There is no legal requirement to commission a Surveyor to carry out a Building Survey on the property that you are hoping to purchase. If you do decide to go ahead with a survey, it will probably cost somewhere between £300 and £700 on a typical property. In the long run you may find that this is money very well spent.
General points are as follows:
A surveyor is a professional person who looks at houses every day. He or she will be able to quickly cast a trained eye over your property and they may pick up a few things that you have not noticed.
The surveyor will be acting totally in your best interests. Not in the interests of the seller and not in the interests of your mortgage provider.
Your mortgage provider may commission a simple valuation survey. Please be aware that this will not be a detailed survey. It will be carried out mainly for the benefit of the mortgage provider to confirm that the building does actually exist and that it is not likely to fall down in the near future.
If you do decide to commission a full building survey, the surveyor will produce a detailed report for you. Much of this will be standard but there may be some points identifying problem areas, or possible maintenance issues, that could be very costly later on. Best find this out before you buy the house.
While you may have agreed a price with the seller, you will not be committed to paying this price until you have exchanged contracts. A building survey may identify some problems with the property that will need attention and that will invariably cost money. The survey report will document this. You may find that you can use this information to get a further reduction in price from the seller before you exchange.
A building survey is not a guarantee of the state of the building. The Surveyor will not move furniture or carpets etc while carrying out the survey. Later on, after you have moved into the property, you may find that there are further problems that were not identified in the survey. Please be aware of this.
Before appointing a surveyor, you should check that they have suitable qualifications, accreditation, experience and insurance. Most surveyors will be chartered and most will be members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). They will have the letters MRICS or FRICS after their name.
If the property is a very old house, it is generally recommended that you get a full building survey.
If the property is a brand new house, a survey will probably not give you much but for peace of mind you might decide to have one anyway.
A Building Survey is generally considered to be the top level survey. If the property is straight forward the surveyor may, as an alternative, recommend that you just go for a Homebuyer Survey which is less comprehensive and will cost slightly less money.
Before placing an order with a surveyor you may wish to discuss the following points:
In addition to getting a building survey from a surveyor, you may wish to also commission some specialist surveys (electrical report, asbestos report, structural report, tree report etc).
If you are intending to make major changes to the property, you may wish to arrange a meeting with an architect on site to discuss your ideas. He or she will be able to discuss your options and give a very rough idea of possible construction costs. It may be prudent to have this meeting before you purchase the property.
Most of all, please keep in mind that all buildings will require maintenance and this will cost money. Generally older buildings will require a lot more maintenance than newer buildings.