Different types of property surveys are available for the buyer. Which is suitable for you depends on the type of property or any fundamental problems you may have noticed.

September 2, 2014

Your requirements will also determine the level of detail your surveyor will go into when assessing the property's condition.

Valuations versus surveys

A valuation should not be used as a survey. If you're trying to buy a property with a mortgage, your mortgage company will conduct a basic valuation of the property to assess whether the property is worth the money you are paying.

You will most likely get a copy of the mortgage valuation, but it's unlikely to highlight any problems you may ordinarily find in a survey. It is important, therefore, that you employ a surveyor yourself to undertake a thorough inspection of the property you wish to buy.

The types of surveys available

There are two main types of structural survey available for those buying a property: a Homebuyer's Report or a Full Building Survey.

Homebuyer's Report

This choice of survey is designed to keep costs to a minimum and is the better option if you are buying a relatively standard property that seems to be in reasonably good condition and is less than, say, 30 years old. Your chartered surveyor will seek to isolate urgent structural problems with the property that are likely to impact on its value. According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the main objectives of the Homebuyer's Report are to:

  • Make a reasoned and informed judgment on whether or not to proceed with the purchase
  • Assess whether or not the property is a reasonable purchase at the agreed price
  • Make clear what decisions and actions should be taken before contracts are exchanged

Your property surveyor will make a number of assessments, including:

  • The general condition of the property
  • Any major faults in accessible parts of the building that may affect the value
  • Any urgent problems that need inspecting by a specialist before you sign a contract
  • Results of tests for damp in the walls
  • Damage to timbers - including woodworm or rot
  • The condition of any damp-proofing, insulation and drainage (though drains aren't tested)
  • The estimated cost of rebuilding the property after a fire, for building insurance purposes
  • The value of the property on the open market

Full Building Survey

This survey is more expensive than the Homebuyer's Report, but it's a more thorough and detailed assessment of the property's condition. It is therefore suitable for the following residential properties:

  • Listed buildings
  • Properties more than 30 years old
  • Buildings constructed in an unusual way, however old they are
  • Properties you plan to renovate or alter in any way
  • Properties that have had extensive alterations
  • Your surveyor will produce a final report which will reveal the detail of the construction of the property, the materials used and a list of all minor and major structural problems that may exist

Such tests will identify:

  • Major and minor defects and what they could mean

  • The possible cost of repairs

  • Results of damp testing on walls

  • Damage to timbers - including woodworm and rot

  • The condition of damp-proofing, insulation and drainage (though drains aren't tested)
  • Technical information on the construction of the property and the materials used
  • The location
  • Recommendations for any further special inspection

Cost range

The Full Building Survey is the most expensive survey available, but is also the most detailed. Understand what to expect in terms of costs and timings before you commission your survey. As a guide, the table below provides an indication of what you should expect to pay for a survey, although you should bear in mind that prices may vary by property value, by surveyor, and also by where in the country you live.

House valueBuilding surveyHomebuyer's report
up to £100k £480 £300
£101k to £200k £560 £350
£201k to £300k £610 £440
£301k to £400k £730 £480
£401k to £500k £800 £530
£501k to £600k £920 £710
£601k to £700k £950 £785
£701k to £800k £970 £875
£801k to £900k £1,000 £900
£901k to £1m £1,100 £920

Source: ReallyMoving 

If you've noticed a specific problem within the property and want to have it assessed, you can commission a Defect Report. The structural surveyor will concentrate solely on the problem identified and will provide you with the information to assess any necessary risks associated with it.


Related information

Some information contained herein may have changed since it was first published. PrimeLocation strongly advises you to seek current legal and/or financial advice from a qualified professional.

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