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What is a home buyers survey?

9 min read

A home buyers survey is an important part of your property purchase, and can help avoid nasty surprises later on. Our guide to surveys gives you all you need to know.

  • Abigail Bolton Senior Digital Website and Content Marketing Executive
    Abigail Bolton

    SEO Specialist and Senior Copywriter

    Published June 3rd 2024

surveyor completing a home buyers survey report

A home buyers survey is an important part of any property purchase. This is because surveys flag potential issues with the property before the purchase is final. This helps you to avoid unexpected issues and costs later down the line.

Find out what home buyers surveys are, how much they cost and how long they take to complete in our article, or get a home survey quote for your house purchase.

In this article:

What is a home buyers survey?

A home survey, previously known as a condition report or homebuyers survey, is a detailed inspection carried out on a property once you’ve had your offer accepted. The visual inspection is carried out by a surveyor and provides detail on the overall condition of the property you want to purchase.

They will provide you with expert analysis on things like the property’s age, type of walls, glazing, roof and the drainage of the property to help identify any potential damp, subsidence, or structural issues, detailing any work that needs to be carried out. They’ll also inspect outside to help detect issues such as Japanese knotweed.

The purpose of a survey is so you view and address any potential issues before you’re legally bound to purchase the property.

There are various levels of home surveys, find out more about the different levels of survey.

Why do you need a home buyer’s survey?

Whether you’re buying your first home or are an expert mover, buying a house is a big financial commitment and surveys help to make sure you’re making a wise investment.

If your survey doesn’t come up with any issues, then great, you can continue with your purchase with that extra peace of mind, making your leap into the unknown a little less scary.

If issues are raised, then you can decide if the property is still right for you before it's too late. It also allows you to renegotiate your offer based on the estimated costs for repairs or fixes are provided, especially if they were unexpected issues.

What are the differences between each type of survey?

There are different levels of survey that go into varying degrees of detail. Each should inform you of any work needed on your new home, both imminently and in the future. Wondering which is best for you? Consider the age and visible condition of your property. And remember to choose your home survey based on the building you’re buying, rather than how much the survey costs.

Here’s what’s included in each survey type:

Survey typeTypical costs
Valuation survey: an independent review of the property’s value, arranged by your mortgage provider. All properties will need this if being purchased with a mortgage.Starts from £200, or included as a benefit of your mortgage offer.
RICS Home Survey Level 1: a brief overview of the overall condition of the property, also notifying you of any legal issues concerning your purchase. These are suitable for newer builds, or conventional homes in a good state.£300 – £700.
RICS Home Survey Level 2: a visual inspection of the property raising any structural, subsidence, or damp issues. Rates all permanent structures and highlights any issues which could affect the value of the property. You can also request an independent valuation on top of this, at an extra cost. These are suitable for conventional homes in a reasonable condition.£400 – £1,000.
RICS Home Survey Level 3: a comprehensive insight into the property’s condition, which grades the seriousness of each issue. With advice on defects, repairs, and maintenance options. You’ll also get a warning of what could go wrong if you don’t address the issues raised. These are suitable for older properties and larger properties.£600 – £1,500.

What survey do I need when buying a house?

As a minimum, you should consider a RICS Home Survey Level 1 Report. Even if the house is in a good condition and nothing appears to be wrong, it’s still wise to check there are no small unknown issues.

A RICS Home Survey Level 2 Report is the suitable option for most purchases. It goes into more detail than a Level 1 survey, such as checking the roof and cellar spaces and you’ll also get advice on the costs for making any repairs, which is useful to know upfront.

As the RICS Level 3 Survey is the highest level of homebuyer’s report available, it’s a good option if you’re planning to do any major building work, or buying a listed building. Thanks to a clear presentation style and a rating system that grades the seriousness of each issue, these reports are easy to understand and include in-depth analysis of the property’s condition.

If you’re not sure which level of survey you need, a house surveyor will be able to help advise.

How long does a home buyers survey take?

Depending on the state of the property market, your surveyor may be able to fit you in within a few days, or it could take a few weeks to get an appointment. You should book your report as early as possible to avoid the survey slowing down your purchase further down the line. The sooner you get it done, the sooner you can iron out any issues and pencil in an exchange date.

Your house surveyor will need between an hour and a half to four hours to complete a Level 2 Report. A Building Survey, or Level 3 Report, on the other hand, could take up to eight hours, depending on the size of your property. Your surveyor should be able to provide a more accurate estimate when they know more details about the property.

Once the survey itself is complete, you then have to wait for the results. For a basic report this wait could be just a few hours, however, the results from a full structural survey may take 10 working days.

Do you need a home buyers survey on a new build?

