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What Type of Survey Do I Need?

Martha Lott

Written by Reviewed by Mike Ashton

29th Oct 2020 (Last updated on 4th Jan 2021) 14 minute read

Once your offer has been accepted, it’s time to organise a house survey. Knowing which survey type is best for the property you’re buying can be daunting, with some being more in-depth than others. 

It may be appealing to pick the cheapest survey available, but this could see you paying thousands in repair work once you’ve moved in. A property survey will highlight hidden defects and damage that can save you money in the long run. 

Compare My Move work with property experts to bring you in-depth and accurate moving house guides. This guide will explain what a property survey is, what is the best type of survey for you and will compare the survey types available. 

This article will cover the following:
  1. What Is a Property Survey?
  2. What Survey Should I Have?
  3. Do I Need A Survey When Buying A House?
  4. Types of House Survey
  5. What Does a Surveyor Look For?
  6. Benefits of Getting a Property Survey
  7. How Much Money Can A Survey Save You?
  8. Is a Mortgage Valuation Enough?
  9. Do I Need A Survey For A New Build?
  10. What Survey Would I Need in Scotland?
  11. Can You Buy A House Without A Survey?
  12. Learn More About Surveying

What Is a Property Survey?

A property survey is carried out by a professional chartered surveyor to examine the condition and structure of the house you're buying. Available in different levels, a property survey will highlight any structural damage or serious altercations which you might not have spotted yourself, ending up saving you money in the long-run.

Only around 20% of people arrange a property survey, with many people assuming it will be too expensive and delay the home buying process. In fact, a survey will give you valuable advice on a number of other matters you may not have considered and will give you peace of mind before you commit to buying the house. 

You’ll also need a Mortgage Valuation report as part of your mortgage if you are using one, but this is not enough to provide a detailed report of potential damage and risks. In most cases, you should hire a professional RICS registered surveyor to carry out one of the more in-depth surveys available to you as listed below.

What Survey Should I Have?

We’ve created an overview of the property surveys available and which property it’s best suited for. We’ve included the average cost of each survey too, but for a more in-depth look at how much property surveys will cost you, read our guide on How Much Does a Survey Cost.

Type of SurveyWhat Property Is It Suited For?Average Survey Cost

Mortgage Valuation

Any conventional properties. This is not a property survey.

£75 - £350. Price varies and is based on lender, property size and property value.

Condition Survey

Conventional and newer properties.

£290-£560.

Homebuyers Survey

Low-risk properties - modern houses and flats

£350-£500+

Building Survey

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

£600-£800+

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.

Do I Need A Survey When Buying A House?

It’s not a legal requirement to get a property survey but it’s highly recommended. A property survey will highlight any repair work needing doing before you commit to buying a house. It’ll allow you to then either re-negotiate the original offer or even pull out if the survey revealed bad results. 

You should always get a property survey but especially so if the property you are buying relates to the following:

  • If you noticed any cracks or damage when you viewed the property
  • The property is old or built with unusual materials 
  • The property is a listed building 
  • The property has a thatched roof
  • If you share any walls or chimneys with a neighbour 

Types of House Survey

Knowing which type of survey you need when buying a house can sometimes be confusing. We’ve featured an overview of each survey available below to help you learn more about each one. 

Mortgage Valuation

Often categorised under surveys, a mortgage valuation isn’t a property survey. It’s a report undertaken on the property you are buying by your mortgage lender to find out if the house is worth the amount your borrowing. This is required when you’re taking out a mortgage and will be paid upfront usually. 

Find out more about a valuation report: What is a Valuation Report?

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.

Find out more about a condition report: What is a Condition Report?

Homebuyers Survey

A Homebuyers report is the next step up from a condition report. This type of survey will help highlight any major issues with the property such as subsidence or damp, as well as any other hidden issues both internally and externally to the property.

Like all surveys, this report looks at issues that are apparent at the surface and does not check under floorboards or behind walls for any issues that are hidden from reasonable view. Your surveyor will mark any major issues as a ‘3’ in the report, which you then can look to renegotiate your original offer with the seller to cover the costs of the work.

The survey can also include a mortgage valuation if you specify you want one at the same time, although this is done separately usually via your mortgage lender. 

Find out more about a homebuyers survey: What is a Homebuyers Survey?

Building Survey

A building survey (sometimes called a 'full structural survey') takes a much more detailed look at the property than a condition report or homebuyers survey. The surveyor will undertake a full look at the various aspects which make up the property such as the types of materials that have been used, the condition of the roof, the integrity and structure of the walls and the state of the floors.

Your report will detail each aspect that the surveyor has looked at, the condition of that aspect and any recommendations that they have moving forward. If requested the report may also contain cost considerations for the elements included. A chartered surveyor will provide you with structural analysis and a detailed account of the condition of the property. 

