Buying a house comes with a seemingly endless list of additional expenses that are all to easy to miss for people just looking at the purchase price.
From stamp duty to conveyancing to surveyor reports – and that’s before we get to mortgage application fees, buildings insurance, moving costs and furniture.
But in a bid to attract more borrowers, one mortgage lender is now throwing in a home report ‒ which normally costs hundreds of pounds ‒ absolutely free.
But how good a deal is it really, and what else is there out there for budding homeowners? We take a look at where a free home condition report ranks.
A free home report
When you purchase a home, you will have to fork out for a valuation on behalf of the mortgage lender but in truth this doesn’t really tell you an awful lot about the actual standard of the property.
Some buyers opt to dig deep and purchase a home report, as it could save you far more in the long run since it will give you an idea if there are issues with the property’s structure that could cause problematic down the line.
But it’s an expense that plenty of would-be buyers decide to skip.
However, now Santander is offering first-time buyers the chance to get a home condition report free from Countrywide ‒ worth upwards of £500 ‒ when they take out certain home loans.
You’ll get to chat with a surveyor before the inspection and then afterwards too, to ensure you understand what’s in the report and to give you the chance to ask any questions.
It’s worth noting that this offer is only available if you go through a branch or the lender’s phone team ‒ if you’re using a mortgage broker, then you’ll have to stump up for a report yourself.
The different types of home survey
There are a few different levels of home survey available according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
A home condition report is the lowest priced of surveys and generally aimed at conventional properties and newer homes, with key elements of the property given ‘traffic light’ ratings so you can see where action will be most urgent.
You can go further though with a homebuyer report, which RICS argues is most suitable for “conventional properties which are in reasonable condition”. You get a greater level of detail and advice on defects and ongoing maintenance advice.
Of course, it will cost more than a simple home condition report.
And then above that is the building survey, which RICS suggests is essential for older or larger homes, or those where you are planning major works.
It basically offers an in-depth insight into the true condition of the property as well as advice on its upkeep and improvements. It will be the priciest report of the lot.
Free valuations and legals
While a free home report is unusual, it’s not uncommon for lenders to offer you the chance to enjoy a free valuation and legals when you’re remortgaging.
This can be a helping hand when you’re moving to a new deal, as these solicitor costs can swiftly add up.
There have been problems here though. For starters, the lender will be choosing the firm who carries out those legals, not you.
This can understandably make people uneasy about whether they can entirely trust the conveyancer to represent their best interests.
Then there are the horror stories that have emerged of the firms offering these free legals being completely understaffed, leading to shoddy, delayed work, at times putting the property sale at risk of falling through.
That’s why some lenders now offer cashback instead, specifically for you to put towards your legal costs.
That way you can pick the conveyancing firm and rely on them not to be a bunch of budget cowboys.
Freebies and searching the market
There have been loads of additional incentives launched by mortgage lenders over the years, little selling points beyond the nuts and bolts of the mortgage itself which they hope will entice you to go with them rather than a competitor.
Indeed, according to Moneyfacts the number of mortgages on the market offering cashback, free valuations or free legals is on the rise.
It found that between May last year and May this year the number of deals including cashback had jumped from 1,239 to 1,518, free valuations from 2,926 to 3,336, and free legals from 2,325 to 2,435.
But it’s important to pick the right home loan for you based on what it will really cost you, rather than any little side perks.
For example, if you find that you’re best off with a Santander deal and you’re a first-time buyer, then the free home report is a great additional saving.
But you may actually be better off going with a different lender and paying for a home report independently.