Buying a property always involves a bit of risk. So when we’re buying a property through an estate agent it’s typical to get a survey before actually completing on the purchase.
But with auctions, the sale’s legally binding from the moment the gavel falls. This doesn’t really leave any time afterwards to get a survey. So can you get a survey on an auction property?
Yes, you can get a survey on a house in a property auction. The only difference is that you should get the survey done before you bid. Remember, auction sales are legally binding, so it’s important to find any issues before bidding.
Auctions are totally different from estate agent sales because you have to do your due diligence beforehand. Due diligence is especially important because of the types of properties auctions often attract, among other things.
1. Should you get a survey on an auction property?
Surveys come at a cost. It can range from £250-£800 depending on the type of survey you get. And of course, if you don't win the auction then it's easy to think of it as "money down the drain".
It seems like it makes more sense to get a survey after you've won the auction to avoid wasting the money. But unfortunately auctions just don't work that way. You're committed from the moment the auction ends:
- If buying through a traditional auction you'll exchange immediately, and have to place a 10% deposit.
- If buying through modern auction you'll have to pay a hefty reservation fee when the auction ends - usually a minimum of £6,000.
If you were to get a survey after being committed, and then find some terrible issue with the property you'd be in trouble!
This is why it can be a safer bet to lose a few hundred pounds for a survey on a house you didn't buy, rather than losing 10% on a purchase you have to back out of!
In other words, although it seems cheaper to not get a survey, it can be a real false economy.
Remember, if you're hoping to get a mortgage or auction finance on a property, you'll need a survey anyway.
1.1. Auctions can attract "problem properties" too
This is especially true because of the types of properties that auctions attract.
If a property has some serious issue (such as subsidence, Japanese knotweed, or non-standard construction), they can be difficult to sell through an estate agent sale. This means they often end up for sale by auction.
Sometimes, sellers may even present their property in a way to specifically try and hide any issues. For example, they may paint over cracks, or cut back Japanese Knotweed. An experienced surveyor may still be able to spot these issues that an ordinary buyer wouldn't.
In a nutshell, it's really extremely risky to bid on a property at auction without getting a survey first. The need for lots of up-front due diligence is one of the big disadvantages of buying at auction. To read more of the advantages and disadvantages, check out this article: Want To Buy At Auction? 12 Crucial Pros & Cons to Consider First
1.2. Reasons to consider NOT getting a survey
The only time you should perhaps consider buying a property at auction without a survey is if you're a seriously experienced property investor.
If you've built up a level of experience comparable with a surveyor or a builder, it may make sense for you to do the property assessment yourself.
This would save you the money for the survey and the time taken to arrange and coordinate with them.
It's still worth considering one other point though: Everyone makes mistakes.
Professional indemnity insurance
You may miss something in your property inspection that could come back to bite you.
However, if you instruct a surveyor and they mess up, you may be able to claim for any losses against their professional indemnity insurance. If you mess up your own inspection then you're on your own though!
This is why we'd argue that regardless of your experience level, you're still better off getting a survey when buying an auction property.
2. How to get a survey on an auction property
If we've managed to convince you that getting a survey on an auction property before bidding is a good idea, there are a few simple steps to follow to get one done.
Step 1: Coordinate with the auction house
You'll need to contact the auction house and find out what availability they or the seller have to conduct viewings.
Once you've got their availability it's time to decide what type of survey report you're looking for.
Step 2: Decide on the type of survey
There are 3 main types of surveys:
- Condition Reports / Valuations. These are the "base level" and usually cost £250-350. These are your classic "mortgage surveys". Although they aren't as in-depth as other reports they're a good check. If the surveyor identifies any potentially serious issues they'll recommend more specialised reports to get more information.
- Homebuyer reports. These are much more detailed, and inspect most aspects of the building. They typically cost £500-600 and include much more detailed information. This includes listing many actions you'll need to take on the property if you end up purchasing it.
- Structural Survey. These are the most detailed of all, and include a detailed report on the structural integrity of the building. They're the most expensive and specialised too though, sometimes costing up to £1,000. You'd usually only get a structural survey if another surveyor's recommended it, or if you're highly suspicious that the building has some type of structural defect.
You can learn more about the different types of surveys here on the Government's advice service.
Once you've decided on the type of survey it's time to find the surveyor.
Step 3: Find your surveyor
Finding the right surveyor for your purpose is an article in and of itself. You should consider their location, experience level, qualifications, etc.
There are two main ways to find one:
- Recommendation. Ask the auction house or a local estate agent to recommend one. If you're a member of any local property investor networks, ask other investors who they've used in the past.
- Online Research. Research local surveyors online or use an online tool such as Local Surveyors Direct to generate recommendations.
You can also check the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) or Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to find members near you. You can also use their websites to verify that a surveyor you've found is a member.
Once you've found your surveyor, book the inspection in with them and make payment, then wait for your report.
Step 4: Review the report
Take some time to review the report in detail. There isn't really one "standard" template that surveyors use to write up their reports, but any issues should be made quite clear. They'll usually either be highlighted in red or be included in a summary somewhere.
If you're unsure of anything then you can call the surveyor to ask any further questions. You've paid for their service after all, and they may even have other useful information that they didn't include in their report.
3. Other pre-auction due diligence
Getting a survey isn't the only thing we'd recommend. You should also have a solicitor review the legal pack before you buy.
We have a more detailed article here:
As we've covered, it's not only possible to get a survey on an auction property, it's actually highly recommended.
Buying property is already risky, but even more-so when buying at auction because of the types of properties it attracts.
Defects can include a variety of "building-related" issues that a surveyor can help you identify.
The downside is that this approach leads to "losing" money on several properties you end up not buying. But this is just something that auction buyers should accept. If a collection or surveys save you from buying a "lemon" just once, they'll all have been more than worth it.
By Matthew Cooper, Co-Founder of Home Selling Expert