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I’m buying a house. What type of survey do I need?

Last updated on July 2nd, 2024 at 10:51 am

Latest posts by Caroline Murray (see all)

    If you are buying a house and your offer has been accepted, you will probably be wondering about house surveys – do you need to get one and what sort of survey do you need? Here, partner and head of Graysons’ property team, Caroline Murray, tells you all you need to know about house surveys.

    What is a house survey?

    A house survey is an inspection, commissioned and paid for by the buyer of the property, that investigates the house’s condition and issues a report.  It will alert you to any defects, from minor to major structural issues – depending on what sort of survey you have commissioned.  It might give you information about the construction of the property – for example, the type of glazing and whether it needs replacing, or issues such as damp or a leaky roof.

    Do you need a house survey?

    Strictly speaking – no, you don’t have to get a survey, but, without one, you could end up with some expensive and unexpected bills. Compared to the cost of buying the house itself, the cost of a survey could be well worth it – especially if it points out major faults, such as subsidence or roof faults.  You would be well advised to get a house survey if you are buying an older or listed property. You may be able to ask for a discount on the selling price if you find out you will have to spend a substantial amount on repairs, or you may even decide to walk away from the purchase altogether.

    Is a mortgage valuation a survey?

    No – even though it is sometimes called a valuation survey. This is something that your mortgage lender will insist upon so it can assess how much the property is worth and ensure that it is worth lending against.  It is for the lender’s eyes only.  The lender will decide who should carry out the valuation and the buyer will have to pay for it.  Costs usually start at around £350.

    Currently, some lenders are offering free valuations with their mortgage deals, but you should ensure that it doesn’t come with a higher interest rate, which is likely to cost you more than paying for a valuation in the long run.

    What sort of house survey should you get?

    The type of house survey you choose will depend on what sort of property you are buying – and how much you can afford.  In March 2021, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) introduced a new range of house surveys, replacing the previous condition report, homebuyer report and building survey.  Read on to find out more.

    RICS Home Survey – Level 1

    This replaces the RICS Condition Report.  It is the most basic – and cheapest – survey. It doesn’t go into much detail and gives no advice or valuation. You can choose this survey if you are buying a property in reasonable condition, built from conventional building materials, such as brick.  It will provide a summary of any risks to the building, grounds or people.  It uses a traffic light system to rate any issues, problems and condition of the building, showing the importance of any problems.

    The time it takes to carry out this survey will depend on the house itself, but generally, it will take about an hour.

    The typical cost of this survey is £300 – £900.

    Find out more about RICS Home Survey – Level 1.

    RICS Home Survey – Level 2

    This replaces the RICS Home Buyer Report (or Homebuyer Survey).  This is probably the most popular choice of survey for someone buying a conventional property in reasonable condition.

    In addition to the information you would get from a level 1 survey, this will also give information on any roof spaces and cellars – which are checked as part of the survey.   You would also get advice on how much any identified repairs will cost as well as a recommendation that further investigation might be necessary regarding any issues upon which the surveyor has been unable to reach a conclusion.

    You can get a level 2 survey with or without a valuation.  If you opt for a survey with a valuation, you will get a list of any problems that might affect the value, information on market value and what the insurance reinstatement figure should be.

    This survey could take up to three hours to carry out.

    Find out more about RICS Home Survey – Level 2 with valuation.

    Find out more about RICS Home Survey – Level 2 without valuation.

    The typical cost of this survey is £400 – £1000.

    RICS Home Survey – Level 3

    This replaces the RICS Building Survey.  It is the most comprehensive survey offered by RICS and the most expensive.  It is also known as a full structural survey.  It includes everything you would get from a level 2 survey plus information on any identifiable risks or defects relating to areas that are not inspected.  You will also be given an explanation of the consequences of non-repair of any issues identified and an outline of the possible cost of any repairs or remedial work, how long they will take and what priority each issue should be given.

    You are likely to want to choose this level of survey if you are buying a listed building, a building in poor condition, an old building or a building in need of renovation.

    This is the most comprehensive survey and the time it takes to carry out will vary considerably, but it could take up to a full day.

    Find out more about RICS Home Survey – Level 3.

    The typical cost of this survey is £600 – £1500+.

    Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA)

    You can also opt for a survey to be carried out by RPSA.  It offers two levels of survey.

    RPSA Home Condition Survey

    This is equivalent to the RICS Home Survey – Level 2. The surveys are independently checked to ensure quality and consistency and are also likely to include information on issues relating to broadband speed, damp and boundary issues.

    Find out more about RPSA Home Condition Survey.

    The typical cost of this survey is £400 – £900.

    RPSA Building Survey

    This offers everything that is included in the RPSA Home Condition Survey plus a more comprehensive review of defects and how to go about rectifying them, as well as the possible consequences of not doing so.  As with the RICS Home Survey – Level 3, you are likely to choose this survey if you are buying an older home.

    Find out more about RPSA Building Survey

    What is a snagging survey?

    This is a survey that you can have carried out on a new build property that can identify many issues, from minor defects such as misaligned doors, uneven plasterwork or problems with door frames and skirting boards to more major structural issues.

    If you are considering a snagging survey on your new build property, it is best if you can have it carried out before you exchange contracts, or if you are buying the property off plan, pre-completion, as this gives you more negotiating power.  However, some builders will not allow snagging surveys to be carried out before completion and some won’t even allow buyers on site, so if you can’t get a snagging report carried out pre-completion, you should have one carried out as soon as you move in.  Technically, however, you can have a snagging survey carried out any time within the first year of moving into a new build home and the builder should rectify any defects you have identified.

    Snagging surveys normally cost between £300 and £600.

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