Guide to Surveying

About this guide

Property surveys are vital when it comes to choosing a house. When you're buying a house, you’ll need to hire a chartered surveyor to organise a house survey and present you with a report on the property’s condition. Compare My Move have created this guide on surveying to bring you everything you need to know.

Regardless of what survey you choose, you will need your surveyor to be RICS regulated. RICS is the regulatory body for chartered surveyors and will mean they are fully qualified and trusted. We take a look at what is RICS to help you spot a reliable surveyor. 

Surveying can seem daunting, especially if you're buying your first home. Our surveying guide will explore what is a chartered surveyor to ensure you're fully prepared for the service and process of having a property survey. 

Once you understand the process and the importance of having a property survey, you'll need to decide which survey is best for you. Our article on what type of survey do I need will explore each property survey option and highlight which property type it is best suited to. 

After you've learnt the best survey type, it's time to hire a property surveyor. There are certain accreditations and factors to look for when hiring a surveyor, we include them throughout our surveying guide, especially in our article on how to find a surveyor.

By having all the important information in one place, with a focus on RICS, what is a chartered surveyor, the best survey for you and hiring a surveyor, you will be fully prepared. After reading through the complete guide, we hope you’ll feel confident about what to expect when having a property survey.

  • 1. What is RICS?

    RICS is the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the official body for chartered surveyors and the internationally foremost qualification in property and construction. 

    RICS members are fully qualified in every aspect of property matters and are bound to high standards set by RICS to maintain a quality and trustworthy service. Using a RICS surveyor will guarantee your survey will be conducted by a regulated professional. 

    All members must follow the ‘RICS Rules of Conduct’ which includes being covered by professional indemnity insurance, ensures that the customer is fully protected throughout the process. 

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  • 2. What is a chartered surveyor?

    A chartered surveyor is a highly-trained and experienced house surveyor who can provide you with specialist advice on property-related issues. They’re fully qualified to undertake a property survey to assess your home and its current condition, informing you if there are any issues or defects that will need repair work. 

    To ensure that they are a verified chartered surveyor, they must belong to a professional regulatory body. The majority of surveyors are regulated by The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), meaning they must adhere to the high standards set and have the necessary qualifications to complete the work. 

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  • 3. What survey do I need?

    The type of property you’re buying will have the biggest effect on which survey you will need. Here are the types of house surveys available to you and which properties they’re most suited to:

    At a basic level, a Condition Report is suitable for new build properties or properties that are under 5 years old. A Homebuyers Survey is best suited to the type of property that isn't of high risk or over 50 years old, while a Building Survey is more in-depth and for properties over 50 years old or that are unusually constructed. 

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  • 4. How do I find a surveyor?

    The best way to find a trusted and reliable surveyor is to use a comparison website such as Compare My Move. Our team works hard to ensure that our network of reliable RICS regulated surveying partners are closely monitored and put through our verification process. By using a comparison website, you can save both time and money by comparing quotes, comparing independent surveyors to larger firms and by reading the reviews. 

    When choosing a surveyor, don’t forget to check that they’re RICS regulated to ensure that they’re fully qualified and experienced to help you through the process. You can check that they’re accredited by using the tool on the RICS website which is accessible via the link here. If there’s a specific issue that needs remedying, then don’t forget to compare specialist surveyors as well. 

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  • 5. What is a mortgage valuation?

    A valuation or mortgage valuation is one of the most basic types of property surveys available. It will provide you with an accurate estimation for the value of the property you’re interested in. It’s always requested by the lender when applying for a mortgage. 

    The inspection conducted by the surveyor will highlight any obvious issues with the property that could affect its overall value. You will not be given any advice on the problems or how to repair them. Due to its lack of detail, this survey is not usually recommended unless requested by your mortgage lender. 

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  • 6. What is a condition report?

    A Home Condition report is a basic overview of a property to give the buyer an idea of the overall condition and any obvious risks or damage to the home. 

    The Home Condition report is the cheapest survey available, meaning it is also far less thorough than other surveys, such as the Homebuyer Survey or Building Survey. The Condition Report was developed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to provide buyers and homeowners with a basic report of the property’s overall condition. It does not include a valuation and is the least detailed survey type available

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  • 7. What is a homebuyers survey?

    A homebuyers survey, also known as a homebuyers report, is the most popular type of house survey available. It’s used for a range of property types as long as they aren’t high risk or over 50 years old. It’s much more thorough than the mortgage valuation and will flag any major issues within your property, including both an internal and external examination. 

    Not only will you be given a detailed report on the condition of the property, but you’ll also be provided with expert advice on how to repair the issues highlighted and an average cost for the work required. If requested, you can also have a valuation within the report instead of only having a simple mortgage valuation. 

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  • 8. What is a building or full structural survey?

    A building or full structural survey is a detailed inspection of the condition of a property which even looks at the overall structure of the building. It’s one of the most expensive but thorough surveys available, with the level of detail included making it vital when buying properties that are unusually constructed or over 50 years old. 

