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One of most common questions we get asked here at O’Neill & Co is “Do I need a structural survey?” The question usually comes from first-time buyers of residential property, who may have been asked for one by their mortgage lender.
Our answer is that, while you are not obliged by law to have a survey carried out, we recommend that you do.
How much does a structural survey cost?
While it is an extra cost at a time when you are probably exhausting all your various sources of funds to make the purchase possible, this is a massive investment, probably the biggest purchase you will ever make, and the extra few hundred euro (allow for €300 to €400 for a thorough, meaningful survey) is well worth it.
Why is a building survey important?
I’m sure you’ll agree that it would be foolish to assume that everything about the house is sound. What if there is a serious structural problem that is not visible to the untrained eye? It could end up costing thousands down the road to fix, and may reduce the value of the house. We’ve all heard the phrase “Buyer beware”; you should know as much as possible about the condition of the property before you make the investment.
They also say “Knowledge is power” and, armed with your survey report, you may have the power to negotiate a better price for the property in the light of a problem being discovered. You may also decide not to go ahead with the sale.
Types of surveys
There are various ways of describing the survey. It can be called a pre-purchase survey, a structural survey, a house survey. Essentially they are all the same. However, your mortgage lender will probably ask for a valuation report, which is a much less detailed report providing an open market value of the property; all the lender requires is something to reassure them that the property is worth the price being asked for it.
Where there is a known defect like water penetration or cracking, you may need to get a defect analysis survey, which could be used for insurance or court purposes or for the Pyrite Resolution Board, for example.
Do I need a valuation for a new build?
Most new residential developments are covered under a scheme called HomeBond, which is a kind of insurance policy that builders take out protecting the home buyer from structural defects. A word of warning though; as anyone with a Pyrite house will be only too well aware, defective materials are not covered. Make sure you check your property is covered by HomeBond, but you may want the additional security of a structural survey which would reveal any issues with materials.
If you’re remortgaging, you’re already living in your house, so either you won’t have any issues or you’ll know about them already, so a basic valuation report is all you’ll probably really need.
Finding a surveyor
Don’t forget that no matter how it is couched by your lender, the surveyor is working on behalf of you, the buyer, not them. You have complete choice as to who does the structural survey for you; however my advice is to only use a chartered surveyor. You can find a registered chartered surveyor near you on the website of the Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland.
O’Neill & Co carries out valuation surveys and we have a number of partners whom we trust and are happy to recommend who will carry out structural surveys, so get in touch to find out more.
How long does it take to get a survey report?
Adrian Tierney of KT Design Solutions, which offers civil and structural engineering, architecture and project management services among others, estimates that a thorough survey should take three hours on site and almost a day to write up the report. Buyers can expect the report within a week, but depending on the client’s timeframe or circumstances, a shorter turnaround may be possible. “Each property is unique” he says, “The nature of the construction, the age, the ground conditions are all different from house to house. It’s impossible to do a blanket analysis even of houses in the same estate”.
Ask for a sample survey report so you can see how much detail is given. At the end of the day, the most rigorous and detailed survey is pointless if the report is vague or scant on detail.
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