of building surveys.
What’s the main difference between a full Structural Survey and a Homebuyer’s Report?
The difference tends to fall into two areas:-
1. An Independent Chartered Building Surveyor will have more experience and knowledge in property and will spend his time solely looking at the property for you (as opposed to you and the mortgage company) and he usually has more time as well (as after all you are buying someone’s time, knowledge and expertise at the end of the day).
Damp walls to base of property
2. The fundamental difference between a Homebuyer’s Report and full Structural Survey will not only identify the problem but will also explain how to deal with it. In a Homebuyer’s Report, the ones that we have seen will generally refer you to what we term as “white van man” detail.
Example sketch of gutter on wall problems
Damp Proof Specialists, Woodworm Treatment Specialists
Companies such as damp proof specialists, woodworm treatment companies, structural specialists and even we come across Homebuyer’s Reports that recommend a full structural survey. We could say a lot about Chartered Surveyors passing on the responsibility to other people if they are doing the Homebuyer’s when they 99 times out of 100 will have had more training over a longer period and at a higher level than the people they are passing it to.
Damp proof course
Homebuyers’ Reports what’s important?
We would argue, that Homebuyers Reports are carried out purely to minimise time spent on the report and after all, as mentioned, you are buying someone’s time so they have a limited amount of it.
The other important difference which we think is absolutely essential is a Structural Survey will identify not only the solutions, and sometimes it is a choice of solutions and recommendations, but it will also identify the likely costs. These costs you can use to either budget for carrying out the work or to negotiate on the price, which is very important.
What does a Homebuyer’s Report have that a Structural Survey doesn’t?
The first thing that comes to mind is that a Homebuyer’s Report will have a Valuation Report. It is essential as you need to know the value of the property. We would argue that very often the Valuation Surveyor carrying out work for the Mortgage Company and the Homebuyer’s Report at the same time. You can get the same information from seeing what your Mortgage Valuation comes back as and indeed we never see a Mortgage Valuation differ from a Homebuyer’s Valuation, we would be more than happy to comment further if you have examples of this. Previously in other articles written many years ago, we still haven’t had any.
A Homebuyer’s Report will get you a Valuation
With a Homebuyer’s Report, you will get a Valuation, the problem is you won’t know how much to take off the Valuation because you won’t know the cost of any repair issues because if you remember the Homebuyer’s Report doesn’t give you costs or indeed it doesn’t often give you a solution it just refers you onto someone else.
Full Structural Survey with a Valuation is possible – why would you?
We feel a combination of the Valuation Report and the full Structural Survey will put you in the best position to buy the right property at the right price (and also remember to negotiate, negotiate, negotiate!!) We sometimes wonder why a valuation is included at all when it’s in a Valuation Report, but it was commented recently if you are buying in cash it can be useful, so let’s look at that scenario.
Caveat Emptor means Buyer Beware
if you buy a property that has problems, they become your problems and you have to sort them out. You will be lucky if you get an insurance claim as you bought the property as seen and you would be even luckier if you could take action against the Valuer as the Valuation Report, which is typically two to five pages long at the most, the majority that we see are three pages long. Take note that the Valuation isn’t a Structural Survey and that you should have one carried out.
Cement flashing to chimney - can be brittle causing leak
Cement Flashings Defined
This is where cement has been used to cover up or fill the junctions between two areas, for example between a roof and a wall to help prevent dampness. Cement is a brittle material and prone to cracking which in turn allows dampness into the structure. We would always recommend they are replaced with lead.
Buying in cash – how can I get a Valuation like the one included in the Homebuyer’s Report?
Firstly you could appoint your own Independent Chartered Valuer to carry out a valuation, ensuring that they get three comparable properties or more to ensure that the property is being sold at the right price. We very much recommend going with someone who does an open book valuation, explaining how they have got to their value. Or, you could ask the Chartered Building Surveyor if they carry out valuations, some of them are regulated Valuers or you could ask them to organise a regulated Valuer/Chartered Valuation as part of the Structural Survey. This is exactly what we would do when we are out of our area or area of expertise. This will then give you the full facts to negotiate.
Houses are expensive – have a Survey!
Whatever you do we would recommend that you have a Structural Survey as houses cost hundreds of thousands pounds and there are quite a few that are a lot, lot more than this.
Please free phone us on 0800 298 5424 for some friendly help and advice.
Why did we write this article?
We have recently carried out a Structural Survey on a relatively new property and during our question and answer session with the owner, she chatted about her experience of having a Homebuyer’s Report that she didn’t feel was worth the paper it was written on and although beautifully presented, was not really that much use and was wondering if she should bother to have another Homebuyer’s Report.
Our answer was that we cannot comment on Homebuyer’s Reports as we don’t carry them out but we can advise that we believe if you are spending hundreds of thousands or more, then you need a reality check/independent check in the form of an Independent Chartered Surveyor. In fact we had bought some shares the month before, although it was a relatively small amount, to get some benefit that shareholders get (and we know you shouldn’t by shares on that basis alone).
Professional advice required?
We were asked several times whether we wanted professional advice and we were asked several times that we were happy to buy the shares without professional advice. This was only on a relatively small amount of shares costing very little. We mentioned this and the person on the end of the phone advised us (although they had made clear they were not an advisor) that the procedure was very similar no matter what amount you were spending and it was a requirement, which intrigued us and although it is common sense to have a Structural Survey it is not a requirement. Although all the Solicitors that we are aware of, always recommend having a Structural Survey as a common sense matter again, it is not a legal requirement.
We use survey sketches and photograps in our building surveys
The feedback that we get from our clients is that they like our reports because we make them so clear and simple to understand because we write in plain English and don't over use technical terms, and we define terms when we do use them but most of all we use unique survey sketches and photos of the property, both externally and internally, to help them understand the problems with the property. This in turn means that they can negotiate with the estate agent from a point of strength (remember the estate agents job is to sell the property and negotiate against the buyer) and what is more they can also explain to the builder what needs doing and believe it or not, lots of builders do require very detailed explanations about what they need to do.
Sketch showing black mould
Photo of black mould on a wall
We also sometimes use a thermal imaging camera during our surveys to show heat loss from a property.
Thermal image of a single glazed bay window in a Victorian property; with the red bits being the heat loss
Our Good, Bad and Ugly Executive Summary
We would add that our reports have an Executive Summary which advises of the problems, these are divided into immediate problems where you need to take action, minor problems where something needs to happen and problems where you should walk away from the property. In addition to this we use the terms Action Required and Anticipated Cost to explain what you need to do, (sometimes we give options on this) and the likely cost. As mentioned, all of these are divided into a Priority list of problems which we call The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – because everyone remembers this.
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