ASK ROSS: Buying a house is such a big purchase, it is essential to protect yourself against problems. This month, Ross explains the importance of surveys, searches and insuring early…
Our eminent residential property expert, Ross Ward, answers your questions about moving home. If you have a query about buying or selling, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
My mortgage lender has arranged a survey on the house I am buying and my solicitor has told me I must also have a local search. What is the difference?
When you commission a survey, you are asking an expert to check there are no physical defects in the construction of the property and that no serious repairs are likely to be needed in the near future.
Many banks and building societies carry out a minimum basic survey to check the amount they are lending is covered by the value of the property. This offers little protection to the purchaser and I would advise you to have independent analysis undertaken to ensure you are not going to incur any expensive repair bills after you have made the purchase.
The surveyor will cast his/her experienced eye over the property and issue a full condition report so that, if necessary, you can renegotiate the price to reflect any work needed or, if there are serious repairs required, you can withdraw from the purchase before signing the contract.
A local search involves your solicitor checking numerous points with the council. These can include any intended road development that may affect the property, whether planning permission was granted when it was built, any compulsory purchase proposals or tree preservation orders, connections to the main sewer and if the road is a public highway or maintained privately.
Your search will also make sure no public health orders have been made and determine whether the property is in a slum clearance zone, development area, conservation area or a clean air zone.
At what point should I insure the property I am buying?
You need to insure the building from exchange of contracts, although contents are normally covered from the day you move in.
If you are arranging insurance through your mortgage lender, the bank or building society will often cover the property from exchange, as this is the point at which the risk passes to the buyer. When organising your own insurance, make sure the policy is activated at the same time as your solicitor lets you know contracts have been exchanged.
In practise, many vendors maintain their buildings insurance until the sale is actually completed, but buyers cannot take a chance on this and should always have their own cover in place.