When you’re buying a home, a survey can confirm the structure is sound and highlight any potential problems. Here's a rundown on the different types of survey to choose from.

Buying a new home is a major financial commitment – probably the biggest you’ll ever make. But how can you determine if the building is in good shape and there are no surprises hidden from view?

The answer is by commissioning a property survey.

Q. What is a survey?

A. A survey is basically a health check on a property. If it reveals any problems, it puts you in a position to ask the seller to fix them before you proceed with the purchase.

Alternatively, you may choose to renegotiate the final sale price to account for the cost of fixing them yourself – or you may opt to pull out entirely.

Q. Do I really need a survey?

A. It’s not a legal requirement to have a survey on a property you are buying. And, at a time when your bank account might feel like a bucket with a hole in it, it could seem like an unnecessary expense.

But having a survey done could actually save you money – not to mention a lot of stress – if it uncovers an issue with the structure of the property. 

If you’re buying a new-build home, you should get a 10-year warranty from the builder which largely negates the need for a home-buyer's survey.

You may still want to get a snagging survey done, though.

For any other property, a survey can prove highly valuable. And it will be particularly important if you’re buying a home that’s unusual in structure, has a thatched roof or timber frame, or is listed.

Bear in mind that, if you are buying with a mortgage, the lender will carry out a valuation of the property (which you’ll probably have to pay for).

This is not the same as a survey. The sole purpose of a valuation is to demonstrate to the lender that the property is worth the sale price before it gives you the green light for the mortgage.

Here's a quick round-up of what else to know about property surveys.

Q. Where do I get a survey?

A. Go for a surveyor that is a member of a recognised governing body, such as RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors). But surveyors compete for business, so it’s worth getting a number of quotes to find the best price.

Q. What types of surveys are there?

RICS offers three types of home-buyer survey. The one you choose will depend on factors including the type of property you're buying and your attitude to risk.

CONDITION REPORT

What is it? A Condition Report is the most basic survey and therefore usually the cheapest. It will typically take around one to two hours to complete, and you should get the findings the next day.

What will the property survey do?

  • Check the basic condition of the building and any outbuildings, such as a garage, as well as the ‘services’, which means the electricity, gas and water supply and the drains. It uses a traffic light system which will flag any problems that require attention
  • Provide a summary of issues and risks for your solicitor or property lawyer to investigate further. For example, bad electrics, ownership of boundaries and planning permission for extensions or other building work.

How much does it cost? Fees are normally based on the purchase price of the property, and start from £250 to £300.

When should I get one? A Condition Report is suitable for newer properties and homes that are in a generally good state of repair. Get one if you will be happy with just a broad-brush overview of the property’s condition.

What to expect: Take a look at this sample Condition Report.

HOMEBUYER REPORT

What is it? A HomeBuyer Report is more extensive than the Condition Report – and typically costs more too. It is offered either with or without a property valuation. 

It typically takes one to two hours to inspect the property and another hour to complete the valuation.

You can expect to receive the HomeBuyer Report within two days.

HOMEBUYER REPORT (survey only)

What will the property survey do? The survey-only version of the HomeBuyer Report, which costs from £350, will include all of the features of the Condition Report, plus:

  • More far-reaching inspection. However, like the Condition Report, this will be limited to what the surveyor can actually see – they won’t be lifting up floor boards or moving furniture
  • Clear summary of problems that may impact the property's value
  • Tailored advice on repairs and maintenance
  • List of issues that require closer attention to avoid serious damage or dangerous conditions
  • General information on the area, environment and energy efficiency
  • Any legal considerations.

HOMEBUYER REPORT (survey and valuation)

What will the property survey do? This version of the HomeBuyer Report comprises the survey, as outlined above, as well as the estimated cost of rebuilding the property, for building insurance purposes, plus the value of the property on the open market.

How much does it cost? Costs will vary according to the value of the property but budget for at least £450 for the survey and valuation.

When should I get one? A HomeBuyer Report is suitable for most modern and older homes that are in a reasonable condition. Get one if you have any specific concerns about the purchase, or would just feel better about a more comprehensive survey. 

What to expect: Take a look at these sample reports: HomeBuyer Report (Survey only), HomeBuyer Report (Survey and Valuation).

BUILDING SURVEY

What is it? A Building Survey is the most comprehensive survey and, of course, the most expensive.

It can take several days to complete (depending on the property) and up to a fortnight for you to get the results.

What will the property survey do? The Building Survey will include all the features of a HomeBuyer Report, plus the following:

  • Thorough inspection and report on a variety of issues pertaining to the condition of the property
  • Summary of defects (even insignificant ones) and potential problems caused by hidden flaws
  • Advice on repair options, their estimated cost and the potential consequences of failing to address them
  • Advice and considerations for your solicitor.

How much does it cost? Costs vary according to the value of the property but typically start at £500.

When should I get one? A Building Survey is suitable for large, old, unusual, listed or dilapidated homes. Also, for buildings that are undergoing a change-of-use, such as a barn conversion.

What to expect: Take a look at this sample Building Survey

RPSA surveys

RPSA, (Residential Property Surveyors Association) is another independent body of surveyors.

It offers three types of survey, which all include the following: 

  • Inspection for subsidence, damp, rot, woodworm and other major defects
  • Photos to highlight features and areas of concern
  • A review of environmental issues impacting the property
  • Colour-coded condition ratings to highlight the importance of issues.

How much do they cost? Prices ranges from £400 through to £900, depending on the survey and property.

Mi HOME CONDITION SURVEY

What is it? This home buyers survey is appropriate for modern or simpler types of property. 

What will the property survey do?

  • Review of the condition of the property, highlighting major issues and defects
  • At least 20 photos.

Mi BUILDING SURVEY

What is it? This home survey is suitable for all properties but is often used for older or more unusual properties, or properties where problems are suspected.

What will the property survey do?

  • More detailed review of the condition of the property
  • Advice on the nature of the repairs necessary and the anticipated performance of the property in future
  • At least 40 photos.

Surveys in Scotland

HOME REPORT

What is it? If you're buying a home in Scotland, most sellers are required – by law – to produce a Home Report pack within nine days of marketing a property.

As a buyer, you might still want to consider getting your own home survey done, particularly if you have any concerns about the property. 

Some properties, such as new-build homes, conversions or those purchased through Right to Buy, don’t require a Home Report.

What will the property survey do? 

  • Survey and property valuation
  • Energy Report, including an Energy Performance Certificate
  • Property questionnaire covering issues such as council tax and electricity provider.

How much does it cost? Between £585 and £820, according to RICS. 

Continue on your property journey...


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