    Like the homebuyers survey, the building survey examines the condition of the property and provides expert advice on how to resolve the issues highlighted. However, it’s much more thorough in its inspection and even looks at potential structural problems. It will outline any defects found, their apparent cause, their urgency and also the cost of the repairs needed. 

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  • 9. What is a listed building survey?

    A Listed Building survey is a type of property survey which is carried out by a professional surveyor for properties or historical or architectural importance. 

    When a building is listed, it maintains a certain level of protection. As a result they will require a specific type of property survey. This survey is available so that the buyer can identify any repairs required, any potential issues which may need to be addressed in the future and whether the property is worth the investment. 

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  • 10. What is a damp survey?

    A Damp Survey is a property survey which looks in depth at damp issues within the home. Damp is a common issue, especially in older homes, but can cause major issues if left undetected or not addressed.

    This specialist survey will usually follow another survey, such as a Homebuyers survey, or may have been requested following a mortgage lender’s valuation where damp has been identified and needs further inspection. It will be conducted by a specialist damp surveyor and will detail all damp issues and how to remedy it. 

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  • 11. What is a home report Scotland?

    In Scotland, the seller of a property is legally required to produce a Home Report when putting the home on the market and must be made to all potential buyers. The report will be written to a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) survey and can cost anywhere between £250 to £750 depending on the size of the home. 

    Unlike in the majority of the UK, where surveys must be organised by the buyer, in Scotland the seller is responsible for hiring a surveyor and providing the report to potential buyers.

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  • 12. How much does a survey cost?

    A house survey can cost anywhere between £220 to £1,390 in the UK depending on the survey type as well as the value, size and location of the property. If there’s a specific house survey you have in mind, we’ve also included the average cost for each individual survey type for an average house in the UK. 

    Taking the average costs from a sample of 20 RICS Chartered Surveyors and Building Societies from across the UK, a RICS valuation is £320 and a condition report (Level 1 Survey) £380, while surveys were priced higher at £500 for a Homebuyers Survey (Level 2 Survey) and £800 for a Building Survey (Level 3 Survey). 

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  • 13. What should I ask my property surveyor?

    Property surveyors are trained professionals who are there to help clear any confusion and answer all of your questions. To get the most out of a survey and to better understand the results, don’t forget to prepare a list of questions before comparing quotes. 

    You should check what surveying services they offer and ensure they are qualified or RICS accredited. Getting an idea of the price of the survey before going ahead is also advisable. It may be worth asking your survey what specifically they are looking for in the survey, with emphasis on any specialist repair work, any local issues that may affect the property and if the property is properly insulated. It would also be wise to ask if the surveyor deems the property worth the purchase price and if a mortgage would be declined on this property. 

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  • 14. How to prepare for a survey?

    Before the surveyor arrives, it would be wise to clean and prepare the property in question to ensure the process is as quick and smooth as possible. First of all, research the type of survey taking place and gather any necessary documents.

    The property will need to be empty and decluttered, including clearing any window sills and moving any large furniture away from the walls. You should also do a quick check to ensure all electrical appliances are safe and if possible, fix any minor issues. Finally, inspect the exterior of the property for damage, informing the surveyor of any concerns you have. 

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  • 15. Who organises a survey when buying a house?

    Whoever is requesting the house survey must be the one to organise and pay for it. In most cases, it’s the buyer who organises a property survey when buying a house. If they’re using a mortgage to pay for the property, then their lender may offer to organise a simple valuation but a comprehensive survey must be organised by the buyer.

    The seller may also want to arrange a house survey to compare reports and get a second opinion. In this case, the seller must be the one to contact the surveyor, arrange the survey and then pay for it. The experts at Compare My Move share their knowledge on property surveys and who organises them when buying a house. 

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  • 16. What are common house survey problems?

    It’s not uncommon for house surveys to uncover issues within the property, especially those that are over 50 years old. To prepare for the results, it’d be wise to research the common issues found during a house survey to help you become aware of what will need special attention. 

    Common issues found in surveys include structural movement, roof issues, electrical issues and insulation issues and asbestos. It is also common to find woodworm, damp and faulty drain pipes - which can worsen damp issues over time. Outside of the property, Japanese knotweed is an issue which your surveyor will look out for. 

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  • 17. What to do with bad survey results?

    If the surveyor highlights any serious issues with your new home, you will need to begin exploring the options available to you. Whether it was a red condition rating or the usual findings, you should act immediately to remedy the situation. 

    You should start by communicating with your surveyor, conveyancer and estate agent. Don’t forget you can use negative survey results to negotiate on your original house offer. The seller can offer to take money off the sale price to cover the cost of any repairs. 

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  • 18. How do I negotiate a house price after a bad survey?

    After a survey has uncovered issues you can use the results to renegotiate the original house price offer to cover the cost of repairs. As your offer is still Subject to Contract (STC), you’re not the legal owner of the property and so it’s still possible for the contract to be altered. 

    From conducting another property survey to speaking with your mortgage lender, this guide will explain everything you need to know. Compare My Move’s experts talk you through the process of negotiating a house price if you receive bad results. 

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