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What Type of Survey Do I Need?

Written by Reviewed by Mike Ashton

28th Nov 2019 (Last updated on 30th Jul 2020) 9 minute read

A property survey is when a surveyor examines the condition of a property to highlight any issues or structural damage. A survey can help buyers become aware of any unexpected future costs and can determine if the property is a good investment. 

With a variety of different property surveys to choose from it can sometimes feel overwhelming. Having a survey can provide buyers with peace of mind that the property is in good condition and can help them avoid any unexpected repair costs. Compare My Move shares this guide to help make the process a little easier when deciding what type of survey you need.

This article will cover the following:
  1. Types of House Surveys Available
  2. Is a Valuation Enough?
  3. What is a Condition Report?
  4. What Type of Survey Do I Need When Buying a House?
  5. What Type of Survey Do I Need for an Older Building?
  6. What Type of Survey Do I Need for a Flat?
  7. Do I Need a Survey for a New-Build Property?
  8. What Survey Would I Need in Scotland?
  9. Do I Need a Certain Survey for a Cash Purchase?
  10. Types of Surveys Compared
  11. Buying a House with No Survey
  12. Saving Money on Your Survey

Types of House Surveys Available

We’ve added a useful table to list the different types of house surveys, what properties they’re most suitable for and the average costs to help you narrow it down:

Type of SurveySuitable Properties Average Costs for properties Valued at £200,001 to £300,000

Valuation

Any conventional properties.

£320

Level 1: Home Condition Survey

Conventional and newer properties.

£380

Level 2: Home-Buyers Survey

Low-risk properties - modern houses and flats

£500

Level 3: Full-Structural/Building Survey

High-risk properties over 50 years old. Properties requiring renovation or extension work.

£800

A Snagging List

New-build properties only.

£300

Average costs from Compare My Move research, How Much Does a House Survey Cost? It should be noted that survey costs will vary depending on your personal situation, property and area.


House Survey costs often vary and depend on a variety of factors: type of survey, property price and size, issues detected etc. However, it’s important to choose a survey type not based on the cost but by the quality as it can save you money in the long-run.

Is a Valuation Enough?

A valuation report is a very basic property inspection that will provide you with an accurate idea of its value. It is not actually a home survey and isn’t as thorough as the comprehensive property surveys, but it is often vital for acquiring a mortgage. It’s one of the cheapest options available and can be suitable for a wide variety of property types.

As a valuation inspection is usually carried out on the mortgage lenders behalf, it isn’t designed to assess the property in great depth and many issues could possibly be overlooked. A valuation can leave buyers at risk of hidden problems, causing unexpected costs in the future.

What is a Condition Report?

The most basic and therefore cheapest RICS survey available, a condition report provides an overview of a property’s condition and notes any significant problems but not in great detail. It’s most suitable for newer, conventional properties with no previous issues like modern houses or flats. It’s useful for those looking for a broad overview of a property's condition.

These reports aren’t thorough and some issues or structural damage can be overlooked. A condition report is used to complete a mortgage valuation and provides a ‘traffic light’ system to indicate the state of the property. No advice or valuation is given, only obvious defects and the condition of the services like gas and water supply.

What Type of Survey Do I Need When Buying a House?

The most common survey for buying a house is the RICS homebuyer report. A home condition report is also an option but a home-buyers survey is a level up from this, providing you with more essential details. The cost of this survey varies depending on the size and price of the property and will often include a valuation and list of any rebuild costs. It’s most suitable for modern and older houses that are in reasonable condition.

A home-buyers survey can detect the most common areas of concern like damp, rot and insulation. The report will declare if anything doesn’t meet current building regulations. It will give expert advice on any repairs or maintenance needed, too. A homebuyer report isn't the most detailed survey as it only highlighting surface-level issues. It is however the most common amongst home buyers, usually taking two to three hours to complete.

What Type of Survey Do I Need for an Older Building?

For buildings over 50 years old or that have obvious defects, you will need a building survey. A full structural or building survey is the most thorough type of survey available. It is the most expensive, but it can provide buyers with the most peace of mind. It’s also recommended for properties that need renovation or extension work and structured or large buildings.

A chartered surveyor will provide you with structural analysis and a detailed account of the condition of the property. They will do any and all reasonable investigations they can to discover any defects or possible issues, but they cannot usually carry out any invasive or destructive investigations. You will receive a list of concerns, advice on repairs or maintenance needed and, if requested, possible costs and timings for the work required.

