House surveys explained

You’ve found your dream home and you’re keen to buy, but first you need a property survey. There are different types of house survey to choose from and can vary dependent on where in the UK you are buying or selling a property.


06 Oct 2017

What is a house survey?

A home or house survey highlights any issues with a property, like damages or areas of wear and tear.  The survey will score the condition of the house you’re looking to buy, and gives details on anything that’s worn, damaged or that could cause you trouble down the line.

House surveys are there to help you avoid nasty surprises, so carrying out the right survey is an important step in getting your new home. By paying close attention to the survey results you can decide whether or not a property is the one for you.

Lenders will want to see some form of house survey before offering you a mortgage. There are differences in what type of survey you need and how this works depending on where in the UK you live.

Types of house survey in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

A house survey isn’t a legal requirement in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but there’s a very good chance your lender will ask for one. A chartered surveyor can supply surveys for a fee that you are responsible for, and you will find that most are accredited by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (Rics).

The cost will vary widely depending on the location and the level of survey you choose but you can expect to pay between £150 and £1,500. See more about the cost of moving home.

Here’s a quick guide to the types of survey out there:

  • Mortgage valuation: This is not a full survey, instead it’s a way for a mortgage lender to check the value of the property. Approx cost: £150-£1500.
  • RICS Condition report: This is a basic survey that won’t go into great detail but will pick out any key problems with the home. It typically operates on a traffic light system that colour codes each part of the property based on risk. Approx cost: £400-500.
  • RICS HomeBuyer report: This is a more detailed report that can uncover things like damp or subsidence. Good for helping you decide who should fix problems, you or the seller. Approx cost: upwards of £400.
  • Building or full structural survey: This is the most detailed survey you can get. You might want this if you’re thinking of buying an older home, as it will look at the building’s structure and can provide predicted costs of fixing problems. Approx cost: upwards of £600 depending on the level of detail.
  • New build snagging survey: This is specially designed for new builds and highlights problems so you have the chance to raise them with developers before you move in. Approx cost: upwards of £300.

Survey costs sourced from Money Advice Service and accurate as of September 2017.

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In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a building survey is the most detailed type of analysis you can get, and typically costs around £500 - £2000 depending on a few factors. It looks closely at the structure of the house to find underlying issues.

Getting a house survey in Scotland

In Scotland, every seller has to commission a survey as part of the Home Report they need to put their house on the market.

The survey covers the property’s condition, a valuation and an assessment of how accessible it is.

You can carry out your own survey if you’re buying and would like more information on a property, and you will be required to commission one if you are selling. Here are the options:

  • Mortgage valuation: This is not a full survey, instead it’s a way for a mortgage lender to check the value of the property. Approx cost: £150 - £1500.
  • Home condition survey (scheme 1 survey): This is the cheapest and most basic of the surveys, which gives a quick grading of a home’s various elements. Each part of the property is given a numbered score to tell you if it needs work, or could cause problems over time if left unrepaired. Approx cost: £250.
  • Home buyers report (scheme 2 survey): This type of survey goes into a lot more detail and will look at both the inside and the outside of the house. Approx cost: upwards of £400.
  • Full structural survey: Taking a good look at the structure of the building and checking for problems like subsidence, this is the most detailed type of report. Approx cost: upwards of £600.

Survey costs sourced from Money Advice Service and accurate as of September 2017.

What does a house survey tell you?

It’s worth knowing that if your lender commissions a survey on the property you’re looking to buy, they won’t share this with you – as it’s for their information to check the home’s value.

However, if you decide to pay to commission your own independent survey through an accredited surveyor, you will be able to look through this yourself.

While surveys are long and full of jargon, they have a traffic light system to help you work out any issues that could be a big problem. They go from red for a big problem, down to green for a small one. Others will give a numbered score to each part of the home.

Understanding your survey: You can ask your surveyor or solicitor to go through the details of the report with you.

Dealing with problems: Once the survey has highlighted problems, it’s time to talk about who will deal with them. Working out whether you or the seller will be liable can be a good bargaining chip for the sale – or might help you decide whether you want a place for not.

Making a plan: A house survey gives you the chance to make a plan for getting a new house in order. Whether it’s spending your budget on fixing legacy problems like damp or deciding to leave smaller problems until later.

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What’s next?

Once your lender has conducted their own survey on your chosen home, they will confirm if they’re happy to lend you a mortgage based on its value.

It’s worth remembering that if you pay for your own independent survey, that your lender may not accept this. This is because lenders only accept surveys supplied by a list of accredited surveyors they trust.

If you have paid for an independent house survey, you can go through this with your solicitor or conveyancer to flag any problems with the home, then draw up a list of action points.

If the survey does show any issues, you may be in a position to renegotiate your offer to take into account for any repairs needed, or potentially even decide not to proceed with the purchase. Either way, don’t get disheartened – this is all part of the process.

Important information

The content on this page aims to offer an informative introduction to the subject matter but does not constitute expert financial advice specific to your own situation. All facts and figures were correct at time of publication and were compiled using a range of sources.