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Home buyers surveys

6 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

    Senior Digital Marketing Executive

    Published January 23rd 2024

surveyor completing a home buyers survey report

A home buyers survey is a 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 inspection is carried out by a surveyor and provides detail on the overall condition of the property you want to purchase. There are various levels of home surveys, find out more about these below.

Why do you need a homebuyer’s survey?

First-time buyers:

Buying a house is a big financial commitment and surveys help to make sure you’re making a wise investment. Your survey may not come up with anything, however, if it does, you can continue with your purchase, knowing what to expect. Ultimately surveys are important as they can give you peace of mind, which will help make your leap into the unknown a little less scary.

Home movers:

If you’re an expert mover, getting a home survey is still strongly recommended, as they can save you money and hassle in the future…

  • The home survey will provide you with expert analysis on things like the property’s age, type of walls, glazing and roof, as well as detailing any work that needs to be carried out.

  • If a costly issue is raised in the report – say the roof needs repairs, or the home is likely to require a rewire – you’ll have the facts and time needed to renegotiate the property price or pull out of the purchase.

  • You’ll have the ultimate snag list for once you move in. Depending on the level you opt for, the homebuyer’s report produced off the back of the survey will share every little structural flag, prioritised by importance and broken down by estimated cost. So you’ll know your list of must-do jobs from day one.

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 mortgageStarts 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 new 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. 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.

Home buyer survey FAQs

What is a snagging survey?

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 before your move-in date. These surveys cost upwards of £300.

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 full house 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.

How long does a homebuyer’s 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.

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 or the Residential Property Surveyors Association. 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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