Should a buyer be king of all he surveys?

Our lawyer, Fiona McNulty, explains the different types of surveys a homebuyer should obtain before buying a property
Legal cartoon
© Merrily Harpur
Question: I am an estate agent and I find it surprising that so few solicitors acting for buyers advise their clients to obtain surveys.

I act for vendors and want to sell their properties, so I am not bothered whether the buyers have surveys or not. But shouldn't solicitors be advising their clients about surveys?

Answer: If a buyer has had a firm offer accepted on a property, his or her solicitor should advise them to commission a survey before contracts are exchanged, unless the property is a new build and the seller is offering structural defects insurance to the buyer, such as NHBC cover.

The survey may be either a homebuyer's survey or a structural survey. If a buyer is obtaining a mortgage, a valuation will be carried out by the lender's surveyor but this is only for the lender to ensure that the value of the property is sufficient security for the amount of the mortgage funding, and should not be relied upon by the buyer.

A structural survey is the most expensive but is important where the property is listed, expensive, if there have been structural problems such as subsidence, or if the buyer intends to carry out alterations after completion. In other cases, a homebuyer's survey may be enough, and if there is a lender, the valuer may agree to undertake a homebuyer's survey at the same time as the valuation, which should be less expensive.

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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the property team at Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons Solicitors www.ttuk.com.

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