A building or full-structural survey can be incredibly worthwhile and provides buyers with the most detailed report available, allowing you to predict future work, costs and renovations. It can take several days or more to complete due to the extensive inspection.  

What Type of Survey Do I Need for a Flat?

A valuation inspection will usually be necessary if you’re acquiring a mortgage, but a home-buyers survey is most recommended when buying a flat to highlight any defects or issues that may require future work. As when conducted on a standard house, it can provide buyers with peace of mind that the property is worth purchasing.

Do I Need a Survey for a New-Build Property?

New-build houses are rising in popularity as they often don’t have as many complications or issues as older buildings. However, this doesn't mean that problems won’t arise in the future as they’re not always reliable. New-builds usually don’t need to be checked as meticulously as other properties so they often undergo a condition report and/or a snagging list rather than a more detailed type of survey.

A snagging list is a list of all the problems and defects like unfinished jobs or damaged paintwork detected in a new-build property. New-build properties don’t often have many issues but the damage may occur over time or smaller problems could be found immediately.

Whatever has been compiled into the snagging list can then be used to negotiate with the developer so that they can complete the work before the sale is finalised and before you move in. This means that it’s an important process of purchasing a new-build property as it ensures that the house is prepared and safe for you to move into.

What Survey Would I Need in Scotland?

It should be noted that surveys are conducted differently in Scotland as a home report is required instead. Sellers are required by law to produce a home report before a sale is complete to ensure that buyers are fully aware of the property's condition. The buyer will have access to this pack which includes the survey results, full valuation, an energy performance certificate and a property questionnaire.

As the seller is required to provide potential buyers with this information, the buyer themselves aren’t responsible for hiring a surveyor. The single survey provided will produce reports similar to that of a home-buyers survey, with the same type of issues and defects being recorded.

Do I Need a Certain Survey for a Cash Purchase?

If you don't require a mortgage to buy a property, then there are no requirements for a valuation inspection. However, that doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be certain concerns with the property’s condition. A home-buyers survey could detect any issues or damages you’ve missed, uncovering any future or unexpected repairs. If the property is older or unusually structure, it would be wise to consider a building survey to receive a more detailed investigation.

If you’re considering remortgaging your house in the future, you’ll need a valuation or survey carried out as a requirement of the mortgage lender. A home-buyers survey would be most recommended as it uncovers the most common concerns when buying a property.

Types of Surveys Compared

With all the information to read through, it can sometimes feel overwhelming choosing the type of survey you need and remembering what is included in each one. Each survey is different, providing buyers with different information on various types of properties. Below is a table comparing the types of surveys explored and what they each include:

What's Included?Valuation SurveyHome Condition ReportHome-Buyers SurveyBuilding/Full-Structural Survey

Includes an inspection.

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Completed by a RICS Chartered Surveyor.YesYesYes

Allows buyers to be fully informed on the property’s condition.

Yes

Yes

Yes

Identifies problems that could help with price negotiations.

Yes

Yes

Yes

Provides a condition rating of the property.

Yes

Yes

Yes

Highlights issues needing urgent attention.

Yes

Yes

Yes

Provides advice for your legal advisers.

Yes

Yes

Yes

Provides professional advice from the surveyor.

Yes

Yes    

Includes a report on construction and structural defects.Yes
Includes a market valuation. YesYes
Suitable for any property type.YesYes
Informs mortgage lenders whether the property is suitable security. Yes

Buying a House with No Survey

As the seller isn’t under any legal obligation to disclose any damages or defects, it can be risky buying a property without conducting a survey. There are many issues a surveyor can detect that, when gone unnoticed, could cost you greatly in the future. By conducting a survey you can prepare for these or potentially even back out of the sale if it’s above your budget.

If you’re buying a property using a mortgage as aid, you will be required by the mortgage lender to have a valuation at least. But continuing without a more comprehensive survey can be very costly in the future if there are undetected defects. It’s not usually recommended to purchase a property without a survey but it’s ultimately up to the buyer.

Saving Money on Your Survey

A survey can greatly help you avoid any frightening or unexpected costs when purchasing a property. We hope this guide has successfully informed you of the different types of surveys available and when they are required. 

Once you’ve decided on the type of survey you’ll need, you can use Compare My Move to compare surveyors from the most reliable and RICS certified surveyors in your area.

Zenyx Griffiths

Before Compare My Move, Zenyx once wrote lifestyle and entertainment articles for the online magazine, Society19 as well as news articles for Ffotogallery.

Mike Ashton

Reviewed by Mike Ashton

Director at Cambridge Building Surveyors , Cambridge Building Surveyors

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