Most buyers tend to rely on the mortgage lender's valuation, which is simply the check on the property your mortgage lender makes to ensure it is worth the money they are lending. Although it will show up any serious defects that are likely to affect the value of the property, it will not give you a real picture of its condition. For that you need a homebuyer's or full structural survey, carried out by a qualified chartered surveyor.

Here's what you need to know about the three types of survey: the valuation report, homebuyer survey and structural survey.

Valuation Report

This is the simplest and cheapest form of valuation of a property, and will be all that a mortgage lender will require. Its purpose is to reassure the lender that the property is sufficient security against the loan they are offering. This means if you default on your payments, the lender wants to be able to sell the property at a price that will meet the outstanding debt.

The valuation takes a short time. A surveyor will check the property inside and out, assess a suitable value based on its general condition and consider the values of recently sold properties taking into account the state of the housing market. The report will contain a summary of condition with comments on any general faults. It will also have brief recommendations to the buyer on further checks to be carried out.

Homebuyer Survey

This is more detailed than the valuation report and can often be carried out at the same time. It is not usually suitable for properties in need of renovation, or if you are planning major alterations. The survey will check:

The general condition of the property.

Any major faults in accessible parts of the building that may affect the value.

Urgent problems that need inspecting by a specialist before you sign a contract.

Results of tests for damp in walls.

Damage to timbers - including woodworm or rot.

The condition of any damp-proofing, insulation and drainage.

The estimated cost of rebuilding the property for insurance purposes.

The value of the property on the open market.*

*Source: RICS

Full Structural Survey

This is the most complete and expensive survey. It is suitable for all properties especially listed buildings, older buildings, and properties you plan to renovate or alter in any way. So you should consider this approach - spending a little more now could save you significant sums in the future. The survey will advise on:

Major and minor defects and what they could mean.

The possible cost of repairs.

Results of damp testing on walls.

Damage to timbers.

The condition of damp-proofing, insulation and drainage (though drains aren't tested).

Technical information on the construction of the property and the materials used.

The location.

Recommendations for any further special inspections.*

*Source: RICS

Other Reports

There are then a number of specialist reports which can be undertaken by experts in their specific field, such as timber treatment and damp-proofing. The reports are generally undertaken free of charge as part of a firm's quote for the repair work.

home estate agents are happy to recommend the services of a local company who will provide a professional tailored service, suited to your needs and requirements as members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Please call us on 01234 271599 for more information.