thehomebuyer.org.uk - Free advice on buying a home in the UK

For expert advice and a professional service contact Adrian J Singleton Limited - Chartered Building Surveyors

The buyer's team

If you have come to this page direct from the Finding a home page then we suggest you go to The seller's team first as it is an eyeopener with regard to the costs that the buyer ends up having to cover in the purchase price, to which the buyer must add the costs of its own team and duties that must also be paid.  So who should the buyer employ and why?

The Chartered Building Surveyor 

By far and away the chartered building surveyor is the most useful member of the team but one that is often not deployed at the right time and who's role is often misunderstood.  A chartered building surveyor is a special classification for a chartered surveyor.  Both designations belong as Professional Members or Fellows of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.  These professionals will have trained for many years and are extremely knowledgeable about how buildings work, how they are built, how they decay and how to fix them when things fail and, more usefully, what to do to stop a building falling into disrepair.  All chartered surveyors will have a practical grasp of the legal matters affecting their areas of expertise, and chartered building surveyors will know quite a lot about the laws affecting building and construction standards at the time the building was originally constructed, and if altered, whether such alterations were also compliant.

The chartered building surveyor will have been rigorously tested during his or her training and early career to ensure that there is a complete and almost encyclopedic knowledge of the main causes of damage to buildings arising in timber, brick, concrete, plastics and the host of other substances used in the building industry.  Such surveyors can diagnose things that others would easily miss or are invisible to the untrained eye.  They can also determine whether a crack is something to worry about and if not, why not, and they can even tell you if the building has moved since it was originally constructed.

Any buyer should find a reputable building surveyor or firm of surveyors right at the start of the hunt and get them to check out the shortlisted properties with an initial inspection to help identify those properties that, despite their appeal to you, the buyer, are likely to be hiding some major problems for you in the future.  Adrian J Singleton Limited is pioneering in this field, offering buyers a complete home selection service where you can shortlist up to four properties within a ten mile radius of each other and have a quick appraisal undertaken of all of them to  help guide you in which property offers the best value for money in terms of long term running costs, potential faults and areas of concern that have caught the surveyor's attention during the brief expert's walk through.  When your offer on a property is accepted, the surveyor will return promptly and undertake a full and detailed appraisal of that building to inform you and the rest of the team exactly what is the property's condition.

It is worth noting that anyone can call themselves a building surveyor and need not possess any qualifications to do so.  Therefore, to be sure of the quality of expertise you are employing, always insist on a chartered building surveyor and settle for nothing less.

The Conveyancer or Solicitor 

Unlike the counterpart on the seller's side, the buyer's legal representative has a lot of work to do and is pivotal in progressing the purchase.  An eager seller might answer all the questions quickly, but all too often the extraction of key information is a slow and painful process.

Always use a professional conveyancer or solicitor.  Refer to The Council for Licensed Conveyancers or The Law Society for suitable individuals or firms that are properly qualified. Trying to do this on your own is foolhardy because so much is at stake.  When the local searches are made, all the registers of planning, building regulations, utilities and so on are examined to find anything relevant to the property and it is the legal expert's role to interpret the findings and advise the buyer accordingly. 

A well run buyer's team will see the solicitor and surveyor appointed right at the start and informed of each other's appointment.  All too often this is overlooked in a vain attempt to save money just at the wrong time to do it.  If the surveyor has looked at the property before the solicitor gets to work on the searches, then the surveyor can advise the solicitor to check for consents to alterations that the surveyor has observed and check who owns which boundaries in the light of an appraisal as to how well they are maintained.  Working together, the two professionals can then pinpoint any queries that they can specifically focus on in the questionnaire sent to the seller.  Conversely, if the solicitor has already conducted the searches and then the surveyor goes to site, the surveyor may find something that the solicitor was unaware of such as an alteration or extension that was built without planning approval or out of conformity with the building regulations.  This leaves the solicitor at a disadvantage and you may be asked to pay for further searches.  If your surveyor then has to return to the property again to take further details again you can be expected to pay for this.  Refusing to do so will mean that you have only achieved partial services from each professional but at full original cost.  Accepting the additional charges means you will pay more for the service you could have got at the original price had you appointed everyone at the start.

By making appointments of a chartered building surveyor and either a licensed conveyancer or solicitor at the start of the buying process, and getting them to interact, will give you the best value for money for the fees you will need to pay.  If you don't do things in the right order then you are putting your advisers at a disadvantage and errors and omissions may arise that they may be able to avoid liability for simply because you brought them in too late.

