What Type of Survey Do I Need When Buying a House?

by Rizwan Osman on 4th May 2021

If you have had an offer accepted on a property, it is advisable to commission a professional survey. Not everyone does so, but having a professional survey carried out is vital to your peace of mind and could save you money later on.

In this article, we look at the different types of survey available so you can decide what type of survey is best for the property you’re buying.

type of home survey

What is a house survey?

A house survey is an inspection of a property’s condition. It is conducted by a qualified surveyor who visits the property, carries out the inspection and prepares a report of their findings. A survey will tell you if there are any structural problems, highlight any major repairs and provide an expert commentary on the property.

Types of house survey

For buyers in England there are three different types of homebuyer’s survey to choose from:

  • Level 1 – Condition Report
  • Level 2 – Homebuyer Report
  • Level 3 – Building Survey

Most buyers opt for the middle way of a Homebuyer Report, but it’s worth understanding more about the different surveys before you commit. If you’re buying a recently built place that has been well maintained, a condition report may be enough for your needs. But if you’re looking at an older property, which needs work, commissioning a full building survey could be a worthwhile investment.

Your decision should be based on the type and age of the property you are buying – not how much the surveys costs. To find out which homebuyer survey is right for you, read more about the different options.

Condition Report

A Condition Report uses a traffic light system to describe the condition of the property. The report includes risks and potential legal issues and will highlight any urgent defects which require attention. This type of survey is most suitable for newer homes and conventional properties clearly in good condition. The report will not offer advice or provide a valuation.

Homebuyer Report

The Homebuyer Report is an analysis of the property, which will reveal most of the significant issues. It does have limitations; the surveyor will not look behind furniture or lift flooring. It may be supplied with caveats, limiting the surveyor’s liability, which could be an issue if you do later discover a major problem.

The Homebuyer Report is best suited to conventional properties, which are less than 150 years old. It will include:

  • an assessment of the location
  • the estimated cost of rebuilding the property for insurance purposes
  • an assessment of any drainage or damp-proofing in the building
  • the condition of timbers and whether rot or woodworm is present
  • the identification of subsidence or damp
  • information highlighting urgent problems that require attention
  • details of faults in easy-to-access parts of the property that could affect its value.

Some Homebuyer Reports include a property valuation. This, and any problems identified, could be used to negotiate a lower purchase price.

home buyer report

Building Survey

Previously known as a Full Structural Survey, a Building Survey is the most comprehensive choice and the most expensive. However, it could be an excellent investment.

The surveyor will conduct a full assessment of the property, both internally and externally, and the report could be a lengthy document. It will cover everything from subsidence to invasive weeds and highlight repairs and maintenance you will need to undertake.

It will explain what could happen if you don’t carry out the repairs and may include an estimate of the costs involved.

A Building Survey is the best choice for older properties, and those which have been substantially renovated or which you know require major works.

Unlike a Homebuyer Report, the Building Survey does not have a standard format. Instead, the surveyor will tailor the assessment to the individual property and include anything you specifically want looked at.

The survey will present the information clearly, using a rating system to make it easy to interpret.

You can expect the survey to cover:

  • the estimated cost of rebuilding the property for insurance purposes
  • all defects of the property and its general structural integrity
  • the results of tests for damp in the walls
  • an assessment of woodworm, dry rot and any other damage to timbers
  • the condition of existing insulation and damp-proofing
  • information on the materials used to build the property
  • the identification of invasive weeds and their location
  • the condition of the electrics
  • recommendations for further investigations on the property.

House survey costs

The cost of your survey will depend on the location, size and type of the property. Different surveyors will charge different amounts, so it is a good idea to get a few quotes.

The table below gives an estimated cost for each type of survey.

Survey Costs

Do I really need a house survey?

No, a property survey is optional. But buying a home is likely to be the biggest purchase you make, yet unlike smaller, less significant items, there may not be much you can do if something goes wrong further down the line.

Given that the average house price in Tooting is around £690,000, a few hundred pounds on a survey to have the reassurance from a professional that the property is a good investment is probably money well spent.

A homebuyer’s survey could reveal urgent defects or long-term structural problems with the property. You may want to reconsider whether to buy the property, use the unbiased information to renegotiate the price or ask the seller to fix the problems before you buy. For example, if the survey reveals £10,000 for roof repairs, you are well with your rights to ask for £10,000 off the purchase price.

What is the difference between a survey and market valuation?

A mortgage valuation is not a survey. It is commissioned by the mortgage lender to assess how much the property is worth, check for any severe defects and ensure that the property is suitable security for the loan. It won’t tell you everything you need to know about the condition of the property.

Yet, according to RICS, one in five home buyers fails to commission a survey of their own, relying instead on the mortgage valuation as the only condition rating of their purchase.

Do I need a survey for a new build property?

If you are buying a new build, we recommend you commission a professional snagging survey. This will identify any defects that need fixing before you move in. They typically cost between £300 and £600.

How do I find a surveyor?

Check that your surveyor is a member of a recognised professional body such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA).

Your solicitor, estate agent or mortgage lender may be able to recommend a reputable local surveyor. However, get quotes from a few firms as prices can vary significantly between different surveyors.

Ask to see copies of their past reports so that you can see if that sort of information would be useful to you.

We can help

If you’re looking to buy in Tooting, Clapham or nearby, estate agents Credential may be able to help. We can advise you about which homebuyer’s survey to opt for and tell you more about our portfolio of outstanding properties. Contact us today.