Risky Britain - Over 7 million homeowners didn't have a survey before buying their property

17th August 2016

  • 13 million homeowners have needed unexpected building work completed on their property since moving in
  • 56 per cent of those who had major building work said knowing this in advance would have influenced their decision to buy the property
  • Surveyors say the top three problems with properties which can be detected by a building survey are damp, roof issues and subsidence

Over seven million UK homeowners1 have taken a serious financial risk by choosing not to have a survey completed on their current property, reveals new research from Churchill Home Insurance2. This includes 3.5 million people who did not have any type of independent checks completed and 3.6 million who assumed a mortgage valuation was sufficient.

With the price of property stretching many home owners' budgets, it appears people are scaling back on the level of surveys completed on their property pre-purchase and choosing to go down the cheapest route. The number of people having at least a base level survey has increased over time, from 63 per cent 20 years ago to 91 per cent in the last 12 months. The number of homeowners, however, having the comprehensive building survey has reduced significantly, from 28 per cent 20 years ago to just 6 per cent in the last 12 months.

Table one: Breakdown of type of survey by when homeowners purchased their current property

When the current property was purchased Condition Report HomeBuyers Report Building Survey Did not have a survey
In the last 12 months 17% 13% 6% 9%
1-3 years ago 18% 20% 14% 10%
4-5 years ago 20% 18% 12% 10%
6-10 years ago 13% 23% 14% 15%
11-20 years ago 20% 17% 25% 18%
More than 20 years ago 13% 9% 28% 37%

Source: Churchill Home Insurance

A third (36 per cent) of UK surveyors3 have seen a change in the trend for people requesting surveys in recent years, the main one being an increase in the number of surveys requested compared to previous years. Some surveyors said buyers look for the cheapest survey as they want to save money throughout the property purchase.

Martin Scott, head of Churchill Home Insurance said: "It's encouraging to see the number of people having a survey has increased over time. Only by having a qualified surveyor assess a property are prospective buyers fully informed of the true state of that property, so it is an essential part of the buying process. Those relying on a mortgage valuation alone should be wary as this is just a cursory look at a property from a mortgage lender to assess how much it is worth, not a survey looking at the state of the property."

Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of surveyors have had clients who needed expensive building works done to their property soon after moving in, which would have come up in a more comprehensive survey. One homeowner had a HomeBuyers report that missed the full extent of subsidence affecting the property while others needed roof repairs, had problems with dry rot, damp or heating issues, all of which would have come up in a full building survey.

Some 13 million (42 per cent) UK homeowners have needed unexpected works done to their property within 12 months of moving in. Almost one in ten (9 per cent) needed major works completed, while 15 per cent needed moderate remedial work. Demonstrating that scrimping on a thorough survey can be a false economy, those that had a condition report (62 per cent) needed more work on their property than those who had a building survey (47 per cent).

Table two: Unexpected work needed to the property broken down by survey type

Amount of work needed to the property within a year of moving in Condition Report HomeBuyers Report Building Survey Mortgage Valuation
Major work 19% 15% 9% 11%
Moderate work 24% 24% 18% 18%
Minor work 19% 16% 19% 19%
None 38% 44% 52% 51%
Total (work needed) 62% 55% 47% 48%

Source: Churchill Home Insurance

More than half (56 per cent) of those who needed major work done to their property within a year of moving in said the issues were serious enough to have influenced their purchase, should they have had prior knowledge. Just one in eight (12 per cent) who only needed minor work done to their home, however, said knowing about the work would have influenced their decision. This is more prominent among those who had a condition report (32 per cent) and HomeBuyers report (24 per cent) than those who had a building survey (14 per cent).

Martin Scott, head of Churchill home insurance continued: "While home surveys are expensive, they can potentially save buyers thousands of pounds as they can identify uninsurable risks. It is imperative to find out what you are dealing with at as early a stage in the buying process as possible. Home surveys can uncover damage caused by rot or fungus or even more discrete damage by beetles, moths and woodworms. This knowledge can be used to renegotiate the price, ask for repairs to be made or even pull out of the sale. No matter what, it's always better to be informed."

According to UK surveyors, the three most common problems with a property that wouldn't be detected unless buyers had a comprehensive building survey are damp (33 per cent), problems with the roof structure (23 per cent) and subsidence (15 per cent). UK surveyors report that less than 10 per cent of their clients instruct them to carry out a full building survey when they buy a property.

Nearly two fifths (63 per cent) of surveyors said there is a correlation between the type of survey people ask for and the type of home they are buying. The majority of surveyors (91 per cent) said those buying an older property were most likely to have a building survey done, whereas those buying a new build were most likely to have a HomeBuyers report (51 per cent).

Table three: Correlation between type of property and type of survey

Type of property purchased Condition
A house 25% 43% 48%
A flat 21% 51% 40%
A new build property 28% 51% 32%
An older property 11% 13% 91%

Source: Churchill Home Insurance

For further details on the differences between a condition report, HomeBuyers report and building survey and advice on which to choose, visit the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) website.

  • 1 Over 7 million = equivalent of 14% of UK adults (50,909,000) = 7,127,260
  • 2 Research conducted by Opinium Research with a representative sample of 2,000 UK adults between 3-7 June 2016
  • 3 Research conducted among 103 surveyors across the UK between 6th - 17th June 2016

For further information, please contact:

Claire Foster
Churchill PR Manager
Tel: 01651 831 672
Mob: 07525665504
Email: claire.foster@directlinegroup.co.uk

Antonia Green
Citigate Dewe Rogerson
Tel: 0207 282 2967
Email: Antonia.green@citigatedr.co.uk


Founded in 1989, Churchill is now one of the UK’s leading providers of general insurance, offering car, home, travel and pet insurance cover over the phone or on-line.

Churchill general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Churchill and U K Insurance Limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Churchill products or get a quote by calling 0300 200300 or visiting www.churchill.com