The Role Of A Surveyor In The House Move Process

Buying and selling a home is a huge process and at times, the sheer amount of work involved can get somewhat overwhelming.

One of the most important things you need to do is to get a survey. In fact, it is unlikely you will be granted your mortgage until the correct type of survey has been carried out.

Surveys give you an idea of the state of the property, highlight any issues and can save you money further down the line if you need to make repairs. It can also provide a bargaining tool should the results throw up any unexpected repairs needed and how much it will cost.

  • Surveys must be carried out by qualified surveyors
  • Most qualified surveyors are members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
  • RICS qualified surveyors carry professional indemnity insurance.
  • A local surveyor may have a better knowledge of market values in the area
  • If you are buying an unusual house, like a listed building or a castle, get a surveyor with experience in that specific field
  • Costs vary from company to company, and depend on the size and location of the property

There is more than one type of survey to choose from. Most surveyors provide three types of survey: a condition report, a HomeBuyer’s report and a building survey. Here is a rundown of what they have to offer.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) provides a basic template for each of these surveys, and most surveyors who are registered with RICS will adapt the templates to fit their own style.

Surveyors registered with the Surveyors and Valuers Accreditation (SAVA) scheme offer an alternative – the Home Condition Survey. This survey is similar to the RICS HomeBuyer’s report, but without a valuation.

Mortgage valuation

A mortgage lender’s valuation is not a full on house survey so to speak.

It is carried out on your mortgage lender’s behalf are usually requested by the lender before they make a formal mortgage offer. Despite this, you are likely to pay for it.

Its purpose is to confirm whether or not the property worth the amount you intend to pay for it, so the lender can decide whether to lend you the amount you’re asking for.

This report will not tell you anything about the condition of the property; any work that needs doing or any potential problems with the building.

RICS condition report

This is what people commonly refer to as a basic ‘proper’ survey. It gives an overview of the property’s condition and highlights significant issues, but doesn’t go into any great detail.

  • It gives traffic light ratings for the condition of different parts of the property. Green means everything is ok, orange is some cause for concern, and red means serious repairs are vital.
  • It also provides you with a summary of the property’s defects and possible risks affecting the home though it does not include any advice or a valuation.
  • Condition reports are usually made if you’re buying a relatively new property with no previous issues, and just want to satisfy lenders requirements.

RICS HomeBuyer's report - (£350-£450)

More detailed than a condition report, this type of survey highlights problems, such as damp and subsidence.

This is the most popular type of survey and are fine for most properties that are in a reasonable condition. However If you’re buying an unusual or period property, or a property that needs significant renovation, it is best to instruct a building survey.

  • It will normally include a valuation and an insurance reinstatement value (should the building suffer any significant damage or destruction)
  • It includes advice on necessary repairs and ongoing maintenance and points out anything that doesn’t meet current building regulations.
  • The inspection is non-intrusive, therefore the surveyor will not identify anything more than just ‘surface-level’ problems.
  • It generally includes a market valuation and rebuild cost, and takes around two to four hours to complete.

Home Condition Survey (£400- £900)

Home condition surveys are offered by the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) rather than RICS. This is similar to the RICS HomeBuyer’s report, but without the market valuation.

  • It is conducted by specialists in residential surveys and produced in a consistent, consumer friendly format.
  • It includes photographs to make it easier to understand and highlights issues to follow up on before purchase.
  • It flags up any legal problems your conveyancer should check for you.
  • It will include practical information such as broadband speed, damp assessment and boundary issues for your conveyancer to consider
  • Reports are independently checked to ensure consistency and quality
  • Home Condition Surveys cost between £400-£900 depending on value of property

Building Survey (survey level three – £500 or more)

This is the most thorough survey you can get, it provides a comprehensive analysis of the structure and condition of the property. They are expensive, but can be a worthwhile investment:

  • They range in price from under £500 to about £2000 depending on the size of the home
  • They are extensive surveys and you will be given a detailed report at the end
  • The surveyor will get into the attic, check behind walls, and look between floors and above ceilings
  • It includes advice on repairs, and provides estimated timings and costs, and will tell you what will happen if you do not do the repairs
  • Unless specified, it probably will not include an insurance reinstatement value estimate, or a market valuation.
  • This is a good option if you’re buying a property over 50 years old or in a poor condition. It is also worthwhile if you’re planning to do significant work or have major concerns about a property.

Home Report

Properties being sold in Scotland require a Home Report. The seller of a property is responsible for organising the completion of a Home Report before the property is put on the market, ensuring it is available to prospective buyers if requested. The Home Report will allow potential buyers to make an informed decision on whether to purchase a property.

A home report includes a Single Survey, an EPC and a Property Questionnaire:

  • The Single Survey contains an surveyors assessment of the condition of the home, a valuation and an accessibility audit for people with particular needs.
  • The Energy Report contains a surveyors assessment of the energy efficiency of the home and its environmental impact. It also recommends ways to improve energy efficiency.
  • The Property Questionnaire is completed by the seller of the home and contains extra information, such as Council Tax banding and factoring costs that will be useful to buyers.

