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What Does a Surveyor do During a Survey?

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Written by Reviewed by Mike Ashton

1st Oct 2021 (Last updated on 12th Mar 2024) 6 minute read

Property surveyors examine all visible aspects inside and outside the home you are buying. They will highlight any potential issues or future risks. In most cases, they will examine all spaces that can be reasonably accessed.

The RICS Home Survey Levels 2 and 3 provide in-depth details on the property. However, a RICS Home Level 3 is the most detailed survey, meaning there is more information in the report.

This article will highlight what surveyors typically do and what they look for during your survey.

  1. Types of Surveys and Costs
  2. How Long will the Surveyor be in the House?
  3. Best Way to Choose a Surveyor
  4. Learn More About Surveying


1. Give an Overall Opinion and Summary of the Condition

Surveyors give an overall rating of the property's condition. They will highlight any defects to help you assess whether the property is a “reasonable” purchase or not. They will then list all the areas they examined and categorise them using a traffic light condition rating system.

2. Provide Important Information about the Property

A surveyor will also make note of important details regarding the property’s age and type. In some cases, they may use a meter such as a damp meter. They will detail the following under “About the Property” on your report.

  • Type of property
  • Year it was built
  • Year it was extended if necessary
  • Year it was converted if necessary
  • Number of rooms
  • Energy Efficiency rating
  • Environmental impact rating
  • Whether mains gas, electricity, water and drainage services are present
  • If central heating is gas, electric, solid fuel or oil
  • Basic information on the local environment, facilities, location and grounds

3. Examine Outside the Property

A chartered surveyor will carry out a detailed examination of the outside of the property, from ground level. Your surveyor will look at each of the following and give them an individual condition rating:

  • Chimney stacks
  • Roof coverings
  • Rainwater pipes and gutters
  • Main walls
  • Windows
  • Outside doors
  • Conservatory and porches
  • Permanent outbuildings
  • Other joinery and finishes

4. Examine Inside the Property

Your property surveyor will inspect all accessible areas inside the property. Each area examined will have a detailed write-up on what the surveyor found, along with a condition rating and reasons for the rating. Your surveyor will look at:

  • Roof structure
  • Ceilings
  • Walls and partitions
  • Floors (if not covered)
  • Fireplaces, chimney breasts and flutes
  • Built-in fittings
  • Woodwork (staircase and joinery)
  • Bathroom fittings

5. Report Dangerous Materials

Your surveyor will also look for any dangerous materials used during construction. These may threaten the structural integrity of the property, causing problems in the future. These can include:

  • Asbestos
  • Lead
  • Historic plaster
  • Fibreglass insulation

There may be specialist tests carried out during Level 3 surveys. This is typically the case when dealing with listed buildings as they are made from outdated materials.

6. Check Services

Your surveyor will also do a basic check of the main services within the property. You should also ask your solicitor to provide the relevant safety certificates from the seller. Where they can, a surveyor will visually inspect:

  • Electricity
  • Gas/oil
  • Water
  • Heating
  • Water heating
  • Drainage

7. Inspect Grounds

Your surveyor will assess the condition of the grounds by walking around the property and gardens. This includes inspecting the following visually inspecting the following:

There may also be environmental problems that your surveyor picks up. However, your Environmental Search will detail more on this.

8. Highlights Legal Issues for your Solicitor

A surveyor will highlight any legal issues within the property and grounds. These will then need to be raised with your solicitor before exchanging contracts. This typically includes things such as:

  • Checking building regulations and planning permission for extensions
  • Ensuring there's a warranty to cover windows or doors or a FENSA certificate
  • Engineers' certificates for gas central heating
  • Electric safety check certificates

9. Highlight the Main Risks

Your surveyor will conclude their report by listing the main risks they found within the property and grounds. It will summarise defects that might potentially pose a threat to the building, grounds and people. Risks could include:

  • Signs of subsidence
  • Evidence of an infestation
  • Presence of dangerous plants

10. Give an Impartial Valuation

For an additional fee, your surveyor can provide an accurate valuation of the property. They will consider the above markets to determine the market value of the property. This is different from a mortgage valuation as your surveyor will be acting on your behalf. You can use the valuation when deciding to alter your offer price or during price negotiations.

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Types of Surveys and Costs

There are different types of surveys available, depending on many factors including the property type and its age. The type of survey will determine how much detail is included in the inspection and report.

RICS Home Survey Level 1

The RICS Home Survey Level 1, previously known as a Condition Report, is the most basic type of survey available. Your surveyor will inspect the overall condition of the interior and exterior of the property. They will provide a report that discusses the general condition of the property. It costs £380 on average.

RICS Home Survey Level 2

The RICS Home Survey Level 2, previously known as the HomeBuyers Report, is an intermediate survey. Your surveyor will inspect the interior and exterior of the property and search for potential defects and hazards. The report will detail their findings using a traffic light system. Any severe problems will be indicated in red while amber indicates work required. It costs £500 on average.

RICS Home Survey Level 3

The RICS Home Survey Level 3, formerly known as a Building Survey, is the most detailed survey available. Your surveyor will inspect the interior and exterior of the property, including areas that are difficult to access. They will then produce a report with detailed feedback that delves into any issues and defects. They may provide estimated reparation costs and advice. It costs £800 on average.

Snagging Survey

Snagging surveys have been designed for new build properties. Once completed, your surveyor will inspect the interior and exterior of the property. They will review the blueprints and materials used in construction to check that the property adheres to standards and regulations. Similar to the Home Surveys, they will then write up their findings in a detailed report. On average, it costs between £300 and £600.

How Long will the Surveyor be in the House?

Property surveys take between 1-8 hours to complete. This is dependent on what type of survey you have.

The average Home Survey times are:

  • RICS Home Survey Level 1 takes 1-2 hours
  • RICS Home Survey Level 2 takes 2-4 hours
  • RICS Home Survey Level 3 takes 4-8 hours

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Best Way to Choose a Surveyor

At Compare My Move, we can connect you with up to 6 surveyors and save you up to 70% on your surveying costs. Simply fill in our surveying comparison form to get connected today and find the right company for you.

All our surveying partners have passed our strict verification process. For companies offering Home Surveys and Valuation Reports, they must be registered with RICS. Firms specialising in Party Wall and Snagging Surveys can be regulated by either the RPSA or RICS.

Need a Removal Company?

Once your survey and property transaction goes through, you may need a removal company. Our integrated surveying and removal 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 removal fees.

Learn More About Surveying

This is part of our surveying guide. In the next article, we look at preparing for a house survey. To learn more, read How to Prepare for a House Survey.

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Mike Ashton

Reviewed by Mike Ashton

Director, Cambridge Building Surveyors

With over 20 years of experience in the property surveying industry, Mike Ashton is the director of Cambridge Building Surveyors.

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