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What type of house survey do I need?

If you've had an offer accepted on a property, you'll be wondering whether you need a house survey and if so which one. We look at different types of house surveys, home survey costs and which type of home survey is right for your property, where to find a good surveyor and - most importantly - how to get the most out of your survey.

house surveys

What is a house survey?

A house survey is an inspection of a property’s condition conducted by experts. The experts – surveyors – inspect the property and tell you if there are any issues to do with the condition of the property from minor to significant structural problems. They will highlight what repairs or alterations are needed, whether it’s addressing a damp patch or replacing a whole roof. The report from the surveyor also provides expert commentary on the property, from the type of walls to the type of glazing.

It is the home buyer who usually organises a house survey after their offer has been accepted by the seller. The buyer arranges and pays for the survey. 

Do I need to get a house survey?

You don’t need to get a survey done on the property you are buying. But a survey can help you avoid expensive and unwanted surprises, like an unexpected rewiring job, as well as giving you peace of mind by telling you that those hairline cracks, for example, don’t mean the house is falling down. Given the hundreds of thousands of pounds it costs to buy a property, a few hundred pounds on a survey to have the reassurance of an independent, expert surveyor looking over it feels like a good investment.

With the information from the survey you might reconsider whether to buy the property or use the unbiased information you have to renegotiate the price. If you find for example it needs £15,000 of roof repairs, it is reasonable to ask for £15,000 off the price. Alternatively, you might ask the seller to fix any problems before you buy.

If you’re asking should I get a survey when buying a house, we would recommend it, particularly if:

  • you have specific worries about any part of the property
  • you’re unsure about what sort of condition the property is in
  • you are looking to buy an old or unusual property
  • the property has a thatched roof or is timber framed
  • it is a listed building

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Types of house survey 

There are a number of different types of house survey. What you choose depends on the depth of survey you want, your budget, plus the age and condition of the property – read on for more details.

It’s worth noting that in March 2021, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) launched new formats for home survey reports. So what was once known as Condition Report, HomeBuyer Report and Building Survey have been changed and updated.

Here are the different types of survey in 2022:

RICS Home Survey – Level 1

The RICS Home Survey Level 1 is the most basic – and cheapest – survey. It is suitable if you’re buying a conventional property built from common building materials and in reasonable condition. It was previously called a Condition Report.

The Level 1 survey provides a ‘traffic light’ rating of the condition of different parts of the building, services, and the grounds, showing problems that may require varying degrees of attention and an assessment of the relative importance of the problems. It also includes a summary of risks to the building, people and grounds. But the report doesn’t go into much detail and doesn’t include any advice nor a valuation.

RICS Home Survey – Level 2

Previously called a Home Buyer Report or Homebuyer survey, this mid-level survey is a popular choice for most people buying a conventional property in reasonable condition. It covers everything you’d get in a RICS Home Survey Level 1, plus they check roof spaces and cellars. 

You’ll also get recommendations for further investigations where the property surveyor is unable to reach a conclusion with reasonable confidence. The report will also give advice on budget for any repairs and on the amount of ongoing maintenance required in the future

RICS Home Survey Level 2 are offered with or without a valuation. If you opt for a Home Survey Level 2 with Valuation, it will also include a market value, an insurance reinstatement figure and a list of problems that the property surveyor considers may affect the value of the property.

You can download an example of RICS Home Survey Level 2 with a valuation and without a valuation from their website. 

For more information on RICS Home Survey Level 2, see our guide Homebuyer Survey explained.

RPSA Home Condition Survey

An RPSA Home Condition Survey is equivalent to the RICS Home Survey Level 2. Offered by the Residential Property Surveyors Association rather than RICS, Home Condition Surveys are produced in a consistent, consumer friendly format. They’re independently checked to ensure consistency and quality. And you’ll get information like broadband speed, damp assessment and boundary issues for the conveyancer to consider.

You can download an example of the RPSA Home Condition Survey for further information.

RICS Home Survey – Level 3

The RICS Home Survey Level 3, also known as a full structural survey and previously as a RICS Building Survey, is the most thorough survey offered by RICS.

It is a good house survey option if you’re buying a property over 50 years old, of unusual design, is a listed building or in poor condition; if you’re planning to undertake renovations or have any concerns about the property. And while they are more expensive, they are thorough. 

The Level 3 survey will include everything you would get in a RICS Home Survey Level 2, plus it will describe the identifiable risk and causes of potential or hidden defects in areas not inspected. It will outline the likely scope of any appropriate remedial work and explain the likely consequences of non-repair. Plus you’ll get recommendations in respect of the priority and likely timescale for necessary repairs.

