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What is the most pivotal part of a property sale? Is it accepting an offer? Exchange? Perhaps it’s the final hurdle of completion? Hardly ever mentioned is the survey and this stage is frequently the ‘make or break’ moment.

What is a property survey?

A property survey is an independent inspection of a house or flat someone wishes to buy, conducted by a registered surveyor before contracts are exchanged. The survey is commissioned by the purchaser in order to establish whether there are aspects that may affect the property’s value or prove costly to rectify, such structural defaults, subsidence, damp or dry rot, for example.

Is there a choice of surveys?

There are three main types of property survey and a buyer will choose what’s appropriate, based on the age, construction and condition of the property they are purchasing. A condition report is the most basic and is quite cursory – good for fairly new properties - whereas a homebuyers’ report will be more detailed, although the surveyor won’t lift floorboards or move furniture. If a buyer commissions a full structural survey - also known as a building survey - every nook and cranny will be examined, with a list of repairs needed together with estimated timings and costs.

What happens if the survey results are unfavourable?

If the survey reveals major issues, a keen buyer can get quotes to see how much repairs and replacements will cost. They can either reduce their asking price in light of the defects, ask the vendor to undertake the repair work before they sell or, if the issues are too costly or too disruptive, the seller can withdraw from the sale. It’s worth noting that problem properties can be difficult to sell through estate agents as every survey undertaken will reveal the same defects.

So what survey does my mortgage lender perform?

You may hear an estate agent or financial adviser say the mortgage lender is going to send a surveyor out and this is to perform a type of property check that’s different to a survey commissioned by a buyer. This is actually a mortgage valuation and not a report on the condition of the property. Be aware that the results of a surveyor’s mortgage valuation can have an equally as drastic impact on a sale as a purchaser’s survey.

What happens if my home is downvalued?

A mortgage lender sends a surveyor to a property to establish its value, in case the property is not worth the figure agreed between the buyer and the seller. Our sister company, Move Places, has published a downvaluing blog that explains what this is and why the phenomenon is increasingly behind buyers withdrawing from a property purchase. In short, if a property is downvalued, the buyer may walk away from the sale, unless the seller reduces the sales figure they’re willing to accept.

My buyer has pulled out after the survey, what next?

There’s no doubt that survey results can derail an open market property sale, especially if a mortgage lender declines the buyer's application as a result of what’s found. A disappointing survey doesn’t have to mean the end of your property sale, however.

Open Property Group is a professional property buyer and we have stepped in to rescue many sales where buyers have been scared off by survey results. We will make an offer on any property in the UK, whether it has subsidence, rising damp or even Japanese knotweed. Tell us about your property today and we’ll provide you with a free cash offer, with completion in seven days, if required.

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