8 Reasons an Independent Surveyor is a Good Investment
Guest post by Zak Arden, Managing Director of SurveyBooker.com
Buying a property, even as a private dwelling, is one of the largest investments many people will make in their lives. As of February 2016, the average price of property in England and Wales was £190,275, rising to £530,368 in London. One of the most powerful tools to aid somebody looking to invest in property is the knowledge and experience of a Chartered Surveyor. Depending on whether you require detailed information on the condition or value of a property, there is a choice of surveys within the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) suite to suit your requirements.
Despite the variety of information available to homebuyers and investors prior to making such an investment, only 20% undertake some form of independent survey before purchasing. With any other investment, such a low proportion of investors completing even the most basic of due diligence before investing would be concerning. The average cost of a home survey outside of London is £400, which is roughly 0.25% the average property value.
In addition to the reasons above, here are 8 further reasons why commissioning an independent Surveyor is a good investment:
- A Surveyor will inspect the full property with specialist equipment – Unlike even the most thorough inspection you make when viewing a property, a Surveyor will inspect all areas of the property that are safe and accessible, including the loft space, basement and roof. Surveyors also have specialist equipment, allowing them to produce in-depth reports even when access is restricted. This allows them to spot potential defects you may have missed with a naked eye.
- An RICS Surveyor is unbiased and regulated – Chartered Surveyors are regulated by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and are held to a strict code of conduct. These rules clearly define the professional standards which are expected of the Surveyor and require firms to have complaints handling procedures. This helps to ensure that estate agents, mortgage companies or any other parties with an interest in the transaction, do not have any influence over the Surveyor.
- A mortgage valuation shouldn’t be relied on - A mortgage valuation is for the benefit of the mortgage lender and in some cases the purchaser may not even receive a copy of the report. It is to help the mortgage provider make an informed decision before agreeing to lend funds. The Surveyor will briefly inspect the property (usually lasting less than 20 minutes) and will collate their findings with information about local, comparable properties. The report is concise and will only highlight major, obvious defects, which could have a significant effect on the property value, which could, therefore, affect it as security for the proposed loan.
- A Surveyor is an expert property advisor – even the most property savvy investors will struggle to recognise underlying, hard to see issues. Much like a conveyancing solicitor will meticulously review a property title before purchase and advise on any likely issues that may arise in the future, a Surveyor will do some the same for the physical structure. This can help avoid the average repair bill that homebuyers who not commission a survey, of £5,750!
- A Surveyor can provide you with an independent market valuation - unlike a mortgage valuation, an independent market valuation is far more credible and takes into consideration large, significant defects. The report is longer and includes comparable properties and brief information to substantiate the Surveyors valuation. This allows it to be used as an effective negotiation tool and prevents acquiring your investment at too high a premium.
- A Surveyor can provide an accurate reinstatement value for your building insurance, to ensure you have adequate cover. This is crucial so your property is neither under nor over insured. In the event of a claim, if you are underinsured your settlement may be reduced proportionally to the gap in insurance or in extreme cases your claim may be rejected. If you are over insured, you may be wasting money overpaying on your insurance premium.
- RICS Surveyors hold Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) - What happens if a Surveyor makes a mistake and misses a defect which could later cost you money to repair? Chartered Surveyors are required to have professional indemnity insurance cover for such an occasion. If you suffer a loss as a result of an error made your Surveyor, this will be covered by their PII policy and their insurer will cover these costs for you. Effectively, it acts as a safety net for both you and the Surveyor.
- A Surveyor can advise you on how to grow your investment – Even after your initial purchase, a Surveyor can help maximise your investment. They can offer professional advice about the scope and suitability of potential extensions to your property. This can help avoid unforeseen delays and expenses, as well as providing you with information about how such investments will affect the overall property value.
About the Author:
Zak Arden is the Managing Director of surveybooker.com is a national online brokerage for RICS residential surveys. They aim to match you to the correct type of report and Surveyor, to best help you make informed property decisions. You can find out more by visiting the surveybooker.com website or by contacting Zak Arden on 0333 011 6683.
The Property Voice Insight from Richard Brown
Surveys are a BIG subject with property investors! I have spoken about surveys, or rather valuations, quite a bit recently on the podcast, where I even likened a valuer to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Surveys and valuations can work for us or against us. In this guest post, from Zak Arden from surverybooker.com, he is mostly talking about surveys working FOR us.
In this sense, I see surveys as a way to help us with two things: risk management and opportunity maximisation.
Property investment, as with all forms of investing, carries with it an element of risk. By taking out our own survey, we can help to at least quantify the potential risk from the property itself. Depending on the type of survey undertaken, we can validate the price we are paying for a property against the current market to help avoid overpaying for a property. Equally, we can identify potential problems with a property and get a sense of the likely extent and / or cost of putting them right. These two pieces of information alone should help to underwrite our investment business case AND give us a sense of security with regard to our financing, should we be using finance to support the purchase.
In terms of opportunity, a survey can help in a few key areas. We can determine how our property purchase price compares to the current comparables nearby, getting an independent indication of whether we are getting a good deal or not. We can also have a sense that our plans for the property will bear out in terms of the outcome that we desire. If instructed to do so, a surveyor should be able to provide an estimate as to the likely market value of a property once a documented programme of works or conversion has been undertaken, which will support our exit route assumptions. On the other hand, we can also point to an independent professional opinion should we need to revisit the purchase price to renegotiate in the event of additional and unforeseen work be identified with the property. Keep in mind, however, that a standard building surveyor (as opposed t0 a quantity surveyor) will often rely on a standard formula of £x per metre when advising on works costs, which may not be the final result we achieve. Usually, they are cautious...but in this situation that could actually help 🙂
At an average cost of £400 on a property investment averaging close to £200,000, it is not a bad insurance policy to invest in is it? I wonder how many of you property investors instruct your own property survey and how many either don't at all (especially a cash buyer) or merely rely on a lender's valuation (for the leveraged buyer)...I would like to hear your thoughts on this, please vote in the poll below.