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Do I Need a Survey When Buying a House?

Adele MacGregor

Written by

22nd Nov 2022 (Last updated on 21st Feb 2024) 10 minute read

It is not a legal requirement to arrange a survey when buying a house in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, however, it is strongly recommended. This is especially the case if you are looking to purchase 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).

A property survey is an inspection of a home conducted by a professional surveyor. It can provide a buyer with crucial information before completing the purchase. This includes any defects, required maintenance and details about the construction.

Below we look at why you should hire a surveyor when buying a house. This includes which survey to opt for and the risks of not getting a survey.

  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 Arranges the Survey in Scotland?
  5. How Do I Arrange a Survey
  6. Can You Get a Mortgage Without Having a Survey?
  7. Is a Valuation Enough?
  8. How to Find a Surveyor
  9. 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 chartered 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. For example, buying a house with asbestos roof tiles could set you back £2,500. 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.

Survey TypeAverage Surveyor Fee

New Build Snagging List

£300 - £600

RICS Level 1 Survey

£380

RICS Level 2 Survey

£500

RICS Level 3 Survey

£800

New Build Snagging List

This is designed as a survey for newly built homes. A surveyor will review the home ensuring it has been completed to a high standard. Any issues found on the snagging list can then be rectified by the developers.

RICS Home Survey Level 1 (Condition Report)

The RICS Level 1 Condition 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.

RICS Home Survey Level 2 (Homebuyers Report)

A Level 2 HomeBuyers Survey is suited to homes built less than 50 years ago. It is recommended for modern properties in good condition. These are conventional homes built of common materials without major damage or alterations.

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.

RICS Home Survey Level 3 (Building Survey)

The 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:

  • 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 Assessment: 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.

    Surveying Flowchart

    We've created a helpful surveying flowchart to help you figure out the best type of survey for you:

    Surveying flowchart

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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. As a result, buyers may decide to save money and skip having a survey altogether.

    However, buying a home is likely to be one of the biggest purchases you will make in your lifetime. With this in mind, you will want to make sure your investment is sound.

    1. Costly Repairs

      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.

      2. Overpaying for the Home

        Without a professional opinion on the true condition of the home, you could end up overpaying for it. Homes with defects and issues will be worth less than ones in good condition. If the home is priced without the consideration of potential problems, you could be paying more than it’s worth.

        3. Safety Risk

          In addition to the financial implications, you should also consider safety. A surveyor will be able to tell you if the property is structurally sound. They will also highlight any issues that need immediate attention. Without a survey, you could be putting yourself and your family at risk.

          4. Negative Equity

            Another risk is falling into negative equity. This happens when the home is valued at less than the remaining value of your mortgage. For example, if you buy a property with issues that impact its value, you could owe more on your mortgage than the home is worth. A professional opinion on the home could save you from buying a property that decreases in value.

            Who Arranges 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 allows the buyer to make an educated decision on the purchase.

            How Do I Arrange a Survey

            Arranging a survey is usually a straightforward process so it’s recommended that you do so once your offer has been accepted. You can find surveyors by comparing local firms or asking friends and family for recommendations. If you are unsure which survey you need, you can discuss this when obtaining quotes from surveyors.

            Once arranged, you will need to supply the surveyors with the address of the home. They can then organise obtaining access to the property, usually via the estate agent.

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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. This is something that should be considered whether you are using a mortgage or are a cash 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. It will be based on the location, size, and condition of the home. Recent sales data and the local housing market will also be a factor.

            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 surveyors. This allows you to compare quotes to get the best price for your survey.

            All of our surveying partners have undergone our strict verification process. This includes ensuring they are RICS-registered. Those offering snagging surveys or assisting with Party Wall matters can also be regulated by the RPSA.

            Need a Removal Company?

            Once your survey and property transaction goes through, you may need a removal company. Our surveying form lets you request removal companies in just a few extra steps. We can connect you with up to 6 removal companies and save up to 70% on your fees.

            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 five years, Adele specialises in covering a range of surveying topics.

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