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What type of home survey do I need?

Fallen head over heels with a property? It’s important to have all the facts about it before you commit. A home survey can help you check your new home is in good condition and identify potential problems before you exchange contracts.

But which survey do you need and how much do they cost?

Fallen head over heels with a property? It’s important to have all the facts about it before you commit. A home survey can help you check your new home is in good condition and identify potential problems before you exchange contracts.

But which survey do you need and how much do they cost?

Written by
Sajni Shah
Consumer expert on money and utilities
18 JANUARY 2021
5 min read
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What is a home survey?

A home survey is an evaluation carried out by a qualified surveyor to assess the condition of a property. Although home surveys are optional, they’re very important when you’re buying a home.

  • A survey can uncover faults in a property so you won’t be faced with unforeseen repair work when you move in.
  • You can use the findings of the survey to negotiate if the valuation is below the agreed price, or arrange for problems to be fixed before you close the deal.
  • The results of a survey might even make you reconsider buying, if it reveals the property’s in a much worse condition than you expected.

Who should carry out a survey?

You’ll need to find a surveyor to carry out your survey. They should be a member of one of these organisations:

  • The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
  • The Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA)
  • Sava

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it’s up to the buyer to organise the survey. In Scotland, the seller provides a survey as part of the Home Report, although the buyer can also commission their own survey if they want to.

What does a survey look at?

There are several types of surveys. The one you choose will depend on the type and condition of the property, as well as its location, price and size.

Depending on the type you choose, the survey can give you essential information on:

  • the general condition of the building
  • any structural problems, like subsidence, rot or unstable walls
  • the state of services connected to the property – like the water and electrics
  • whether any repairs or maintenance are advised
  • estimates of the rebuild price for insurance purposes

The level of detail included in the report depends on the type of survey you choose. Generally, the more detailed the survey, the more it will cost.

Is a home survey different to a mortgage valuation?

Although they’re often confused, a mortgage valuation is not the same as a home survey.

Mortgage valuations are carried out on the mortgage lender’s behalf to make sure the property is worth what you’re paying for it. But a surveyor might not even visit the property and you won’t get the same in-depth, impartial advice as you do with a home survey. A mortgage valuation is done to protect the interests of the mortgage provider. A survey will help protect you.

I’m buying a new-build property. What type of home survey do I need?

If you’re buying a new build house or flat, the property shouldn’t have any major structural problems so, unless you have any specific concerns, you’ll probably need a RICS Condition Report.

This is the cheapest type of home survey. The surveyor will:

  • check the condition of the property
  • check services like gas and water are connected properly
  • highlight any defects, risks, or legal issues.

For this report, surveyors use a simple traffic light system, where green means everything is fine, orange means there is a potential risk and red means there’s an issue that needs resolving. However, the survey won’t offer any advice on repairs or tell you how much the property is worth.

A RICS Condition Report normally costs around £250.

Alternatively, you could consider a new-build snagging survey. This tends to be more expensive, normally £300 or more, and should also be carried out by a professional surveyor. Some companies specialise in this type of survey - they’ll check for faults and the quality of finish on the property.

Although your new property might come with an NHBC guarantee - a warranty covering quality of construction that could last for up to 10 years after purchase - it’s still a good idea to get a snagging survey done a week or two before money is sent to the builder on completion. This gives the developer time to fix problems - at no extra cost to you - before you move in.

Some snagging surveys offer a re-inspection for an extra cost, so you can be sure that remedial work has been carried out properly.

I’m buying a standard property in a reasonable condition. What type of home survey do I need?

If you’re buying a house or flat built in the past 100 years or so – and it seems to be in reasonably good condition – you might want to go for a RICS HomeBuyer Report.

If it’s not in good condition, you’ll need a more detailed building survey.

As well as looking at the general condition of the property. the HomeBuyer Report will look for any structural problems, such as damp or subsidence. It will give advice on any repairs and maintenance work needed and estimates of costs.

With a HomeBuyer Report, you can also opt in for a second valuation of the property (at extra cost). The report should also give you an estimate of how much the property would cost to rebuild, for the purposes of your buildings insurance.

A RICS HomeBuyer Report normally costs upwards of £400.

Alternatively, you could have a Sava Home Condition Survey. This is similar to a HomeBuyer Report, although it doesn’t include a valuation.

An RPSA Home Condition Survey is also an option. It includes colour-coded ratings, and costs start from around £450.

Of course, if you want full reassurance, you can still opt for a more expensive full structural survey.

I’m buying an older or non-conventional property, or a property in poor condition. What type of home survey do I need?

It’s important to be fully informed if you’re buying an older property, especially a listed building, or a non-standard property such as a thatched or timber house. For these types of properties, it’s a good idea to get the most comprehensive survey: the RICS Building Survey. It’s also a good idea to get this survey if you’re planning to renovate or convert a property, or if a property looks to be in poor condition.

Sometimes known as a full structural survey, the RICS Building Survey is more extensive than the HomeBuyer Report. Although the surveyor won’t go so far as ripping up the floorboards or looking inside the walls, they will look at accessible areas, such as attic or cellar space. They’ll also look at potential risks outside – such as large trees growing close to the property – and they can give you an idea of potential concerns in the local area.

The RICS Building Survey categorises issues as either 1, 2 or 3, depending on their severity, so you can easily see what should take priority. As well as advice on how to deal with the problems identified, the survey will detail the probable cause and the potential consequences if these problems aren’t fixed.

A RICS Building Survey typically costs more than £500.

The RPSA offers a similar Building Survey, providing a detailed review and photographs of a property’s condition. It also offers advice about repairs and ongoing maintenance. Price generally depends on the size, age and location of the property.

How do I arrange a home survey?

You can look for accredited local surveyors through:

Or, if you’re getting a mortgage to buy the property, your lender may be able to recommend a surveyor to you.

Your solicitor or estate agent may also recommend a surveyor. But sometimes, although not always, they might receive a commission that could be built into the cost, so you don’t have to go with their suggestion.

Read more about conveyancing fees when buying a new property.

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Sajni Shah - Consumer expert on utilities and money

Sajni is passionate about building products, allowing Compare the Market to help you make great financial decisions. She keeps track of the latest trends and evolving markets to find new ways to help you save money.

Learn more about Sajni

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