A property purchase is a major financial commitment and most residential home buyers are in need of professional help to understand whether the asset they have their eye on is indeed a good investment. Stories abound of ‘nasty surprise’ building defects or issues that can cost thousands of pounds to remedy after the transaction is completed.
Independent home surveys and snagging surveys can be invaluable to help prospective purchasers gain valuable insights into the condition of the building, providing the necessary facts for informed decision making. But with so many different types of surveys to choose from, which one should estate agents recommend?
What is a snagging report?
A snagging list is typically drawn up at the end of a construction project. As such, it is associated with new-build properties, where building issues are identified by the prospective buyer to be addressed by the developer as a condition of sale. It’s not a survey as such, but rather a list of defects that can be passed on to the builder for remediation either before or after completion.
A snag is simply a defect that needs repairing – usually a minor or cosmetic issue such as a cracked tile or chipped paintwork. However, it could also apply to substandard workmanship such as faulty window and door installations, leaking pipes or poorly installed insulation, and could even include structural defects. The snagging list will cover everything, from ensuring that heating systems and smoke alarms operate as they should, to highlighting decorating defects or poorly finished joinery, to checking that Building Regulations have been complied with.
The snagging survey can be carried out by any building expert; they don’t have to be Chartered Surveyors. Ideally, they should operate independently of the housebuilder, so that an unbiased assessment can be provided.
What is a home survey?
A home survey is an independent property survey carried out by a RICS Chartered Surveyor. There are currently three types of inspection endorsed by the RICS:
- A basic Condition Report
A mid-level HomeBuyer Report, and
An in-depth Building Survey (formerly known as a full structural survey).
Prices for surveys start from around £300 and vary depending on the level of investigation as well as the value of the property.
- Level 1 Condition Reports average from around £350+
Level 2 HomeBuyer Reports cost about £500, and
Level 3 Building Surveys cost approximately £900.
Here’s a useful overview of costs.
A Condition Report provides a snapshot overview of the condition of the building on the day of inspection, without adding much detail. An intermediate HomeBuyer Report consists of a visual inspection of the property inside and out, checking the condition of all building elements and identifying issues, such as damp, subsidence and other potentially serious issues. It will also advise on possible causes of such issues and will recommended any repairs and possible maintenance required. A RICS Building Survey is suitable for older and larger properties and those with complex surveying requirements, and delivers a comprehensive analysis of the condition of the property alongside ample professional guidance.
Who is responsible for repairs?
If the property in question is a new-build, the housebuilder is responsible for rectifying all the agreed snags for as long as the property is still under warranty, which is normally up to 2 years after completion. This puts the onus on the buyer to find all and any issues as soon as possible.
For resale homes, the seller is not obliged to repair any issues detected, whether these are flagged up via a snagging report or home survey. However, if issues of concern are identified, the buyer may ask for the valuation to be revised downwards for the sale to proceed or they may pull out of the transaction. If the property is a fixer-upper, it would be unwise for the seller not to disclose known faults.
Which type of survey is most appropriate?
Estate agents are likely to be asked for their professional advice and recommendations regarding the best survey for the property. Buyers will assume that you have a clear idea of the condition of the property and if you wish to maintain your reputation and ongoing trust of buyers, it is essential that you are transparent about known flaws of any property you are marketing for sale.
Recommending any kind of pre-purchase investigation is therefore a prudent move that can protect you from any accusations that you hid what you knew about the property and potentially poor reviews for your agency.
A snagging survey is the obvious choice for new-build homes or properties that fall under warranty. Even if there are additional costs associated with a snagging survey, it is an excellent opportunity for the buyer to ensure that problems are fixed by the contractor before signing on the dotted line. There is no risk in recommending that buyers spend their money on a snagging survey. What’s more, you may even be able to benefit from building a network of qualified and trusted snagging surveyors to recommend.
Essentially, the right survey to recommend will depend on the type, age and apparent condition of the property and the buyer’s plans for it. For a new build, a snagging list is likely to be the best option, although a RICS Condition Report may also be an excellent choice. Potentially, both types of survey could be carried out alongside each other for a comprehensive check and peace of mind for the buyer that no unforeseen issues will emerge.
For resale homes, older buildings and period homes, the choice won’t be as straightforward. While a RICS home survey is likely to be the better option, there are different levels of investigation available that only a qualified surveyor should be able to recommend directly to the buyer. Your best bet is to have the names of one or two experienced local surveyors to hand that you can pass on to prospective buyers, and let them take it from there. As estate agents, it is your job to provide buyers with the available options so they can choose what’s best for them.