If you’re looking at buying a newly built home, it’s a good idea to get a new-build snagging survey. This is an independent inspection that highlights any issues your developer needs to address and fix. If the house is built, you should arrange a snagging survey before you exchange contracts. If the new build is off-plan (has not yet been built), you should try and get the snagging survey before you complete. However, often this isn’t possible as the developers may not let you on-site until you have completed, in which case get a snagging survey as soon as you can, after you’ve move in.

What is included in a snagging survey?

Snagging surveys usually include an evaluation of all exterior and interior spaces to highlight any issues. Whether they’re significant structural issues, such as work that doesn’t meet the warranty standard, building regulations or breaches other new build guidance. As well as smaller issues such as identifying any work that is outstanding or needs to be rectified.

Snagging surveys cost upwards of £300.

How can I do a home buyers survey?

When your offer has been accepted you will need a surveyor to complete your home buyers survey. Using a RICS qualified surveyor that you can trust is important, as a house purchase is a big investment. We work with an award-winning surveyor, The Moving Portal. Find out more about The Moving Portal and get your RICS home survey quote today.

Home buyer survey FAQs

How much does a home buyers survey cost?

The cost of a home buyers survey depends on your property’s price and location, and the level of survey you want to get. For example, if you’re buying a house for £180,000 and only require the basic survey, you could pay around £300. Whereas, if you’re buying a renovation property for £1,000,000 and need to get the most comprehensive survey, it’s more likely you’ll pay around £1,500 for a survey. Find out more about the differences between each type of survey, including the rough costs for each.

What does a house surveyor look for?

What’s covered in a homebuyer’s report will vary depending on the level you opt for.

More thorough reports tend to cover:

  • Key information on the property and its age, as well as estimated rebuild costs

  • A visual inspection of significant indoor features, including walls, windows, ceilings, bathrooms and loft space

  • Damp inspection and tests

  • Any clear alterations to the property, e.g. wall removal and extensions

  • A visual inspection of significant outdoor features, including gutters, the roof, damp-proofing and drainage

  • Signs of subsidence

Bear in mind that a building survey (generally the most expensive option) will carry out more comprehensive checks to uncover less visually obvious issues.

What does a home buyers survey include?

A Structural Survey or Building Survey now knows as a RICS Level 3 Survey is the most in-depth survey type. A surveyor will carry out a comprehensive inspection of the property, detailing the condition of the whole house and identifying any defects with their expected cause. This report also includes your maintenance options for the highlighted defects as well as the approximate costs to resolve.

What’s not covered in a homebuyer’s survey?

  • Communal areas of the property (for example the common parts of block of flats)

  • Surveyors will only cover visible elements of the property, so they won’t do things like lift up carpets and floorboards, check behind wardrobes or inspect wiring.

What is the difference between a basic and a full survey? 

The difference between these two survey types is the level of detail that the surveyor will go into. A basic Homebuyers Report, known as a RICS Home Survey Level 1 just looks at the overall condition of a property and is most suited to newer homes suspected to be in a good condition. A full Building Survey, known as a RICS Home Survey Level 3 is a lot more detailed. As well as detecting any issues, the report will also grade the seriousness of the issue and provide advice on maintaining or fixing any defects. Find out more about the different levels of home surveys you can get.

What is the difference between a mortgage valuation report and a home buyers survey? 

A mortgage valuation is a survey carried out by your mortgage provider that decides whether they’re willing to lend you the amount requested. It’s usually desk-based research that looks at the prices of similar properties recently sold in a nearby area. A home survey, however, is an inspection of your house that looks at the overall condition. Find out more about the different levels of home surveys you can get.

How do I get a copy of my home survey report?

Your surveyor will send you a copy of your report – likely via email.

How do I find a house surveyor?

You’ll want a recognised surveyor to carry out your report, so it’s a good idea to choose one that’s recognised by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. You could also go with a recommendation from a friend or family member.

How can I get the most out of my survey?

If you’re not able to attend the inspection with your surveyor, let them know any specific concerns you have about the property, so they can cast an expert eye over the areas troubling you and report back. It’s also worth mentioning if you have specific plans in mind, for example a loft conversion or kitchen extension, so that the surveyor can bear that in mind when looking at those areas.

What should I do if the survey flags issues?

Receiving unwanted news from a survey doesn’t mean you need to pull out of your purchase all together. Go through each issue with your surveyor, discussing what it means and whether it’s a minor concern or a major problem – ideally during or just after the inspection at the property, if possible.

From electrical issues and damp, to problems with the roof or central heating system, there are ways to deal with any concern that’s raised. You can find out whether problems are covered by a guarantee, get advice from your surveyor on how to fix an issue, and obtain quotes from a builder where necessary.

If a costly, timely or potentially dangerous problem is spotted, raise it with your seller. You could ask them to get the work sorted before you move in or renegotiate your offer on the property to accommodate the cost of essential work.

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