If you find a home you're interested in, ask the seller or their solicitor or estate agent for a Home Report. If it's public knowledge the house is for sale - it should have a home report.
This is a document that tells you everything you need to know about the house. It's split into three parts – a single survey and valuation, a property questionnaire and an energy report.
A seller or selling agent must give you a Home Report within nine days of you asking for it. If they don't give you the report within nine days, your local council's trading standards services can fine them £500.
Single survey and valuation
This section, based on a visual inspection by a chartered surveyor, tells you about the home, its condition, its accessibility and any repairs you may need to carry out.
It also gives a valuation (an opinion on how much the home is worth) and an estimated cost of any repairs that need doing.
If any of the repairs are marked as urgent or needing future attention, you should consider whether you can cope with the cost or inconvenience of the repair works.
If you feel you can cope with the repairs, you should get estimates for how much they'll cost before proceeding. If you don't think you can cope with the repairs and don't want to buy the home any more you can walk away at this stage without penalty.
The second section of the Home Report is a questionnaire covering 16 different categories. This is designed to give you more information about the home.
These categories include:
- the home's council tax band
- any issues that may have affected the home in the past, like fire or storm damage or asbestos
- any alterations or extensions that have been made to the home
- details of any specialist works or guarantees
- details of any notices that might affect the home
The final section of the Home Report gives information on the home's energy efficiency in the form of an Energy Performance Certificate.
This tells you roughly how much it'll cost you on average to run the home, taking heating and electricity into account.
It also rates the house's environmental impact in terms of carbon dioxide emissions.
It also gives you contact details for advice on how to make your home more energy efficient and save fuel costs.
There are some exceptional situations when a seller can choose not to give you a Home Report.
They can only refuse to give you a Home Report if:
- they don't believe you are seriously interested in buying their home
- they don't believe you have enough money
- they would prefer not to sell their house to you (though they can't discriminate against you for illegal reasons)
There are also certain types of home that don't need a Home Report. These include:
- houses that have been on the market since before 1 December 2008
- new houses that are being sold off-plan or to the first occupier
- newly converted homes that haven't been used in their converted state yet
- right-to-buy homes
- dual-use homes used for both residential and non-residential purposes
- seasonal holiday homes that can only be used at certain times of the year (not second or holiday homes you could use all year if you wanted)
If a home doesn't need a Home Report, the seller must still give you an Energy Performance Certificate.