Why we recommend a full structural survey in residential purchases

31 January 2016

A full structural survey is the most comprehensive type of building survey. A qualified surveyor will carry out a detailed structural survey of the property, examining all aspects of the building structure. Yet many people consider purchasing a property without the safeguards that such a survey provides. In large part, this is due to a number of misconceptions, the most common of which we address below:

"The lender's valuation report is sufficient."

The important point is that mortgage valuations are not in-depth surveys. They are limited in scope and only uncover visible defects as part of a brief inspection of around 15-30 minutes. On occasions there will not even be a physical inspection of the property. Although you may pay for the report, you may not get a copy or see what the surveyor has written. The older the property is, the more crucial it is to obtain a full structural survey. For a fee, many lenders will upgrade their valuation report to a full structural survey. The general rule is that a lender's valuation report should not be seen as an alternative to a full structural survey.

"It is my lawyer's job to warn me if the property is defective."

Conveyancing lawyers are not qualified to comment on structural soundness or whether fixtures and utilities actually work. Their job is to report to you on legal issues, covering such matters as covenants, boundaries, disputes, legal rights etc. This is why it is important to seek the opinion of a qualified surveyor. A surveyor will be able to comment on structural soundness and whether the property has been properly built and maintained.

"Surveys are a waste of money."

Whilst the cost of a full structural survey can seem high, it will be relatively small compared to the overall purchase price. Indeed, in certain instances a survey can uncover issues which have an impact on the property's value and therefore provide the purchaser with an opportunity to renegotiate the purchase price. Whilst new build homes are covered by the National House Building Council (NHBC) 10 year guarantee for major faults or defects in construction or materials, a survey is still often worthwhile because, once the 10 years have elapsed, you will be responsible for the cost of remedying any defects.

"This is a leasehold property; a survey is not required."

Although you will not own or be directly responsible for the walls and roof, for safety, convenience and other reasons it is in your interest to ensure the property's structure is sound. Maintenance and repair costs will generally be charged back to leasehold residents through service charges, so in the long term it will often be worthwhile investing in a full structural survey.

At Gepp & Sons we are able to recommend a number of competent surveyors through our extensive list of industry contacts.

The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues. If you are considering buying or selling and would like to receive a full breakdown of all known legal cost, please contact our New Business Team on 01245 343980 or via email