Holiday Let Surveyor – Episode 3

Holiday Let Surveyor

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Behind the scenes with a Holiday Property Surveyor

In this episode, Mark Stallard, Director and Adviser at House and Holiday Home Mortgages is joined by industry specialist, Giles Cooper from Cotswold Surveyors to discuss the ins and outs of surveys on holiday properties, with useful tips and advice.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a director at Cotswold Surveyors. We’re a Cheltenham-based practice of surveyors with a team of 10 surveyors operating across the Midlands through Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and towards London. We do residential property, survey valuation and work for banks and lawyers etc.

I also have a few holiday let properties. My mother was probably one of the first people to get into it. She had a holiday home in a little sleepy fishing village on the south coast.

So are surveyors the home buyer’s enemy or their friend?

Sadly I think we are an enemy! We certainly are to the estate agents and to a degree to the purchasers. Statistically, about 70% of people buying a main residence won’t bother with a survey – often because they don’t want to be told that something wrong is with the property.

But of course if something is seriously wrong it’s important to be aware of it. And if it’s something minor or that can be addressed fairly simply, hopefully the buyer will still buy the house and everybody will be happy.

What is the role of a property surveyor and what are the different types of surveys?

Our job is to go into houses and compare them with similar properties, to identify any defects and explain these to the buyer.

They can then buy the property with their eyes open, aware of the cost implications both today and a few years down the line.

There are two main types of survey, the home survey and the building survey. Which one you need depends on the type of property you are buying. We tend to do a home buyer survey on newer homes, and on Victorian houses or older we do a building survey.

Can you buy a holiday home or holiday let without a survey?

Absolutely, you can. You can buy any holiday home or main residence without a survey and a lot of people do – perhaps to save on costs. But without a survey, you’re taking a risk – and house repairs can be very expensive.

I can give you a case study: a property local to us where the buyer did not have a survey – the market was moving at such a pace that they thought it would slow the process down. They bought the home and have now found it has a defective flat roof that’s leaking.

The survey would have cost £500 to £600, but the cost of the repair is about £6,000.

Is it OK to buy a new build home with no survey?

New build houses are a bit of a conundrum. Some new build construction is so poor that one of our biggest lines of business is doing snagging reports on new build houses. There can be structural defects and non-compliance with building regulations.

There are many houses out there with quite significant issues. It worries me, as First Time Buyers don’t want to spend the money on a survey as money is tight. But their chosen property could turn out to have significant problems.

If I’m buying a holiday home in a different part of the country, how do I find a property surveyor?

When you’re buying in a new area you can feel a little out of your comfort zone, and you might not want to trust the estate agent to recommend a good independent surveyor.

What’s really important is finding somebody that knows the area. There are a lot of quirks to a location like Cornish areas, or Oxfordshire where there can be radon gas, for example.

To find a local surveyor, go onto the RICS website’s find a surveyor page, and type in the property postcode.

Is there any difference between a standard house surveyor and a holiday home surveyor?

No, there’s no difference, because ultimately we’re still looking at bricks and mortar. We do a lot of holiday let work, especially around the Cotswold water parks. It’s worth bearing in mind that sometimes these holiday houses are a little bit unusual.

For example, on the water there are many timber framed houses which are classed as non-standard construction – so you need to use a surveyor that’s familiar with that construction technique. When you appoint a surveyor, ask about their familiarity with the locality and the construction type of your building.

Can I get advice as well as the survey report?

While some surveyors will just send you a report, good ones will take the time to talk it through with you and address your questions. It will reassure you.

It’s our company policy to always speak to each client about the survey so that they understand it fully – and often help dispel your worries. With surveys you do get what you pay for. A cheaper survey will probably mean surveyors doing multiple surveys a day, who won’t have the time to speak to you about the details.

What does a surveyor look for when valuing or surveying a house?

What we fundamentally look for in a survey is significant issues. No house is ever perfect. Any house will have a defect. So a surveyor’s job is to identify the defect and look at it in comparison with other, similar houses.

So, for example, a Victorian house is likely to have some damp. The damp proof course is beginning to get towards the end of its life – or if you have a Cotswold stone house you may not have a damp proof course at all.

We need to decide whether the issue is acceptable. With damp in an older house it probably is, but in a 1960s/70s home or newer, or a timber framed property on the water parks, that would be a problem.

How long does a survey take?

Sometimes we can turn up at the property and be in and out within a couple of hours – if it’s very straightforward, where defects are negligible. An average survey might be two or three hours.

A building survey, which is more complicated, takes as long as it takes! Sometimes all day. It’s important to spend the time to fully understand the construction, what might be wrong and what the buyer needs to do to put it right.

Is there anything different to consider when doing a survey for a holiday home?

It’s really important when you’re doing a survey for a holiday home to consider that a third party will be using it. So the house may not be looked after to the same degree as if you live there.

A good surveyor will also have an eye on health and safety such as slippery decking and the need for handrails etc., although this isn’t officially within our remit.

The valuation side is really important too. At the moment there are some very high prices in the south west of England and while these homes are really lovely, the prices are starting to worry me. It will be challenging to generate enough letting income to make your money back – you’ll need to keep it occupied all year round at a pretty high rate just to cover your mortgage, let alone make a profit.

If you’re looking for valuation advice on a holiday home holiday, make sure your surveyor is a registered valuer – the RICS website will tell you that.

What will a survey cost?

A home buyer survey starts at about £500, while a building survey is around £950 to a £1000.

It might seem a lot of money, but you’re likely to make that in your first week’s rent in the summer, and it’s a worthwhile investment. I have yet to do a survey where I haven’t justified the fee. It’s all about making sure you buy with complete clarity about the risks and what you might need to pay for in the future.

To contact Giles visit


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Podcast: Beginners Tips for First Time Holiday Lets

Download: Our FREE Holiday Let Mortgage Guide

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