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What Are the Different Types of House Surveys? A Homebuyer’s Guide

You’ve found your next home and you’re keen to buy. In property, knowledge is power, and that means getting a house survey to uncover any issues. Here, we cover the cost and types of surveys when buying a house.

Faye deGavre

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Apr 13, 2021

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5 min read

What Are the Different Types of House Surveys? A Homebuyer’s Guide

Buying a home is a significant investment – probably the biggest one you’ll ever make – so it’s vital to know exactly what you’re spending your hard-earned cash on. House surveys can help identify problems with the property that you might encounter. More importantly, they give you an option to rethink your offer and entire purchase of the property. To learn more about the different types of surveys when buying a house and more, read on.

What is a property survey?

In a nutshell, a house survey is a process of assessing a property. There are various surveys when buying a house, including:

  • Physical valuations for mortgages
  • Complete structural surveys
  • HomeBuyer reports

If you’re taking out a mortgage, then a dedicated mortgage valuation is a necessary step. Lenders will arrange one even if you have already arranged one yourself. You can then schedule further surveys separately, although these are not mandatory. Surveys are carried out only after you have a successful offer.

Scheduling a survey for your prospective property is something we highly recommend. Although not mandatory, some properties will warrant surveys more than others, including:

  • Listed buildings
  • Thatched-roof homes
  • Timber-framed buildings
  • Buildings that are over 50 years old
  • Properties that are in a poor state of repair
  • Homes that raise specific concerns when viewing
  • Properties that have been renovated or significantly altered

A survey can give buyers peace of mind by uncovering any nasty surprises that could be costly or dangerous. For example, a home built in 1930 may look like it’s in good condition, but if it hasn’t been rewired since it was built, it could be dangerous and require an extensive update.

A property survey will uncover any issues, and the buyer will have a chance to negotiate with the seller. It is reasonable to ask for a reduction to cover any work your survey has brought to light.

Who organises a survey when buying a house?

The buyer will be responsible for arranging the survey as soon as their offer has been accepted. Therefore, it’s a good idea to do some research into local chartered property surveyors when you begin your property search in order to save time. You can find qualified surveyors via the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) or Sava, depending on which survey you choose (more on that below).

What are the different types of surveys when buying a house?

  • Mortgage valuation: Despite often being called a ‘valuation survey’, this is not a survey at all. Instead, it’s a way for the mortgage lender to ensure the property is worth roughly what you’re planning to pay for it. It is nowhere near comprehensive enough to take the place of a property house survey.
    Approx. cost: £150-£1,500

  • RICS Condition report: As a basic survey, this report identifies any significant issues with the home without going into great detail. It typically operates on a traffic light system (red, amber, green) to rate each part of the property based on risk.
    Approx. cost: £400-£950

  • RICS HomeBuyer report: This is more in-depth than a condition report and is a great option for anyone buying an older property in seemingly decent condition. It highlights any significant problems, such as subsidence and damp, and checks for anything that doesn’t meet current building regulations. As a fairly non-intrusive process, only surface-level issues are identified. The property surveyor typically needs two to four hours to complete the report.
    Approx. cost: £450-£1,000

  • Building survey: Also known as a full structural survey, this is the most thorough it can get. It provides a comprehensive analysis of the property structure and condition, often taking a whole day to complete. This is a good survey to order if you’re planning to purchase a building over 50 years old, one of unusual design or one in poor condition. It is a hands-on process as the surveyor looks underneath floorboards, moves furniture and enters the attic. A detailed report will outline any major and minor issues revealed.
    Approx. cost: £600-£1,500

  • New building snagging survey: Buying a new-build home? You’ll need a slightly different type of survey. Even though you should get a 10-year warranty from the builder, this survey is specifically designed for new properties. It will uncover any problems, from minor cosmetic issues to structural concerns. The report is shared with the developer to resolve the issues before you move into the property.
    Approx. cost: £300-£600

How much is a house survey?

A house survey cost is not set in stone, so there will be variation. How much a house survey costs will largely depend on the type of survey you order, the surveyor you use and the stated value of the property. Generally, the surveys will cost less for properties priced under £250,000 than for a house over £500,000.

What do house surveyors look for?

The house surveyor has a legal obligation to discover and inform the buyer of any potential problems with a property. What a surveyor will look for during a house survey will depend on the survey you request. House surveyors will firstly look for any glaring issues that could be costly or dangerous, covering:

  • Signs of subsidence
  • Dangerous materials (e.g., asbestos)
  • Signs of infestations such as bats or rats
  • Drainage issues
  • Utilities including boiler and electric meter
  • Loft space
  • Roof
  • Signs of damp

The most comprehensive survey (a building survey) will:

  • Note the condition of each part of the property
  • Identify any defects, their apparent cause, the urgency of repair, maintenance options and the estimated repair cost
  • Examine all accessible and visible parts of a building, including the roof, chimney, windows, doors, floors, ceilings, as well as any garages or outbuildings

Start your own search

In most cases, ordering a house survey is a smart financial decision when home buying. Failing to find out the property’s underlying issues can be a costly mistake. Ready to find your next property? With Boomin, you can learn about properties days before they appear anywhere else online and then book a viewing instantly, 24/7. It’s your home search made smarter.

Faye deGavre

Content Writer