As a buyer you can choose which type of survey to go for and how much to spend. Here we explain the options...

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  • If you've had an offer accepted on a property, then the next stage in the buying process is to establish whether you need a survey - and if so, which one.

    Deciding on a survey will depend on a number of factors, including the value and state of the property as well as how thorough you want to be in uncovering every flaw before you buy.  

    Here we walk you through the types of surveys available and how much each one is likely to cost.

    What is a survey?

    A survey is an inspection of a property. It more general terms, it is a professional health check of the bricks and mortar. The level of detail depends on which survey you opt for. It is not an obligatory part of buying a property.

    A survey is carried out by a surveyor, the majority of whom are members of Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). 

    Valuations versus surveys

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

    You will get a copy of the mortgage valuation, but it will not highlight 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

    RICS offers three types of survey:

    1. RICS Condition Report

    This survey is the cheapest and most basic RICS survey. It is used for a conventional house, flat or bungalow in a generally good state of repair.

    It uses a traffic light system to rate the condition of different parts of the building, services, garage and outbuildings, showing problems that may require varying degrees of attention.

    It provides a summary of the risks to the condition of the building and advice.

    2. RICS HomeBuyer Report

    This survey is the middle-of-the-road option and costs more. It is suitable for most modern homes as well as older properties that are in a reasonable condition.

    RICS HomeBuyer Report (Survey)

    The main objectives of the HomeBuyer Report (Survey) 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)

    RICS HomeBuyer Report (Survey and Valuation)

    This Report includes the HomeBuyer Report (Survey) above as well as:

    • The estimated cost of rebuilding the property after a fire, for building insurance purposes
    • The value of the property on the open market

    3. RICS Building Survey

    This is RICS’s most comprehensive report and is normally used for larger or older properties, or if you are planning major works.

    It provides an in-depth analysis of the property's condition and includes advice on defects, repairs and maintenance options.

    It is recommended for:

    • 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

    4. Home Condition Survey

    This survey is provided by the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA), not RICS, and is suitable for all types of property.

    It comprises an inspection and comprehensive report, including:

    • Colour-coded condition ratings 
    • Photographs and diagrams
    • A debrief from the surveyor who will answer any questions you may have

    5. Home Report (in Scotland only)

    In Scotland, a seller is legally required to produce a Home Report pack within nine days of promoting their property. Buyers have access to it free-of-charge.

    It offers:

    • Survey and property valuation
    • Energy Report, including an Energy Performance Certificate
    • Property questionnaire covering issues such as council tax and electricity provide

    You might still want to consider getting your own survey done though, particularly if you have any concerns about the property.

    How much will a survey cost?

    Prices vary according to the value of the property, but..

    • Condition Report should start at around £250.
    • HomeBuyer Report costs start between £350 and £400 with another £100 or so for the valuation
    • Building Survey is upwards of £500, but will depend on the specific age and features of the property, so shop around for quotes. 
    • Home Condition Survey typically costs from £400.

    If you've noticed a specific problem within the property and want to have it assessed, you can also 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.


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    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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