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

It's important that you get a house survey done when you have an offer accepted on a property you want to buy. 

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. Here, we explain the different types of house survey and house survey costs, to help you decide which option is right for you.

Types of house survey

There are three main types of survey. There are no hard and fast rules about which type of survey to 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 to get done is a 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?
Condition report
  • The most basic survey you can get
  • Will give you an overview of the property's condition and highlight significant issues, but won't go into detail
  • Will give traffic light ratings for the condition of different parts of the property

A condition report is useful for a modern house in good condition. 

It will provide you with reassurance if you just want to double-check everything is ok.

Homebuyer's report
  • More detailed than a condition report
  • Will highlight problems with the property, such as damp or subsidence
  • Includes advice on necessary repairs as well as ongoing maintenance advice
  • Will point out anything that doesn't meet current building regulations
  • The survey will be non-intrusive - the surveyor will not look behind furniture or under floor boards, so they'll only be able to identify 'surface-level' problems
  • It will take about two to four hours to complete

A homebuyer's report is suitable for most modern properties as well as older properties, provided they're in a reasonable condition.

It's a good option if you have some concerns about a property.

Buildings survey
  • The most thorough survey you can get
  • Provides a comprehensive breakdown of the structure and condition of the property
  • Will list defects and advise 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

Buildings surveys are particularly useful if you're buying an older or unusual property, or one that's in a poor condition. 

If you're planning to do significant work or have major concerns about a property you should get this kind of survey done.

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.

House survey costs
Survey typeTypical cost
Condition report£150 - £300
Homebuyer's report£250 - £600
Buildings survey£500 - £1,000

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 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.

Go further: The 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. The Which? Group 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.

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