If you’ve had an offer on a property accepted and don't need a mortgage, it is advised that you organise a property survey before proceeding further. A survey is not a legal requirement, they exist to offer you further advice and information about the property.

Just because a survey is optional, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one. They can save you time and money by highlighting what might need repairing so you don’t have any nasty surprises once you’ve bought the property.

Mortgage valuation surveys are usually required by your lender. Mortgage valuations help them to determine whether the price of the property is accurate, this way they can be sure the amount they're lending matches the actual cost of the property. Whilst, not an in-depth survey, it will also uncover potential defects and give them enough information to determine if the property is safe to lend on.  

Who organises a survey when buying a house?

Usually the buyer would arrange for a survey to be completed. You should always use a registered surveyor who belongs to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA). Doing so will ensure you are using a certified professional to conduct the survey but make sure the surveyor you’re using is local and comes with good reviews.

Your estate agent, mortgage lender or solicitor may recommend a surveyor or you can also source one yourself. It's worth using comparison sites and asking family and friends for recommendations. 

How much does a property survey cost?

The price you pay for your survey will depend on the surveyor you use and the more detailed the survey, the more it will cost. The size and value of the property will also affect the cost; the larger or more expensive the property, the more expensive the survey will be.

The balance to consider is the cost of a survey against the potential costs involved in maintaining any issues it uncovers. You may potentially drop your offer price as a result of defects and therefore a survey could save you more money in the long run.

Condition reports £300
Homebuyer reports £400
Building surveys £600+

Which property survey should I use?

The age and type of property may affect what type of survey you get. Newer properties usually require less work and may only need a basic survey to highlight any potential issues that need fixing urgently. A more in-depth survey may be required for older or larger properties and is also recommended for properties unusual in their architecture or building material, such as a timber-framed or thatched-roof property. 

Condition Report

This is the most basic form of a property survey, it will highlight any serious/urgent risks or defects in the property that will need to be fixed. It doesn’t go into great detail so it's advisable for new homes or properties in good condition.

Homebuyer Report

This is a more in-depth report that highlights issues that could affect the property’s value and ongoing maintenance, e.g. damp or subsidence (when the property sinks into the ground). It is important to remember that the report will only cover what is initially visible to the surveyor; they won’t drill into walls or lift floors to inspect hidden aspects of the property.

If the report suggests any repairs and the surveyor offers an estimated price of repair, you could use this to justify lowering your offer on the property. As a result, surveys can save more than the cost of the survey itself. 

Homebuyer Reports sometimes have the option for a valuation too, this will estimate the value of the property on the open market. If this figure is lower than your offer, you can also use this information as evidence for reducing your offer.  

Building Survey

This is the most detailed survey for residential property. The surveyor will inspect and assess the whole structure and condition of the property, listing the defects and advising any repairs and maintenance that should be made. Since it is more in-depth, the surveyor will inspect all parts of the property, including chimneys, attics, cellars, walls and under floors.

Although the most expensive, it is ideal for properties that are older, listed or intended to be renovated extensively. By having a thorough knowledge of the property's condition, you will be able to factor in the extent of work needed to maintain or repair the property, and the costs involved.

Getting a survey done before selling

If you are selling a property and unsure of its current condition, having a survey conducted before you put it on the market can be beneficial. You could advertise at a higher price after resolving any issues the survey uncovered. Alternatively, you can make buyers aware of defects from the outset to avoid issues later on which could result in an offer being withdrawn.

Home Report in Scotland for sellers

In Scotland, it is the seller who must provide a Home Report and estate agents normally organise it. If that's not the case, sellers need to provide the report by hiring a surveyor—this can cost around £500.

The Home Report includes:

  • survey of the property
  • property valuation
  • council tax band
  • past issues and alterations
  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

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