The Types of Home / House Surveys

The Types of Home

The Types of Home Surveys

Buying a house is probably the single most expensive purchase of your life... so it's worth getting right.

Surveys are a way in which you can get qualified and accredited information about the condition of your new house and advice on remedial action.

Why is it important to do a survey?

When buying a second hand car, unless you're a mechanic, you're reliant upon the old owner assuring you that everything is ok... and they may not be a mechanic either so it's a little like the blind leading blind. And your biggest risk is having to spend a lot of money unexpectedly if something goes wrong.

Buying a house is very similar. They can have good owners, and bad owners, boy racers and careful lady owners.

Given the cost of the house, it is worth looking under the bonnet and instructing an impartial Chartered Surveyor to undertake a building report and assess the condition of the property. They will highlight any issues with the property, including looking at any structural issues, and advise on remedial action and estimated costs.

Where a property has had alterations, for example a loft bedroom or an extension, you will want to see evidence of the work being approved, such as a buildings regulations certificate. This may be something you want an experienced surveyor to inspect to save rebuilding the extension if there is a fault!

Whether you're a first-time buyer, a home-mover, or an experienced investor, an expert survey will help to identify potential issues with your prospective purchase.

What kind of survey do I need?

There are 2 main types of survey undertaken

Valuation Surveys

If you are purchasing with mortgage, your mortgage lender will carry out their own independent valuation of the property to verify that your purchase price is in line with the market valuation. This is primarily done to protect their asset as they will probably own most of the house for the first few years at least!

This survey will only provide a basic valuation of the property; it will not do any internal investigation, or consider any structural defects.

In a lot of cases mortgage providers will include this type of valuation at either a minimal cost, or free of charge to mortgage customers.

Click here to see how much your house could be worth

RICS Homebuyers Survey

RICS Homebuyers Surveys are carried out by professionally qualified RICS Chartered Surveyors. The reports come in 3 main tiers,

  • RICS Home Condition Report

For fairly new, straight forward and conventional houses, the Home Condition Report identifies any risks and potential legal issues with the property. It uses simple 'traffic light' ratings to clearly identify the condition of the key elements of the property and highlights any urgent defects

  • RICS Homebuyers Report

For older, fairly standard properties in need of some repair, the Homebuyers Report will provide a detailed report on potential pitfalls with your prospective home. The survey will identify structural defects and advise on the general condition of the property. The report will also provide an outline of estimated remedial action and costs.

  • RICS Building Survey

Essential for larger or older properties, or if you're planning major works. The most comprehensive report provides you with an in-depth analysis of the property's condition and includes advice on defects, repairs and maintenance options.

If there is a known issue, like subsidence, a full survey may help in getting insurance for the property.

What will a property survey tell me?

A surveyor's report nearly always finds some issues, especially with older homes. They provide good advice on potential issues with the building.

The most common things you'll have to investigate after a survey include:

  • Electrical installation
  • Problems with the roof
  • Central heating system
  • Damp and timber issues
  • Complications which will need a specialist structural engineer
  • Drainage


What do I do with it?

Surveys are good source of advice and usually find something to flag with a purchaser.

These issues can be used to go back to the vendors to negotiate a lower price if the cost of remediation is going to affect your decision to purchase the property.

Alternatively you might approach the seller to fix any issues highlighted before you agree to purchase the property

If a major issue is identified, for example a significant structural defect, you can still walk away from the transaction... unless you have exchanged contracts you are not yet legally bound to the purchase.

How do I instruct a house survey?

Your mortgage provider will likely instruct a valuation survey as part of their offer in principle.

If you ware wanting to instruct a more detailed RICS survey you can contact RICS directly for a list of accredited surveyors via their website

The cost of a RICS survey varies depending on whether you want a Home Condition Report (around £250) a Homebuyers Report (starting from around £400) or a Building Survey (around £500).