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What is a house survey?

Lydia Fitzsimons
Lydia Fitzsimons
  | Edited by Tom Church
Updated 2nd September 2021

Before you buy a house, you might want to arrange a house survey. This will ensure that you know any issues with the property that could be expensive to repair. In this guide, Latest Deals will explain the different types of house survey, house survey costs, how to get the most out of your house survey, and answer any other questions.

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What is a house survey?

Buying a house is an exciting time, and when your offer has been accepted on a property, you might want to arrange a house survey. This involves an expert surveyor carrying out an inspection of the property, and writing up a report. They will take note of any issues with the property, so you as a prospective buyer are aware of any underlying problems. 

This means that if there are any additional costs associated with the property, you’re aware before the sale is complete, and so have time to renegotiate.

Do I need a house survey?

Buying a property is an expensive process, and it can be tempting to avoid the cost of a house survey. However, it’s important to know if there are any faults with the house or flat you’re buying, as it could lead to costly repairs in the future.

Once a surveyor has completed a house survey on the property you’re buying, you’ll know all the costs associated with it. This will help you budget for renovations, and you may even be able to get a reduction on the price of the property, by negotiating with the seller.

For example, if the house survey report states that repairs will cost around £8,000, you can ask the seller to knock £8,000 off the agreed price, to cover the cost. Or, you can ask them to handle the repairs themselves before you exchange contracts.

House survey types

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There are three main types of survey, and the one that is suitable for your circumstances will vary depending on the type of property you’re buying.

Below is a basic outline of what to expect from each type of survey, and what sort of properties they’re designed for. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: What is included in your survey may vary depending on the surveyor you choose, so make sure you ask exactly what is included before scheduling the survey.

Condition Report (Level One)

  • Entry level, most basic type of survey. 
  • Suitable for more modern properties in good condition

The report will give an overview of the property, and note any serious problems, but won’t go into too much detail.

This house survey type uses a traffic light system to flag issues with the property, so you can easily identify any serious problems and areas that need to be repaired. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is the most basic option. It does not provide a market valuation or the cost of rebuilding if anything were to happen to the property. 

Homebuyer Report / Home Condition Survey (Level Two)

  • The most common type of house survey
  • Suitable for properties in a reasonably good condition
  • Employs an easy-to-use traffic light system to rate the condition of the property

A Homebuyer Report looks at everything that the Condition Report does, with a few extras. It identifies any issues that may affect the property’s value, as well as any serious issues with the property that will require repairs. It will also highlight any issues that don’t meet current building regulations, for example, damp.

A Homebuyer Report may also include the surveyor’s opinion on the value of the property, and how much a complete rebuild of the property would be, if it was destroyed.

IMPORTANT NOTE: It’s important to note that this type of survey is non-intrusive. This means that the surveyor will only identify surface issues, they won’t be looking under floorboards or behind furniture. 

Building Survey / Full Structural Survey (Level Three)

  • Suitable for properties older than fifty years
  • Suitable for properties with an unusual design
  • Suitable for renovation projects, or properties in poor condition
  • This is the most thorough type of survey available, and the report will outline a detailed breakdown of the property’s condition.

The surveyor will provide detailed information on the structure, construction and condition of the property you’re buying. They’ll be thorough in their inspection and will list any issues, report repairs and offer maintenance advice. They’ll also note any problems that could affect the value of the company.

You can also ask your surveyor to give estimates of the costs and timeframe of the repairs needed.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This type of house survey is typically used only for houses, not flats.

Extra: Snagging survey

  • Suitable for new build properties. 

A surveyor will inspect your new-build home and identify any issues, ranging from minor issues with the appearance of the property, to structural problems. 

Once the report is completed, you can give it to your developer. They can get any issues sorted before you move in, under your developer guarantee warranty.

