Homebuyers to get simpler jargon-free property surveys
Homebuyers could soon be better protected against buying properties with serious faults because surveyors want to simplify “confusing” homebuyer reports.
Anyone buying a property can pay for a homebuyer’s survey to check the condition of the building.
Under the current system, people can end up buying houses with undiagnosed problems because they assume the survey will test for issues it is not designed to cover. Some buy homes with no survey at all because they think the mortgage valuation checks for property problems.
There are several types of survey offered by surveyors, all offering different levels of checks. The lowest is the condition report, which will flag up major issues. Then there is the homebuyer’s report, which is more thorough but still limited. For example, the surveyor will check for subsidence but is unlikely to look in the loft or lift any floorboards.
Then there is the building survey, or structural survey. This is the most comprehensive and will check behind walls and between floors.
The surveys are not applicable to all homes. For example, the condition report is aimed at typical houses and newer homes, whereas the building survey is better for older or unusual homes.
There is no industry standard for all surveyors, so a condition report from one might examine more problems than the same report from another.
Paula Higgins, of the HomeOwners Alliance, a pressure group, said: “I don’t believe surveys, in their current form, are fit for purpose.”
Tom Littler, of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), told Telegraph Money that the trade body intends to simplify the whole system.
“The current system is too fragmented,” he said. “We perceive that there could be confusion among the homebuying public. The whole idea is to improve the product that a member of the public could receive from a house surveyor.”
Dominik Lipnicki, of broker Your Mortgage Decisions, said customers often “haven’t got a clue” about the current system of homebuyer surveys.
He added: “Often they don’t realise the difference between a structural valuation and a basic one, and don’t realise that a basic valuation is only for the lender.”
Rics wants to scrap all the current homebuyer surveys and replace them with one that has three levels. Each level would explain the minimum service the survey would offer.
Rics will consult on the changes, but said it is determined to push through the simplified report.
Mr Littler said he hoped nonRics surveyors would also adopt the eventual new homebuyer survey.
He said: “We want all surveyors, be they chartered surveyors or not, to follow the same standards so we don’t have things at different levels.”
Martin Stewart, of London Money, a mortgage broker, said he hoped that the new report would also use simpler language to avoid confusing customers.
Mr Stewart said: “When we talk about homebuyer reports, full structural surveys, it’s all just more jargon in a world full of jargon. Customers can go word-blind. They lose faith and switch off.”
Confusing reports are set to be simplified