Buying a house House surveys explained

A surveyor on a building site

You should get a survey done even if you are buying a brand new home

When buying a house or flat, it's important that you get a house survey done once your offer has been accepted. Here, we explain house survey costs, the differences between a HomeBuyer's Report, building survey and condition report, and what the best option might be for the home you're buying.

House surveys will help you find out about the condition of the building and, if there are problems, give you a powerful reason for negotiating the buying price down or asking the seller to fix the problems before you move in.

Types of house survey

There are three main types of survey: a condition report, a HomeBuyer's Report (formerly known as the HomeBuyer's Survey) and a building survey. There are no hard and fast rules about which type of survey you should get, it will mostly depend on how much detail you want and the age of the property you're buying.

The most popular type of survey is the HomeBuyer's report, but you may decide a different one would be better for your situation.

Different types of house survey
Survey typeWhat does it include?When is it suitable?
Mortgage valuation
  • A mortgage lender's valuation is not the same as a proper house survey
  • It's carried out on your mortgage lender's behalf, not yours (despite the fact that it's often you paying for it). It only exists to confirm whether the property you want to buy is worth roughly the amount you want to pay for it, so the lender can decide whether to lend you the amount you're asking for
  • Despite often being called a valuation 'survey', it won't tell you anything about the condition of a property

Mortgage valuation reports are usually requested by the lender before they make a formal mortgage offer.

Rics condition report
  • The most basic 'proper' survey you can get
  • Gives an overview of the property's condition and highlights significant issues, but doesn't go into detail
  • Gives traffic light ratings for the condition of different parts of the property
Suitable if you're buying a relatively new property with no previous issues, and just want some reassurance that everything is OK.
Rics HomeBuyer's report
  • More detailed than a condition report
  • Highlights problems such as damp or subsidence
  • Includes advice on necessary repairs and ongoing maintenance
  • Points out anything that doesn't meet current building regulations
  • Non-intrusive - the surveyor will not look behind furniture or under floorboards, so they'll only be able to identify 'surface-level' problems
  • Includes a market valuation and re-build cost
  • Takes about two to four hours to complete

The most popular type of survey, and the standard choice for most properties that are in a reasonable condition.

If you're buying a particularly unique or period property, or one that requires significant renovation, it's best to upgrade to a building survey.

Sava home condition surveySuitable for most types of property, as with the Rics HomeBuyer's Report.
Rics building survey
  • The most thorough survey you can get
  • Provides a comprehensive analysis of the structure and condition of the property
  • Lists defects and advises on repairs and maintenance
  • The surveyor will be 'hands on' and will do things like checking in the attic and looking under floorboards
  • You can ask for the report to include projected costs and timings for any repair work 
  • Depending on the size of the property it may take a day to complete

Particularly useful if you're buying a property that's over 50 years old or in a poor condition. 

Also worthwhile if you're planning to do significant work or have major concerns about a property.

New-build snagging survey
  • Identifies defects with a new-build home, including everything from small cosmetic issues to structural problems
  • The report can be given to your developer before you move into the property so you can get any issues sorted as quickly as possible under your two-year developer warranty

An important investment for anyone moving into a new-build home. You can conduct your own snagging survey, but we recommend getting the professionals in. 

Check out our full guide to snagging surveys

House survey costs

How much a property survey will cost will vary a lot depending on the location, size and type of your property. Different surveyors will also charge varying amounts, so make sure you get several quotes before choosing who to use. 

The figures below should give you a rough idea of what to expect to pay for a HomeBuyer's Report and building survey. Condition reports cost around £150 to £300.

Estimated survey costs
Value of property
 Up to £99,000£100,000 - £249,000£250,000 - £350,000£401,000 - £450,000£501,000+
Homebuyer's Report£350£500£600£700£950
Building survey£500£700£800£900£1,300

Do I really need a survey?

At a time when you’re already spending a lot of money, a survey can seem like a big expense. However, it’s far better to be aware of any issues before you buy a house so that you can make an informed decision about how much you’re willing to pay for it and, if necessary, budget for any repair work that will need doing.

You may also be able to use the information in the survey to negotiate with the vendor. For example if your survey finds that you will need to undertake repairs costing £10,000 you could ask for £10,000 off the price, or alternatively ask them to make the necessary repairs before you move in.

New-build snagging survey

The exception to this rule is if you are buying a new-build property, when an ordinary survey shouldn't be necessary. However you may decide to get a new-build snagging survey done on the property.

This is a specialist survey for new homes that will pick up mistakes such as plumbing the hot to the cold tap or poorly finished paintwork. Your independent inspector will also be able to arrange for the developer to sort out any defects found.

A mortgage valuation is not the same as a full survey

It’s easy to get confused between the lender’s mortgage valuation survey and a survey that is done for you. You will have to pay for a valuation report in order to secure a mortgage offer but this is entirely for the lender’s benefit.

The mortgage valuation merely confirms to the lender that the property is worth at least what it is lending you – it is not its responsibility to point out any repairs that need doing.

You should take the cost of the valuation into account when choosing a mortgage. The mortgage lender can carry out an independent survey for you when it does the valuation but you will have to pay extra for this.

Find out more: cost of buying a house - a round-up of all the fees you have to pay when buying a property

Need mortgage advice?

We believe you should seek independent mortgage advice before taking out a mortgage. Which? offers an independent mortgage advice service, Which? Mortgage Advisers, that looks at every mortgage from every available lender and will find the best mortgage deal for your circumstances.

If you're thinking about buying, selling or remortgaging your home call an expert at Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0808 252 7987 to find the right option for you.

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