About Home Reports

Home Reports were introduced in 2008 to address the aims identified in the Stewardship and Responsibility report which listed the following requirements:

  • To provide better information about the condition of properties to sellers and buyers before offers are placed (and give sellers an incentive to carry out repairs before marketing their properties)
  • To address the problem of multiple surveys and valuations being carried out
  • To address the problem of artificially low asking prices being set


There are, however, types of properties that are exempt from requiring a Home Report, including:

  • Newly converted homes – a building which has or is being converted into a home
  • New build homes
  • Right to buy homes – If a property does not involve marketing it does not require a Home Report.
  • Seasonal and holiday accommodation – property which only has permission to be used 11 months a year
  • A portfolio of properties sold together – such as ‘gate house’ or ‘staff cottage’
  • Mixed sales – a combination of properties which also have non-residential use, such a flat above a shop or pub.
  • Dual use of a dwelling sale – a property is used for both residential and non-residential purposes such as a house which is also used as a salon or studio.
  • Unsafe properties – considered a health or safety risk to occupants or visitors.
  • Properties to be demolished


What is a Right to Buy Valuation and do I need one?

The Right to Buy Scheme allows council tenants to buy their council home at a discount.

If you are trying to buy your property it is likely that a district valuer from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will visit your home and make a valuation. This will be the basis of your offer to buy.

In this situation, you do not need a Chartered Surveyor to value the property. However, you can choose to instruct a Chartered Surveyor to assess the condition of a property and may commission independent survey advice.

What is a Shared Ownership Valuation and do I need one?

If you want to sell a shared ownership lease, or purchase an increased proportion of the property, you will need a market valuation which will involve a brief inspection of the property.

The report must be prepared by a Chartered Surveyor, who is also a Registered Valuer and will be in an approved format.

What is a “non traditional” house?

Houses classed as having non-traditional construction usually has had systems of building focused on speed and economy of construction. This was particularly common in the 1950’s and was often used by local authorities. Many of these houses were designated as ‘defective’ under Part XV1 Housing Act 1985.

What about a property with a non-traditional construction?

There are many types of non-traditional properties including metal frame, concrete frame, timber frame and concrete.

Depending on the type of construction, surveys on properties of this type may need specialist surveyors.

My lender is commissioning a mortgage valuation, do I also need a survey?

When you buy a house and need a mortgage, a lender will commission a mortgage valuation. The valuation advises the lender the value of a property and of any significant defects which might affect its value.

A mortgage valuation involves a brief inspection of the property and is different to a survey. The report is for the lender only and is very much standard in style.

You should not rely on a mortgage valuation to assess the condition of a property.

What is a Probate Valuation and do I need one?

A probate valuation is the market value of a property which forms part of an estate which belonged to someone now passed away. It is the value of the property at the time of death. Normally this would be done by an independent Chartered RICS Surveyor.

What's the difference between a Home Buyers Survey and a Building survey?

It’s all in the detail. A Home Buyers Report gives an appraisal of a property based on a basic visual inspection by a qualified surveyor. A building survey examines potential structural defects which may be hidden from view and gives you a more detailed report supported by photographs and other useful information.

Can you do a Building Survey on a flat?

No, a Building Survey is not used for a flat as in most cases not all parts of the building are readily accessible during the survey inspection.

A RICS HomeBuyer Report would usually be recommended for a flat. This would cover the flat itself but will also bring to your notice the maintenance responsibilities which might affect the building as a whole, for which you may have a potential liability.

Is a mortgage valuation the same as a survey?

No, a mortgage valuation is just a valuation of the property commissioned by your lender, and written purely for their benefit to assess the risk of their loan against the resale value of the property. A survey is written for you as the prospective buyer (or home owner), to give you the best possible assessment of the property’s condition, required repairs and maintenance, etc.

Can a survey insist on a lower asking price?

No, a survey is conducted on your behalf, so you can be informed about the condition and potential issues of the property. It is up to you to assess whether the purchase price is too high, or if the problems are too much to costly. A RICS Home Buyer Survey will give you a current market valuation, so you will know if the asking price is reasonable.

What type of survey do I need?

Each property is individual and concerns of the client are different. Generally, for a pre-1900’s property or one which has been or it is planned to be extensively renovated or extended, a Building Survey would generally be recommended. For a more modern property which is of conventional construction and in reasonable condition, a RICS HomeBuyer survey would be fine.

What is the survey process?

Once an instruction has been received, your surveyor will arrange to send you the formal terms of engagement. They will then arrange for a surveyor to visit the property and make an inspection.

A comprehensive inspection may take a few hours to a full day or more depending on the size and complexity of the property.

A formal written report will be prepared and emailed and/or posted to the client.

Do I need a survey on a new-build house?

Yes. Most new build homes should come with a 10 year NHBC warranty, under which the builder is responsible for defects in the first two years, and the NHBC offers a structural warranty for the final 8 years. However, this warranty depends on the original builder accepting mistakes were made and putting them right. A survey from a RICS chartered surveyor will inform you of any problems, defects or issues with your new home in advance, and have them fixed by the time you move in.