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House Surveys – A Complete guide

It’s been a while since we have written a complete guide on House surveys so here we are with all the info you could possibly need and more. To get help with conveyancing, compare all online and local conveyancers here.

What Is A House Survey?

A house survey is an inspection of a property’s physical condition conducted by experts. Surveyors inspect the property and report any issues to do with the condition of the property. These can vary from minor to significant structural problems. 

Homebuyers usually have a survey done on a property when their offer has been accepted. Before commissioning a survey, you should check that the surveyor is a member of one of the two main accrediting bodies:

 

  • Rics – Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Rics surveyors offer three ‘levels’ of survey; 
    • Home Survey – Level 1 (previously called a Condition Report), 
    • Level 2 (previously called a HomeBuyer Report). These reports are available with or without valuations. 
    • Level 3 (previously called a Building Survey). 

 

  • RPSA – Residential Property Surveyors Association. The RPSA provides two levels of survey: 
    • A Home Condition Survey and 
    • A Building Survey. 
    • It also offers a specialist buy-to-let survey for landlords. 

What Are The Different Types Of House Survey?

The type of house survey you’ll require depends on the age and condition of the property. Buyers most commonly choose a mid-level survey (like the Rics Home Survey – Level 2 or RPSA Home Condition Survey). For older properties, a more comprehensive survey may be recommended. 

  • Rics Home Survey – Level 1 

This is the most basic type of survey. It uses a traffic light system to give an overview of the property’s condition. It highlights significant issues but doesn’t go into minute detail.

 

This survey is suitable if you’re looking to buy a standard, modern property in good condition. You can download an example report on the Rics website.

 

  • Rics Home Survey – Level 2/RPSA Home Condition Survey

A mid-level survey is the standard choice for most properties in reasonable condition. It will look at everything a Level 1 survey would but with added extras; It will highlight any problems that might affect the property’s value. There will be surveyor’s advice on repairs and ongoing maintenance. It should also highlight issues such as damp and subsidence and highlight anything that doesn’t meet current building regulations.

This inspection is non-intrusive; the surveyor won’t move furniture or lift floorboards. They’ll only be able to identify ‘surface-level’ issues.

Rics Level 2 Surveys are available with or without a market valuation. You can download an example of the RPSA Home Condition Survey on their website

  • Rics Home Survey – Level 3/RPSA Building Survey

This is the most thorough type of survey. It provides a comprehensive analysis of both the property’s structure and condition.

This is a good option if you’re buying a property over 50 years old, of unusual design, or in poor condition. It can also be useful if you’re planning significant works or have major concerns. The surveyor will be more ‘hands on’ and check things like the attic and look under floorboards. The report will list any defects and advice on repairs and maintenance. 

You can ask the surveyor to include estimated costs and timescales for any repair work recommended.

You can download example reports at Rics and RPSA

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How Much Do House Surveys cost?

The cost of a survey will vary depending on location, size and the type of property. Different surveyors charge different amounts, so make sure you get a few quotes.

 These figures give a rough idea of price.

Type of reportProperty price
£100,000-£249,000£250,000-£349,000£350,000-£499,000£500,000-£1m
Rics Home Survey – Level 1£500£600£700£950
Rics Home Survey – Level 2/RPSA Home Condition Survey£500-600£600-700£700-800£1,000
Rics Home Survey – Level 3/RPSA Building Survey£700-750£800-900£900-£1,100£1,500

conveDo I Need A House Survey?

You don’t need to get a survey done on a property. But a survey can help you avoid expensive surprises, like an unexpected rewiring job. It also gives you peace of mind; it’s far better to be aware of any problems before you buy a property. This way you can make an informed decision about how much you’re willing to payand, if necessary, budget for any repair work.

If major problems are uncovered, you may be able to negotiate on price with the seller. 

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House Surveys V Mortgage Valuations

When you apply for a mortgage, the lender will carry out a valuation on the property. They need to make sure it’s worth roughly what you’re planning to pay for it. 

A mortgage valuation is sometimes called a valuation ‘survey’, but this can be misleading. A mortgage valuation is not nearly comprehensive enough to replace a proper house survey. In fact, it sometimes won’t even involve anyone visiting the property in person.

You should always arrange your own independent survey to make sure you’re not overpaying. 

How Do I Find A Surveyor?

House surveyors range from small local firms to much larger companies. Whoever you use, check if they’re registered with Rics or RPSA.

In some cases, the estate agent or your mortgage lender might recommend a surveyor. Before going with their suggestion, do your own research. Check you’re getting the best deal as the agent or lender may well be receiving a commission for the recommendation.

When booking a survey, make sure you do the following:

  • Read the surveyors Terms of Engagement. This will tell you what they will (and will not) be doing. 
  • Find Out when the inspection will take place and when you will get your report.
  • Make direct contact with the surveyor who will be carrying out your inspection. Ask questions if anything is unclear.

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How Long Does A House Survey Take?

The amount of time a house survey takes depends on the type and  level of survey you choose and the size of the property. In general though, you are looking at anything between 1 and 4 hours.

How Long Does It Take To Get My House Survey Results?

This depends on the individual surveyor and the complexity of the report. Your surveyor will tell you how long they’ll take to provide the report, but it shouldn’t be longer than five days (level one or two) or 10 days (level three).

What Are New-build Snagging Surveys?

A snagging survey is a visual survey to check the quality of workmanship against applicable standards. It is designed to spot problems with your new-build home, from the small and cosmetic, to the significant and structural. We have a whole article on them here.

You can give your snagging report to your developer before you move into the property and hopefully get any issues sorted as quickly as possible.

A snagging survey will cost around £300-£600.

So if you’re buying a new-build home, you won’t need a fully-fledged house survey. 

Are you moving home? Buying, selling or remortgaging in England and Wales? To find out all about conveyancing, compare conveyancing quotes with our conveyancer fees calculator. We provide an online instant fixed fee residential conveyancing quote from impartial, accredited licensed conveyancers and solicitors throughout the UK.

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