Q. Is it really worth paying extra for a survey on top of the building society's own valuation?

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A. I would always advise anyone contemplating buying a property to commission their own survey. Why? Well, primarily because buying a home is the single biggest investment most of us ever make – so surely it’s just common sense to want to be reassured that everything is OK before we commit ourselves. Otherwise, there’s always the risk of encountering some nasty and probably expensive surprises, when it’s too late.

But isn’t that the job of the lender’s valuation? Well, no it isn’t. Remember, this is not a survey. Its sole purpose is to satisfy the lender that the property in question represents sufficient security for the loan. You may not even be given a copy of it.

So, the only way you as a buyer can be truly confident about the investment you are making is to commission your own survey. And in all but a relatively few cases where a full building survey may be more appropriate – for example, where a property is very old, or requires major structural repairs or alterations – the new-style RICS HomeBuyers Report should be perfectly adequate.

In its new guise, which was introduced on 1st April this year, the Homebuyer’s Report has been substantially redesigned in order to provide more information in a clearer, more easily-understood format. Together with a full description of the property, when it was built, the type of construction, and confirmation of the details contained in the Energy Performance Certificate, the new reports use a simple “traffic light” system to rate the condition of various key elements of the property. So, green means that no repairs are currently needed, yellow signifies that non-urgent defects have been identified, and a red indicates the presence of serious defects which need to be addressed, or issues that require further investigation, as a matter of urgency.

As far as price is concerned, this varies - depending on factors like the size, age and value of the property in question. Nevertheless, a typical mid-range report should probably cost in the region of £350-£500. In view of the peace of mind that such a report represents, this is a small price to pay!