What type of home buyers survey should I have?

A property survey is an essential part of the home buying process. We explain the different types of survey available and which one is right for you.

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What is a property survey?

A property survey is a comprehensive inspection of a property carried out by a qualified surveyor.

The survey will consider various factors including:

  • Whether there are any major structural issues, such as subsidence or a leaking roof
  • The need for any major repairs or alterations
  • Assesses damp proofing, drainage and insulation (drains are not tested)
  • Damage to timber e.g. woodworm or rot
  • The condition of the insulation and drainage
  • The condition of the windows
  • The potential cost of repairs

Property surveys are usually carried out by the buyer's surveyor after an offer has been accepted.

What are the different types of survey?

Property surveys vary in both price and detail. Choosing the right one for your home purchase will depend on the type of property you plan to buy.

Most homebuyers choose either a RICS HomeBuyer Report or Building Survey.

Both types of survey are carried out by a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Chartered Surveyor.

The following table shows the differences between HomeBuyer Reports and Building Surveys:

DetailHomeBuyer ReportBuilding Survey
Carried out by a RICS Charted Surveyor.
Best choice for conventional homes of standard construction (i.e. brick and tile) that are in reasonable condition and were built after 1900.
Best choice for older, listed or dilapidated buildings, properties that have been dramatically altered or are of non-standard construction.
Suitable if you plan to extend or carry out extensive renovation.
Suitable if you want the most comprehensive picture possible of the property you want to buy.
Reports on the property's condition including (including damage to the roof & masonry, rot, damp, woodworm, subsidence, alterations made, large trees close to the property, Japanese Knotweed.
Reports on potential issues and property defects.
Reports on serious problems.
Gives an idea or remedial or repair costs if possible.
Visual Inspection of interior and exterior.
Inspects loft space (if accessible on the day of inspection).
Standard Format.
Easy to understand traffic light style report.
Standard format.
Rebuild cost for insurance purposes.
Property valuation.(Additional Cost)
Cost of Survey£500 - £700£600 - £2,000

Are there any other types of home survey?

The Building Survey and Homebuyer's report are the most popular choice for home buyers. However, there are other professional survey bodies including the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA).

The following is a list of other home surveys available:

RICS Condition report

This is the cheapest and least detailed survey and cost around £300. A condition report is a relatively short, surface-level inspection of a property that should reveal any obvious defects.

A condition report:

  • Works on a traffic light system (green = OK, orange = some cause for concern and red = major repairs needed).
  • Summarises property defects and potential risks.
  • Offers no remedial advice or valuation.

Condition reports are not a popular choice for home buyers as spending a little more money gets a more detailed survey.

RPSA Home Condition Survey

This survey is provided by the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) and is not part of the ‘RICS Homebuyer Service’.

Home Condition Surveys:

  • Are designed to be very consumer-friendly, contains photographs and diagrams
  • Offers colour-coded condition ratings to highlight issues
  • Include a full de-brief from the surveyor
  • Cover structural issues, damp etc. as well as broadband speed and boundary issues
  • Are independently checked for quality

Home Condition Surveys between £400 and £900.

Other things to consider

  • Check that your surveyor is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
  • Instruct an independent RICS surveyor rather than a surveyor recommended by your estate agent or mortgage lender as this is a potential conflict of interest.
  • Shop around – price is important but check reviews also as service levels differ between surveyors.
  • Get the most from your survey by initially highlighting any concerns with your surveyor.
  • Ask if you can walk around the property with them when they carry out the survey.

Is a mortgage valuation a survey?

No. A mortgage valuation is a property check carried out by your mortgage lender to ensure the house is worth what you are paying for it.

Your lender will want to be sure that the property offers sufficient security for the loan. The valuation survey will not involve extensive checks and the surveyor might not even enter the property.

Although the mortgage valuation offers some peace of mind to the buyer as it validates the buying price, a valuation is primarily for the benefit of the lender.

Do I have to have a survey?

A property survey is not compulsory.

However, considering that buying a house is, for most people, the largest financial transaction of their life, failing to get the property inspected is ill-advised.

With the spiralling cost of buying a home, a survey may seem like an avoidable expense. However, if you buy a home and subsequently discover major problems, you could be thousands of pounds out of pocket.

Survey results can reassure you that the property is worth what you are paying for it. If issues arise or repairs are required, you can then go back to the vendor and negotiate the price, or stipulate any work you would like done on the property before you proceed.

See also:

What should I do following a bad home survey report?

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Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher