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House Surveys - What Type of Survey Do I Need?

Martha Lott

Written by Reviewed by Mike Ashton

29th Oct 2020 (Last updated on 30th May 2022) 7 minute read

A property survey is carried out by a professional chartered surveyor to examine the condition of the property you're buying. It’ll give you peace of mind to go ahead with the purchase.

Knowing which type of house survey you need can be a challenge. The correct property survey will depend on the type of property you’re buying as there are 3 levels of surveys available.

This article will cover the following:
  1. Types of House Surveys
  2. What Survey Do I Need?
  3. What Does a House Survey Include?
  4. Do I Need A Survey For A New Build?
  5. Do I Need A Survey When Buying A House?
  6. Do You Need a Survey When Buying a Flat?
  7. Is a Mortgage Valuation Enough?
  8. What Survey Would I Need in Scotland?
  9. How Much Money Can A Survey Save You?
  10. Learn More About Surveying

Types of House Surveys

Available in different levels, house surveys highlight any repair work or serious altercations which you might not have spotted yourself, ending up saving you money in the long-run.

We’ve featured an overview of each house survey available below to help you learn more about each one.

RICS Home Survey Level 1 - (Condition Report) - £380

The Condition Report is the most basic and therefore cheapest RICS survey available.

  • Most suitable for newer, conventional properties with no previous issues like modern houses or flats.
  • Condition Report provides an overview of a property’s condition
  • Notes any significant problems, but not in great detail
  • 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.

To learn more, read condition report.

RICS Home Survey Level 2 - (HomeBuyers Report) - £500

A HomeBuyer Report is the next step up from a Condition Report.

  • Suited for properties built less than 50 years ago.
  • Highlights 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.
  • Looks at issues that are apparent at the surface and won’t check under floorboards or behind walls.
  • Your surveyor will mark any major issues as a ‘3’ in the report.
  • Includes a valuation if you specify you want one at the same time, although this can be done separately via your mortgage lender.

To learn more, read homebuyer report.

RICS Home Survey Level 3 - (Building Survey) - £800

A Building Survey is more detailed than a Condition Report or HomeBuyer Report.

  • Best suited to older homes or non-standard construction houses, such as thatched cottages, steel frame houses or PRC properties.
  • 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.

To learn more, read building survey.

What Survey Do I Need?

Below is an overview of all property surveys and which property it’s best suited for.

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

Level 1

Conventional and newer properties.


Level 2

Low-risk properties - modern houses and flats built less than 50 years ago.


Level 3

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


Average costs from Compare My Move research, How Much Does a House Survey Cost? based on a house costing £200,000-£300,000. It should be noted that survey costs will vary depending on your personal situation, property and area.

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What Does a House Survey Include?

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?Level 1Level 2Level 3
Completed by a RICS Chartered Surveyor.YesYesYes

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




Identifies problems that could help with price negotiations.




Provides a condition rating of the property.




Highlights issues needing urgent attention.




Provides advice for your legal advisers.




Provides professional advice from the surveyor.



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

Do I Need A Survey For A New Build?

If you're buying a new build property, a Snagging Survey will be needed and typically costs £300. As the property you’re moving into will be brand new, there isn’t a need for a HomeBuyer Report or Building Survey as there shouldn’t be any structural damage.

The survey usually highlights 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. 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.

    To learn more, read snagging list.

    Do I Need A Survey When Buying A House?

    It’s not a legal requirement to get a property survey but it’s recommended. A property survey will highlight any issues before you commit to purchasing. 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. You can then re-negotiate the offer or even pull out if the survey reveals bad results.

    If you’re buying a property using a mortgage, you'll be required by the mortgage lender to have a valuation at least, but this will just give you a valuation. 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.

    Do You Need a Survey When Buying a Flat?

    You will need a property survey on a flat, which one will depend on the type and age of the flat.

    • If you’re buying a purpose-built flat, you will need a HomeBuyers Report (Level 2).
    • If you’re buying a converted flat that was once a period property, then you’ll need a Building Survey (Level 3)

    Is a Mortgage Valuation Enough?

    A mortgage valuation is a very basic property inspection of a property that will only provide you with an accurate idea of its value. It is not a property survey and won’t provide any comment on the building’s structure or condition. It’s often vital for acquiring a mortgage.

    As a valuation inspection is usually carried out on the mortgage lender's behalf, it isn’t designed to assess the property in great depth and many issues could possibly be overlooked.

    To learn more, read valuation report.

    What Survey Would I Need in Scotland?

    House 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.

    To learn more, read home report.

    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.

    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.

    Learn More About Surveying

    This has been part of our guide to surveying. Next, we take a look at the new survey names introduced by RICS. To learn more read RICS home survey standard.

    Save on Your Property Survey

    Speak to a RICS Surveyor Today

    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, Cambridge Building Surveyors

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