Caveat Emptor and Home Surveys
by Aniko Lakezi, Consultant

In a (perhaps welcome) break from politics, and with a nod to the season, this Pollwatch reports on the folly of home buying without due diligence.

With the days longer and the temperature up, everything seems to look more appealing so it’s no coincidence that this is the busiest time of the year for house hunters to be out in force.

For most people, buying a home will be the largest financial commitment of their lives but it comes with many challenges. The property that looked so good on the website, and smelt delightfully welcoming when you looked round it, may often hide nasty surprises.


No survey, no fear?
Despite no shortage of horror stories about Homes from Hell, a recent Savanta ComRes survey for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) found that one in four recent homebuyers failed to procure any kind of home survey before buying their chosen property.

Equally alarming is that a fifth of recent homebuyers (21%) bought some type of home survey - but don't remember what it was. There is, it seems, rather a lot of confusion about home surveys, with vast numbers of people transacting huge sums of cash on the basis of uninformed choices.

This confusion, unsurprisingly, can often also lead to dissatisfaction with the information in the homebuyers report (13% of those who bought any kind of survey) and advice received from the surveyor (again, 13%).

Some of the dissatisfaction around homebuyer surveys is because the buyer doesn’t understand what they’re getting. Indeed, when asked why they were dissatisfied with their report, more than one in four (28%) said the information and advice ‘didn’t meet their expectations’.


Cutting corners
Many homeowners who don’t get a home survey say that their reason for winging it is they thought they didn't need one (40%). Yet people claim a clear interest in knowing more about a property before buying it: half of recent homebuyers (49%) say that advice on problems with the property, and likely repairs, would be within the top five most useful pieces of information to know before buying it. A similar proportion (44%) say the same about possible legal issues with the property.


Making it clearer
In order to help buyers make informed, clear decisions, and based on the Savanta ComRes research findings, RICS is producing a new Home Surveys Standard. This will ensure that consumers are well informed about the importance of commissioning a home survey, what kind to get and what to expect from them.

From June to November, in any typical year, there are more than 100,000 UK residential property transactions per month. Anything up to 25,000 of these may be entered into without a home survey, and a further 15,000 may be accompanied by one to which scant attention has been paid.

Perhaps this survey helps explain why moving home is up there as a source of stress with divorce and bereavement. So it is to be hoped that the new RICS Standard will help make this process a bit more certain.