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Do I Need a Survey When Buying a House?

Adele MacGregor

Written by

22nd Nov 2022 (Last updated on 20th Mar 2023) 7 minute read

When buying a house in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it is not a legal requirement to arrange a survey. However, it is strongly recommended. This is especially the case if you are looking at an old or unusual property or one in poor condition.

In Scotland, the process is different. The seller must legally give every potential buyer a copy of a Home Report (which includes a survey).

Below we look at why you should get a survey, which one to opt for and the risks of not getting a survey when buying a house.

  1. Why Do I Need a Survey?
  2. What Type of Survey Do I Need?
  3. Risks of Not Getting a Property Survey
  4. Who Orders the Survey in Scotland?
  5. Can You Get a Mortgage Without Having a Survey?
  6. Is a Valuation Enough?
  7. How to Find a Surveyor
  8. Learn More About Surveying

Why Do I Need a Survey?

A survey can provide a buyer with peace of mind about the home they want to buy. It can be the deciding factor in whether they continue with the transaction or they walk away.

Surveys can highlight a vast range of problems in the property that may not be obvious when you view the home. Hidden defects or developing problems could lead to much bigger and costly issues down the line. A surveyor is trained to identify these concerns.

Issues found in a survey include (but are not limited to):

  • Asbestos
  • Damp
  • Subsidence
  • Structural movement
  • Major structural issues
  • Japanese knotweed and other invasive plants
  • Electrical issues
  • Woodworm and other insect infestations
  • Faulty drains and guttering
  • Roof issues

A survey can prepare a buyer for issues in the home, allowing them to budget and plan for work needed once they move in. The survey report can offer maintenance advice and note if the home is of a safe standard.

It can also be invaluable when negotiating the price of the home. If issues are found - and they’re likely to be costly to fix - you can ask if the seller is willing to accept less. The seller will not receive a copy of the survey so it is up to you if you want to share the results with them.

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What Type of Survey Do I Need?

The type of survey you will need will depend on the age and condition of the house. It will also depend on how much information you want and what you are willing to pay.

The more detailed the survey, the more expensive it is likely to be. This is due to the checklist of aspects a surveyor will look at. Keep in mind that this could save you considerable amounts of money in the long run.

Level 1 Condition Report

The RICS Level One report is the most basic home survey available, and the cheapest. This is best suited for newer, conventional properties with no previous issues. New flats, for example, would be an ideal property type for this level. There is not a lot of detail in this report, it will simply provide an overview.

Level 2 Homebuyers Report

Typically Level 2 (Homebuyer Survey), is suited to homes built less than 50 years ago. It is recommended for modern properties in good condition with no major damage or alterations. These are conventional homes built of common building materials.

The surveyor will review the home internally and externally. This includes any outhouses, garages, and conservatories. Buyers are given a report with a traffic light system. This gives them an idea of how urgent repairs are and what work is needed on the home.

Level 3 Building Survey

Level 3 (Building Survey) is the most in-depth of the three surveys. This thorough survey is suited to older homes or those in poor condition. It is also recommended for homes that are "unusual" or have had a large amount of work completed on them.

It is the most expensive survey but it does give the most detail about the property. This can help you prepare for work required on the home and whether it is worth investing in. It can also be used to negotiate the price of the property with the seller.

Other survey types:

Depending on the type of property you are buying, there may be other survey types you will want or need to consider. You may also need to consider specialist surveys if a particular issue has been found in the home.

Examples of other surveys include, but are not limited to:

  • New Build Snagging List: The professional snagging survey is for new build homes before the buyer moves in. Any issues found on the snagging list can then be rectified by the developers.

  • Listed Building Survey: If you are buying a listed building, you should arrange for a specialist survey. This can make you aware of the requirements expected of you when becoming the legal owner.

  • Damp Assesment: If you are aware of damp, or it is found during a survey or valuation, it would be wise to arrange a damp survey. This will give you an idea of the extent of the problem. If this was highlighted during the mortgage valuation, your lender may insist on it.

  • Dry Rot Survey: Dry rot is a fungal decay which can be found in homes. This survey can identify if you have dry rot anywhere in the home and the steps you need to take if it is found.

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Risks of Not Getting a Property Survey

When you buy a home in the UK, there is no legal penalty for not having a survey. You are able to get a mortgage without a property survey. As a result, buyers may decide to save money and skip having a survey altogether.

It is strongly recommended that you do not buy a home without first having a survey.

Buying a home is likely to be one of the biggest purchases you will make in your lifetime. As a result, you will want to make sure your investment is sound.

The Cost of Not Having a Survey

Skipping a survey runs the risk of buying a home without knowing its true condition.

You could end up with a home that is plagued with issues, costing you thousands in repairs. The cost of the survey is very likely to be less than the cost of remedial work required if the home has problems.

For example, according to CheckaTrade, the average cost to rewire a 3-bedroom house is in the region of £4,450 - £8,000. In contrast, the average cost of a Level 3 survey is £800. The survey could highlight an issue like needing to rewire the home. This would allow you to budget, negotiate the price or pull out of the purchase.

A professional opinion on the home could save you from buying a property that could decrease in value due to issues.

Who Orders the Survey in Scotland?

In Scotland, it is the seller who arranges a survey. Every (serious) potential buyer must be given a copy of a Home Report within nine days of requesting it. This gives the buyer an overview of the condition of the home and highlights any concerns.

Before their home is put on the market, sellers must hire a surveyor for a Single Survey and Energy Report.

These are the first two parts of the Home Report. The seller then completes a Property Questionnaire with vital information about the home. This all allows the buyer to make an educated decision on the purchase.

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Can You Get a Mortgage Without Having a Survey?

Yes, you can get a mortgage without having a survey. As we’ve mentioned, a buyer is not legally required, nor required for a mortgage, to arrange a survey. Arranging a survey is for the benefit of the buyer.

More than likely, your mortgage lender will want to conduct their own valuation. This is to ensure their investment in the home (in the form of the mortgage) is secure. This is for their benefit and is unlikely to tell the buyer much about the home.

Is a Valuation Enough?

A valuation is not a survey and cannot be substituted for one. Valuations do not provide an in-depth inspection of the property. They will instead give you an idea of its value on the property market. This is based on the location, size, and overall condition of the home, in addition to recent sales data and the local housing market.

A valuation can also provide an insurance reinstatement value. This is for insurance purposes and outlines the cost of rebuilding the home if it is destroyed.

A mortgage valuation will mostly benefit the mortgage lender. A valuation ultimately gives them the peace of mind and security to provide you with a loan for the home.

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How to Find a Surveyor

A surveyor can be found via recommendations, reading reviews or searching online. At Compare My Move, we can match you with up to 6 local RICS-registered surveyors. This allows you to compare quotes to get the best price for your survey.

RICS is the governing body for surveyors throughout the UK. All RICS-registered surveyors must follow the organisation’s guidelines. This ensures excellence in the field, meaning buyers receive the best possible service.

Learn More About Surveying

This is part of our guide to surveying. Next, we take a look at who is responsible for arranging a property survey. To learn more read Who Organises a Survey When Buying a House?

Adele MacGregor

Having worked at Compare My Move for over four years, Adele covers topics such as the conveyancing process across the UK, property surveys, home moves and storage.

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