Compare house survey types

Survey typeWhat’s includedSuitable property typeEstimated cost
Condition Report(Level One)An overview of the property’s condition. The report will note any safety issues, legal issues and urgent problems.Standard properties
Relatively new homes
£400 - £798
Homebuyers Report(Level Two)Includes everything from the Condition Report.
The report will also include issues that may affect the value of the property, and give advice on maintenance costs and repairs.
Standard properties, in a reasonable condition.£600 - £1,250
Building Survey(Level Three)A detailed look at the property’s condition and construction.
The report will offer advice on repairs and how to maintain the property.
Larger properties, or properties older than fifty years.
Unusual properties, properties in poor condition, or renovation projects.
£800 - £1,425
Snagging SurveyA visual check of the property to ensure it meets current building regulations.New build propertiesFrom £300

House survey costs

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House survey costs will vary depending on which type of survey you opt for, the value of the property being surveyed, and the size and location of the property.

The price will also depend on the surveyor you use, so it’s recommended that you get a few quotes before deciding on one.

Here are some examples of house survey costs to give you an idea.

Price of the PropertyCondition ReportHomebuyer ReportBuilding Survey
Up to £100,000£400£600£800
£100,000 - £249,000£420 - £480£600 - £650£800 - £850
£250,000 - £349,000£510 - £600£650 - £750£850 - £925
£350,000 - £499,000£600 - £720£750 - £800£925 - £975
£500,000+£798+£800 - £1,250£975 - £1,425

This information is taken from SDL Surveying (September, 2021)

IMPORTANT NOTE: The final cost of your house survey will depend on the surveyor you use, this is only a guide to give you an idea of what you can expect.

How to find a surveyor

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There are lots of options when it comes to surveyors, from large companies to individual professionals. It’s up to you to decide who you want to go with, but you need to make sure that they’re registered with a trade association.

There are three types of trade associations a surveyor could be registered with. You can find a surveyor through these trade associations:

When will I get my house survey results?

After a surveyor has completed their inspection, they will write up a report detailing their findings. 

After the inspection, your surveyor will let you know an approximate time when the report will be completed. This will vary depending on the surveyor you use and the state of the property, but should take no longer than ten days.

Survey results

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Once you receive the house survey report from your surveyor, you need to read it through and ensure you understand everything. This can be tricky, as often the report contains a lot of jargon.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) is one of the trade associations that surveyors can belong to. Rics have a house diagram that is helpful in breaking down the different areas of a property, and you can find this on page 47.

Get the most out of your survey results

House surveys are expensive, so it’s important that you get as much out of your survey as possible. 

Here are some ways you can maximise your house survey:

  1. When your surveyor arrives to carry out the survey, make sure you mention any concerns you have with the property.
  1. Walk through the property with your surveyor as they carry out the survey. This way, you can ensure that the surveyor has looked at everything, and they’re being thorough.
  1. Asking questions during the house survey is really important. If you’re planning on buying the property you should know as much about it as possible. Your surveyor is also likely to say a lot more than they write in their report, so you should make sure you understand everything.

What to do if issues are flagged in your survey

If you get a bad house survey report back on the property you’re interested in buying, the first thing you should do is speak to the surveyor. They can give you a solid overview of their findings and what it means for you as the buyer. 

If you feel that the survey has highlighted too many issues on the property, and you no longer see it as a good investment, you can pull out of the sale.

Alternatively, you can get a second opinion from a different surveyor, and make a decision from there.

What is not included in the survey?

A Building Report provides the comprehensive inspection on a property. However, your surveyor won’t be able to check for every issue possible. If you have specific questions or are concerned about something specific with the property, you can ask your surveyor to conduct a defect report. This is a report focusing on a specific issue, and detailing any risks associated with it.

There are some things that your surveyor won’t include in their report. This includes inaccessible areas, such as the roof, drains tests and electrical tests. If you want to check the electrics in the property you’re interested in purchasing, you can arrange an electrical installation condition report. This usually costs around £200, depending on who carries it out.

What’s the difference between a house survey and mortgage valuation?

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A mortgage valuation is not the same as a house survey.

Once you have applied for a mortgage, a lender will conduct a valuation on the house you’re interested in purchasing. This is to ensure that you’re paying roughly what the property is worth. This is often referred to as a valuation survey, however, this is not the same as a house survey.

Often, the lender won’t even visit the property when carrying out the valuation survey, and if they do, their checks are not the same as a surveyors would be for a house survey.

If you want to find out more on how to get a mortgage, read our guide.

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