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Who Organises a Survey When Buying a House?

Zenyx Griffiths

Written by Reviewed by Mike Ashton

29th Nov 2019 (Last updated on 11th Nov 2021) 6 minute read

Whoever requests the house survey is the one who must arrange it. In most transactions, the buyer will arrange a property survey once their offer has been accepted. Whilst they may recommend an independent surveyor, your solicitor will not necessarily be the one to arrange the survey.

Buying a new property, whether you're a first-time buyer or a previous homeowner, is a significant change. It's an important financial transaction and it's crucial that you find the right property for you and your budget. An independent property survey is usually recommended, as it can help you decide whether the building is a worthy investment.

To clear up any confusion, Compare My Move has created this useful guide to explain who organises a survey when buying a property. From the various types of surveys available to who must pay, we’ve explored the vital questions to prepare you for when you’re ready to compare surveyors, making the process as easy as possible.

This article will cover the following:
  1. Why Should You Arrange a House Survey?
  2. The Different Types of House Surveys Available
  3. Who Pays for the Survey When Buying a House?
  4. Does the Seller Get a Copy of the Survey?
  5. Organising a Property Survey in Scotland
  6. Learn More About Surveying

Why Should You Arrange a House Survey?

Organising a survey is an important way to determine whether the property is worth the asking price. It's also vital to factor in when budgeting the total cost of buying a house.

If you’re purchasing the property with a mortgage, then a simple valuation report is usually required to confirm its value and tell the lender that the property is worth the agreed price. A mortgage valuation is not a property survey, its purpose is to satisfy the lender that they can sell the house and recover their loan if you don’t keep up the repayments. It must be carried out by a RICS registered valuer who might not be a professional building surveyor and who is often less experienced in finding and diagnosing building defects.

A seller can also arrange a 'vendor's survey' to share with potential buyers. This is helpful, for example, where a property will be sold at auction and the survey report can be circulated to potential bidders before the auction day. If you're participating in a sealed bid to obtain a property, this will be a type of auction where a vendor survey will be useful.

Regardless of whether the seller provides a property survey, it’s still recommended that the buyer arranges their own independent report as the findings could affect their final decision. For example, bad survey results could be used to renegotiate the house price or convince the buyer to pull out of the sale altogether, saving them from future problems and expenses.

The Different Types of House Surveys Available

To help you find the right surveyor for you, we’ve included a list of the main types of property surveys available, and when they should be used. It’s not only important to know who organises a survey, but also which type is most appropriate. There are three levels of surveys to consider:

  • Condition Report (Level 1) - The Home Condition Report provides a basic overview of a property’s condition and the main risks it might contain. It's the cheapest level available and uses a standardised format to help keep the cost down. The Condition Report is suitable for modern, conventional homes which are in fairly good condition. It does not include a valuation, but this can sometimes be added as a further service.
  • Homebuyers Survey (Level 2) - The Homebuyers Survey is perhaps the most common and is intended for fairly modern, conventional properties which are mostly in reasonable repair. It will highlight any major damage or risks and will advise if any future repairs might be needed. This report also uses a standard reporting format and will tend to focus on key risks and concerns. The Homebuyers Survey report usually includes a market valuation and an insurance valuation but can be provided without these if you prefer.
  • Building Survey (Level 3) - This is the most detailed and expensive type of survey. It’s intended for builders which are older, unusual, in poor condition or have been significantly altered. It will describe the type of construction and any key concerns or structural issues and should give advice for any future maintenance and repairs. It does not include a valuation, but this can often be added as a further service if required. For a more thorough comparison, read homebuyers report vs building survey.

To learn more, read RICS Home Survey Standard.

Who Pays for the Survey When Buying a House?

Whoever is organising the survey is usually the one who pays for it. Never be afraid to shop around and compare surveyors, as it can often reduce your surveying costs and help you find a surveyor who is right for the level of survey you want. To help you in your search, you can receive instant quotes with Compare My Move, connecting you with up to 5 professional RICS chartered surveyors.

If you’re using a mortgage to pay for the property, your lender will request a Mortgage Valuation before confirming the contract with you. The mortgage lender will commission the valuation report, but it’s usually paid for by you. The lender will hire a registered valuer and will then receive the report. Buyers may want to consider having a Homebuyer’s Survey carried out as well, which can include a valuation, as it is a much more detailed inspection of the property and will be carried out by a chartered surveyor who is trained in finding and diagnosing building problems.

Does the Seller Get a Copy of the Survey?

In England and Wales, the seller will not see a copy of the report unless the buyer chooses to disclose the results with them. The surveyor cannot discuss the report or its contents with the seller without the buyer's consent as it would breach their contractual duties.

If the buyer receives a bad survey report, they might use it as a way to renegotiate the sale price. However, they do not have to show the seller the document if they do not wish to. If the seller believes the buyer is being unreasonable throughout the process, they can refuse to sell at any price or on any terms. They can also organise their own property survey and work with their surveyor and estate agent to resolve any issues found.

In Scotland, as the seller will have to organise the property survey, they will receive a copy of the report. They must add this document to their Home Report which will then be available to any potential buyer interested in the home.

Organising a Property Survey in Scotland

It’s important to note that the process of buying a house in Scotland is slightly different compared to the rest of the UK. In Scotland, it’s not the buyer who must arrange the survey, but the seller. It’s the seller’s responsibility to arrange a Home Report to present to the buyer before the purchase can even go ahead.

A Home Report provides potential buyers with a range of details about the property. One element included is a Single Survey, which is very similar to a Homebuyers Report. If you’re buying a home in Scotland then the seller is required to provide you with a Home Report. If they don't, they could be fined for not complying with regulations. Buyers should request to view this as soon as possible. Preferably after viewing the house, as it will highlight any issues or obvious damage.

Unless it’s included in the Home Report, buyers in Scotland will still be required by their mortgage lenders to pay for a Mortgage Valuation. If the lender deems the Home Report’s valuation as reliable, then they might use this to continue with the process instead. The buyer also has the option of arranging their own survey, for example, if they would prefer an independent or a more detailed analysis than the Home Report’s results.

Learn More About Surveying

This article is part of our guide to surveying. In our next article, we take a look at the common issues that are highlighted in a survey. To learn more read what are common house survey problems.

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, Cambridge Building Surveyors

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