The Lender and Mortgage Broker 

When most people buy a home they are in fact buying two very significant products.  The real property itself and the loan with which to finance it.  Both are high value high risk investments and neither should be undertaken lightly and without due consideration for the risks faced.  Very often a wise buyer will have approached lenders before going house hunting if only to be confident that a budget can be set.  Sometimes, the urge to view properties runs ahead of this and then there is a frantic search to find the funds to proceed.  Assuming you are a buyer who will borrow money to buy a property, your search for the right mortgage is crucial.  Incidentally, the French origin of the word 'mortgage' is literally 'a death promise' and what it implies is that you promise to pay back the lender all the money borrowed and the interest accruing until the loan is extinguished (it dies).  Therefore, treat the loan with the same suspicion as you treat the real property because even though it may not feel quite the same, you are actually buying a credit facility and just as with anything else you can be sold, the seller is out to make the most money they can from the sale.

In effect, the mortgage lender is both a vital member of the buyer's team and simultaneously someone trying to sell you something very expensive and risky.  If you are not wise in your judgement you could end up paying considerably more than is absolutely necessary to own your own home.  The buyer's solicitor and surveyor will sell a clear professional service to you, and as they will carry a liability for the advice they give you, they are really on your side, but the lender is a very different thing altogether. 

The lender doesn't really have the same level of risk as anyone else in the buyer's team and the lender is well defended against the risks it does bear.  With the so called 'credit crunch' of 2008 still affecting the world economy it is a sobering thought to realise that when sellers and their agents can talk up a market and buyers are fed in to system with little good advice on how to afford their purchases, what happens next is simply a massive loss to the borrowers who will not get the chance to buy again, blighted as poor credit risks forever.  Although the banks say they are shouldering huge losses, they are in fact still holding the ownership of the mortgaged real estate. If they sit things out long enough they will get a reasonable return on their investment.  In the short term there is no money in the system as no one lends to anyone else for a while, but the expectation is that things will get back to normal in the long term and when rercovery comes the lenders will still own the land and buildings others tried to buy on the unrealistic terms the lender's had set.

So beware, if you borrow money on a mortgage for a property you acquire credit that allows you to say you own the home, but until you pay off that debt the lender has first call on the property if you default on the loan terms.  You will probably be familiar with the statutory warning all lenders are obliged to give - Your home is at risk if you do not keep up your repayments.  Lenders should be regulated by the Financial Services Agency and as such are obliged to give you certain facts and figures within their service to you.  You should be quite safe if you keep in mind that although the lender is part of your team the lender is also selling you money and will take a stake in the property until you pay back all you owe.

The Lender's Surveyor 

This surveyor is not the buyer's surveyor and should NEVER be relied upon by the buyer to act as such.  Even the most reputable lender's surveyor has psychosis serving two masters and it is never a good idea to leave your fate in the hands of someone who has no real connection to you.  In all likelihood your lender will use a chartered valuation surveyor, another variant of chartered surveyor also belonging to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors but note the subtle difference in the designation.  These surveyors are experts in property valuation and are not necesssarily (although some are) as well versed in the technical aspects as their building surveying colleagues.  The governing body covers a wide range of surveying activities all connected in some way to the built environment and property but each with their own unique characteristics.  The buyer will pay a survey fee, but this is to cover the cost of the survey for the lender's benefit, and the buyer will have very limited recourse to the survey if a fault later occurs.

What the lender expects of the valuation surveyor is very different from what you need to be done by your building surveyor.  The lender only wants the surveyor to check that the physical property is there, is in sufficient condition to be a reasonable security for the loan you require and ultimately, if you turn out to be a bad credit risk the lender will have enough security (value) in the residual property to get the money back by selling the property to someone else.  That's it.  That is all that the surveyor is duty bound to advise the lender and if the surveyor makes a big enough mistake in the assessment to cause a real loss to the lender should you default, the lender will certainly pursue the surveyor to make up the shortfall, but will not ignore the fact that you, the hapless borrower, will still have to pay off the balance of your loan after your home is auctioned off and the proceeds used to bring down the total debt.

Depending on the proportion of loan to equity, or in other words, how much of your own money you are putting in to the property to buy it, you may be faced with additional fees from the lender for what is called a 'high value loan fee'.  Once again, the buyer has to dig deep into its pockets to pay for the privilege of protecting the lender against risks.   The high value loan fee is a kind of insurance in which your loan is considered by the more senior members of the lender's organisation and they are obliged to give you slightly more care in deciding to lend you a higher percentage of the property value than is conventional.  In other words, they ask their surveyor and legal team to check things a little more closely to ensure here is a lesser chance of you defaulting either because the property is in need of expensive maintenance at the outset or because your credit history is not as good as you hoped it was.

The buyer's costs

Did you know that most people spend more time selecting a new TV than choosing a new home?