Surveyor’s top tips on how to be a smarter buyer

How to be a Smarter House Buyer by Jon Charters-Reid
How to be a Smarter House Buyer by Jon Charters-Reid
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One of Yorkshire’s top surveyors shares his tips, trade secrets and opinions in a book for buyers. Sharon Dale reports.

Outspoken and well qualified, Jon Charters-Reid is never short of sage advice or strong opinions on his specialised subject: property.

So it’s no surprise that the former joiner and building site manager who is now a chartered surveyor and chartered building engineer has added “author” to his CV with his newly-published book “How to be a Smarter House Buyer”.

Although it is packed full of tips, it is not your usual buyers manual thanks to a rigorous examination of the housing market, which Jon believes is broken. “This is mainly due to the activities of the corporate world. Big business and national government have both contributed to a market that is overly complex, insufficiently regulated and that fails to work on a local level,” he says.

He also blames the burgeoning buy-to-let market for distorting prices and his book includes his opinions on this and everything from the housing shortage to interest rates and planning policy.

One of the biggest issues for buyers, he believes, is the quality of building surveys: “Some surveyors are working for other interested parties, such as the bank or building society, and others are not adequately qualified or sufficiently knowledgeable about the area in which they are buying. The one piece of advice I return to again and again is to hire a local, independent surveyor.”

He is also wary of builders and devotes a whole chapter to “Defects and defective builders”, which leads neatly to the reasons why he is in favour of more “flat-pack” factory-built homes built from modern materials.

“In this country we don’t regulate builders and, as a result, it is rife with unqualified and inexperienced builders,” says Jon, who is campaigning to persuade the government to licence the trade.

Here are some of Jon’s tips on how to be a smarter buyer:

*Banks often have their own selection of “approved” surveyors and they will encourage a buyer to use one of them. Some banks then keep a large portion of the survey fee so their motive is clearly one of profit. Remember, the banks cannot legally tell you who or who not may do your survey. The Council of Mortgage Lenders clearly states that a surveyor who carries out a mortgage valuation must be a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. There is no mention of an “approved panel”. So choosing your own local and independent surveyor is exactly what you can and should do. On most of the surveys carried out by the bank, there is no inspection of the loft or roof void and the roof makes up at least a third of the structure of the property, which is another reason to choose your own surveyor.

*It is frighteningly easy to raise a mortgage and buy a house on the back of an inadequate survey. Don’t be seduced by the lowest possible price and before appointing a surveyor look for professional accreditations and use someone who knows the area well.Remember that a valuation is not a survey, it is simply an opinion on what a property is worth for mortgage purposes.

*Always get a survey and get it first before putting in an offer as condition affects price. A surveyor can help you decide if a property is over-priced and help you find a way of revising that price to reflect the work required.

*You might think that surveying is all about older properties but you’d be wrong. You can find some serious defects lurking in many a new building. My own firm is finding as many defects in new homes as we do on much older properties. I’ve seen new-build homes without a damp course and with drains attached at the wrong sloping angle. If you buy a new property insist on a professional snagging list. This will explain what the builder will and won’t put right. Be careful about buying a property with a snag list that protects the builder with too many get-out clauses.

*Always consider consulting an independent financial adviser who will look at the entire mortgage market. It’s well worth the effort.

*How to be a Smarter House Buyer by Jon Charters-Reid, £14.99 from Amazon. Jon runs www.surveys4you.co.uk in York, Wetherby and Scarborough.