Your surveyor will also 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.

Find out more about a building survey: What is a Building Survey? 

Snagging List

A snagging list is a survey for new build properties. It is a list of all the issues or 'snags' with a new build property, usually defects like damage to paintwork or small unfinished jobs throughout the property. In some cases, there may be more major issues uncovered like large cracks in work surfaces or poorly fitted appliances.

As the property you’re moving into will be brand new, there isn’t a need for a homebuyers survey or building survey as there shouldn’t be any structural damage. 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.

Find out more about a snagging list: What is a Snagging List?

What Does a Surveyor Look For?

A property surveyor will thoroughly examine the property, but certain surveys are more in-depth than others. The table below explains what to expect from each survey and what your surveyor will look for to help you pick which type of survey you need when buying a house. 

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

Benefits of Getting a Property Survey

Although getting a survey may seem like an unnecessary extra cost of buying a house, there are many benefits to consider before writing it off. 

It's very unlikely that you'll discover everything you need to know about the property from a house viewing, so a property survey will provide you with in-depth information from a seasoned and highly-qualified professional.

Getting a property survey will not only provide you with a detailed list of what issues are present in the property, but they will also provide you with the following benefits:

1. Peace of Mind

For most people, buying a home is probably the biggest purchase of their life with a lot of risk riding on the sale. If you end up paying a premium for a property only to move in and find that there are a huge number of issues with it, this could cost you a vast amount of extra money, putting you in a very difficult position.

Although the results of the survey may not be the most welcome news, at least you know the risks and potential costs. As a survey is undertaken before contracts are exchanged, this also allows you to back out of the sale if required. 

2. Negotiation

A property survey will give you a detailed list of everything that is or may later be an issue with the property. A full structural survey can also provide estimated costs for any damage noted as a further service if required. The results from a homebuyer report can be passed on to a professional to offer a quote for the repair work. You could also use your survey results to have a more detailed survey.

Negative survey results can be used to negotiate on a few things. You can either negotiate your original offer on the house to cover the repair costs, or the seller may offer to fix the issues. For example, if repairs to the property are likely to cost you around £5,000 to remedy, you should be able to negotiate the house price with at least some of this amount to be taken off of the value of the property. 

3. Security

Once you've received your survey results, you should have a solid understanding of exactly what the chartered surveyor has looked at and what the potential issues are. Although most surveys cannot look at every aspect of a building, the surveyor will state where these are and advise whether they think further investigations should be carried out, or where hidden risks are likely. 

For this reason, you gain a good amount of security that either this issue has been identified or that there is someone accountable for missing it. You should always check the terms and conditions and the small print of your report to identify what the surveyor is responsible for.

4. Planning

Buying and moving into a new home is no small task. With many aspects to consider such as packing and moving all your belongings, setting up all the utilities and other admin that needs to be completed. For this reason, unplanned surprises when you have moved in can cause a lot of inconvenience, cost and worry when settling into your new home.

Getting a survey completed mitigates a large amount of the risk that this produces. It will let you know exactly what issues you may face and plan them into the wider picture of moving into your new home. You can factor your surveying costs into your moving budget.

How Much Money Can A Survey Save You?

A property survey can save you on average £5,750 in repair work, research by RICS discovered. Their survey highlighted that 4 in 5 homeowners who bought a property without having a property survey typically spent almost £6,000 in unexpected repair costs.

For example, if your property needs work to damp proof it, this may cost from £200 for a single wall in a terrace property through to several thousand pounds for a larger detached house. This may cost even more if the damp requires wall repairs or re-plastering. Other issues such as damaged or defective roofs may cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand pounds to remedy and faulty drainage can cost from £500 - £1,500+ to fix.

As a survey will give you the information you need to cost the repairs required this will allow you to negotiate on the overall cost of the property and ultimately may save you thousands of pounds in repairs. Although you may not always be able to negotiate the full cost of repairs, you should at least be able to find a middle ground where the seller covers some cost.

Is a Mortgage Valuation Enough?

A mortgage valuation is a very basic property inspection that will provide you with an accurate idea of its value. It is not a property survey and isn’t as thorough as the comprehensive property surveys, but it is often vital for acquiring a mortgage. 

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.

Do I Need A Survey For A New Build?

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.

As new-build properties are rising in popularity, 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. 

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.

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.

Find out more about surveys in Scotland: What is a Home Report?

Can You Buy A House Without A 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.

Learn More About Surveying

This has been part of our guide to surveying. Next, we take a look at how to find the right surveyor for you and what to look out for. To learn more read how do I find a surveyor.

Martha Lott

Written by Martha Lott

Having written for Huffington Post and Film Criticism Journal, Martha now regularly researches and writes advice articles for everything moving house related.

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.