Instantly find and compare quotes from local qualified surveyors using our find a surveyor tool

RPSA Building Survey

While the RPSA Building Survey is the highest level of non-invasive survey from RPSA. You’ll get everything from the Home Condition survey plus  more comprehensive descriptions of construction and defects. It also gives explanations of how to go about rectifying defects and the consequences of not doing this. 

Survey costs by type of survey

A RICS Home Survey Level 1 can typically cost between £300-£900.

While a RICS Home Survey Level 2 can generally cost between £400-£1000. A RPSA Home Condition Surveys typically cost between £400-£900.

The RICS Home Survey Level 3 and RPSA Building Surveys can typically cost from £630 to £1500 or even more depending on the property. 

See our guide on how much surveys cost in 2022 for more detailed information on costs and why property surveys can end up costing more.

Instantly find and compare quotes from local chartered surveyors using our find a surveyor tool

Video – What type of survey

How to get a house survey

You’ll need to choose a good surveyor. To do this you should: 

  1. Shop around: Get quotes from a few firms and compare. Don’t just go with the property surveyor recommended by your bank, estate agent, mortgage lender or other property expert as this can end up costing you more.
  2. Double check: Check your house surveyor is a member of RICS – he or she will have the letters MRICS or FRICS after his or her name. The RICS ensures that all its members maintain professional standards in their work. Or that they are a current member of the Residential Property Surveyors Association
  3. Know what you’re getting: We often hear complaints that property survey reports come with so many caveats that it is difficult to know how to respond to them. So ask if you can see copies of past reports – will that sort of report be useful for your situation?

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And when booking your property survey, always:

  • Read the Terms of Engagement the property surveyor gives you as this will tell you what they will and won’t be doing. 
  • Find out when the house survey will be undertaken and when you’ll get your report.
  • Have direct contact with the house surveyor who’ll be undertaking the property survey so you’re able to ask questions if anything is unclear.

How can I get the most out of my survey?

When you appoint your house surveyor tell them if there are any particular concerns you have about the property.

Walk through the house with them. Make sure they look at everything, move furniture and have a good poke around.

Ask questions – point out things that worry you and ask about them. It’s your house so you should understand everything.

What is a property surveyor?

Property surveys should be carried out by qualified surveyors. Check the surveyor you instruct is a member of one of the two main accrediting bodies. 

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

Bear in mind, a local surveyor is likely to have a better knowledge of market values in the area.

Equally, if you are buying an unusual house, get a surveyor with experience in that specific field.

Survey costs vary from company to company, and depend on the size and location of the property.

Instantly find and compare quotes from local qualified surveyors using our find a surveyor tool

How long does a house survey take? 

How long it takes to carry out a house survey will depend on the size of the property and the type of property survey you choose.

However, for example:

  • A RICS Level 1 survey may only take an hour to complete
  • A RICS Level 2 survey could take up to 3 hours
  • While A RICS Level 3 survey – a full structural survey – can vary widely. And it could take as long as a day to complete. 

For more information, see our guide How long does a survey take?

Do you need a survey on a new build property?

For new build properties, we recommend that a professional snagging survey is carried out.  A snagging survey will identify defects or problems which need fixing before you move in. A professional snagging survey on a new build should spot minor issues like a door that’s misaligned and catching on the carpet to something more serious that could affect the structure of your home. These typically cost between £300 and £600.

If the new build you are buying is built and ready, do a snagging survey ideally before exchange. If it’s off-plan, then try to carry out the survey pre-completion when you will have more negotiating power to get any problems fixed. This is assuming the developer lets you on site, which often they do not, in which case get a snagging survey carried out as soon as possible after moving in.

Get a New Build Snagging Survey

Whether you're about to complete on a new build home or have moved in to find problems, we can connect you with an independent on-site snagging inspector today.

Get a snagging survey quote online

Given the number of complaints and calls for help we get from visitors to our website, the HomeOwners Alliance is proud to have teamed up with one of the best known snagging inspectors in the UK, New Build Inspections. Unlike many other snagging companies, they never work for developers or builders so can retain their independence. Get a free, no obligation quote from New Build Inspectors.

Is a mortgage valuation a survey? 

No. A mortgage valuation is not a survey. It is a cursory look at a property to assess how much the property is worth. Your mortgage lender requires a valuation to ensure the property is sufficient security for the loan. Your lender will insist on using a company they trust and you will have to pay for it. The cost of a mortgage valuation varies depending on the size of the property (from around £350). Some lenders throw in free valuations as part of a mortgage deal; but don’t let that sway you. A deal with a lower interest rate is likely to save you far more over time, even if you pay more for the mortgage valuation. For mortgage advice, our fee free mortgage brokers at L&C can help.

What to do if issues are flagged in your survey

If the property you want to buy has items flagged in the survey, do take a look at our guide What to do after a bad survey report”

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