When’s the best time to have a survey done?

When’s the best time to have a survey done?

17th November 2023: The information below was correct at the time of publication but is subject to change.

In my opinion, the best time to have a survey done on a property you want to buy is after your mortgage offer has been issued. Below I explain the thinking behind that. But do keep in mind, there isn’t really a wrong time.

With the exception of Halifax, who usually charge £100 for their compulsory valuation, most of the high street lenders do not charge for valuations at all. The lender’s valuation is for their own benefit; they want to ensure that if they need to repossess the property from you, they can sell it for the amount you owe them, that they won’t be left out of pocket.

Therefore, the lenders want to make sure that they are lending only on properties that, to use the most extreme example, are still going to be standing in a few years’ time. The lenders do not want to lend on a property with a serious structural defect or other issues that could reduce saleability (the ability to sell the property in the future), as if you stop paying the mortgage and the lender takes possession, they will struggle to sell a pile of bricks on the ground. There are, of course, less extreme examples, which I’ll list shortly.

So, when the lenders send a surveyor to perform a valuation, they are on the lookout for obvious signs of defects or other things that might seriously reduce saleability. Examples includes structural issues, foam insulation in lofts, high flood risk, damp, and many more.

If they do find a significant problem, they’ll report back to you that the property is unsuitable for them to lend on, and they usually state a specific reason. If this happens, you have (usually) found that out for free. You can then decide if you want to pull out of the property before spending more money on finding out what’s wrong with it in more detail.

Had you commissioned a survey to be done, it’s likely you would have found out about the serious issue—and minor issues that wouldn’t affect the lender—but what would be the point if no mortgage lender would consider a mortgage on that specific property in the first place?

It may be that there is nothing physically wrong, but the valuation comes back tens of thousands of pounds below what you agreed to pay for it. You could still proceed, and you do have a few options, but if you decide to pull out, again, you’ve done so without spending hundreds of pounds of your own money on a private survey.

I’ve seen banks decline properties for all sorts of reasons—too close to a car park, too close to a pub, too close to a Domino’s Pizza, too close to a disused military facility, too many council houses in the area, just to name a few. Some lenders are pickier than others, I might add.

Of course, the property could be fine, but the lender might decline your application because they didn’t like something about you in your application. I’ve had that happen only twice, though, and both times I was able to secure a mortgage for the clients with other lenders instead.

So there you have it. That’s why I think that the best time to have a survey done is after the mortgage offer has been issued. Now you just need to decide which type of survey to have.

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