Getting your mortgage agreed and having an offer accepted on a property is all very exciting. But before everything can be signed and sealed, you’ll need to sort out a house survey. In this post, we’ll tell you all about the different types of house survey, so you can decide which one is best for you.
(Did you know, with Habito you can get help with the complete buying process, including the survey?)
What is a house survey?
A house survey helps by checking the current state and condition of the property and identifying any snags you need to be aware of. The survey is done by a surveyor, who does a property inspection to look for any issues. They’ll then create a report on the property’s condition and highlight any problems or repair work that needs to be done.
In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, it’s up to you, the buyer, to organise the house survey on the home you’re buying. So, the surveyor is instructed by you to complete the work. It’s your responsibility to find a qualified surveyor, arrange a time to complete the survey, and get the final report from them.
If that sounds like a lot, you can use our service instead. We sort out your surveying and conveyancing (in other words, the legal stuff) as part of our complete home-buying service.
Note: Things are a little different in Scotland. It's a legal requirement for the seller to have a fully-completed home report ready for the prospective buyer before they can market their property. This is so the buyer can check the report before making an offer.
How to choose the right surveyor
A surveyor needs to be qualified to carry out their work. Most qualified surveyors will be members of a recognised governing body such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). This means you can be sure your surveyor is held to a high standard.
Alternative membership organisations for surveyors are the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) and Sava. You can check any of these regulators to find out whether your surveyor is qualified. As you’ll see in the next section of this guide, the different types of house surveys in the UK are officially accredited by these associations (RICS, RPSA, or Sava).
These governing bodies set the standards that surveyors must practice by, and they monitor their members. That means you’re protected if your surveyor breaks the rules.
There are different requirements for different house surveys, so you need to know what your surveyor should be reporting on for you.
What types of house surveys are available in the UK?
There are various types of house surveys to choose from, and each has its benefits for different kinds of properties. These surveys come in different levels, which signify the depth and detail your surveyor will go into during their inspection.
You can find out more about these below, along with which property types they’re suitable for, plus some information about the average costs.
Level 1 — Condition Report (RICS)
Property Type: A new build or modern house with no visible signs of disrepair.
Price: Ranging from £250 to £350. This price includes the surveyor going out to inspect the property, writing a condition report, and sending this report to you.
What to expect from a Level 1 Condition Report:
An RICS Condition Report is categorised as a level one survey because it’s the most basic you can get, and it results in just a brief report. This is the cheapest of all the different types of surveys, and it is the least detailed.
As the name suggests, a Condition Report will report on the condition of the property. Your surveyor will do this by inspecting the inside and outside of the property and may use equipment to help them do so (such as a damp meter). They won’t move furniture or floorboards, though.
Next, they’ll write a condition report using a traffic light system. The traffic light system acts as a grading tool, with each part of the property receiving a red, amber, or green rating — depending on its condition and any urgent attention required.
You should also expect to be notified of any potential risks or legal issues in the report that may cause you trouble down the line. These are the things that you should tell your solicitor or conveyancer about, like extension approvals or boundary ownership.
However, what you won’t be able to do is seek additional advice from your surveyor to follow on from their report, which is why it's better for those newer types of properties. If the house is on the older side, it may be best to get a HomeBuyer Report.
Level 2 — HomeBuyer Report (RICS)
Property Type: Suited to most homes that appear to be in a reasonable condition.
Price: There are two types of RICS HomeBuyer Reports. The first is a HomeBuyer Report (survey only), starting from about £350. This price includes the surveyor inspecting the property, writing the HomeBuyer Report (survey only), and sending the report to you. You can also ask your surveyor for advice on anything they’ve written in the report once you’ve reviewed it.
The second option is a HomeBuyer Report (survey and valuation). The valuation costs an extra £100 on top of the cost of the survey. It includes everything above, as well as a new valuation.
What to expect from these HomeBuyer surveys:
An RICS HomeBuyer Report (survey only) is a level up from a Condition Report, so it’ll provide more detail. A HomeBuyer Report will also cover inspection of any potential structural or subsidence issues, on top of what’s included in a Condition Report. This will include most common problems in properties like damp and rot, but the surveyors will not delve beneath the surface (in places like under the floorboards or behind large pieces of furniture). This can make their findings limited due to the non-intrusive inspection that they do.
An RICS HomeBuyer Report (survey and valuation) includes everything the HomeBuyer Report (survey only) includes, plus a valuation. This means that you’ll also receive a more accurate valuation of the property, as well as the survey report findings. This form of survey can give you a bit of leverage if you want to renegotiate the asking price if there are big differences between the survey valuation and the estate agent’s valuation.
Level 2 — Home Condition Survey (Sava or RPSA)
Property Type: Suited to slightly older homes that appear to be in reasonable condition.
Price: Starting from around £450. This price includes the surveyor inspecting the property, writing the Home Condition Survey, and sending the report to you. You can also request a debrief with an RPSA surveyor to run through any questions you have about the report’s contents.
What to expect:
The surveys we’ve talked about so far are provided by RICS. The Home Condition survey, however, can be provided by either the RPSA or Sava. The main difference between this and the RICS Homebuyer surveys is that the reports go through an independent process to check the quality. These surveys have been described as being more user-friendly, with pictures included and numbered or colour-coded ratings for each part of the property. You’ll also receive a debrief from an RPSA surveyor, who will answer any questions you may have.
Level 3 — Building Survey (RICS)
Property Type: Old properties, rural properties, unusual properties or properties which have visible signs of disrepair.
Price: This is the most expensive type of survey. Prices start from about £600, and the exact cost is determined by the type and size of the property in question. This includes the surveyor inspecting the property, writing the Building Survey report, and sending the report to you.
You can also obtain advice from the surveyor about their report findings, which can be really helpful for you to calculate the costs of your renovation and repairs.
What to expect:
The level three RICS Building Survey (also described as a ‘full structural survey’ or ‘full building survey’) is the most comprehensive one available.
Although it doesn’t include a valuation, you’ll receive a more detailed inspection of the property to identify any structural problems and the required remedial work — including what could happen if the major works aren’t carried out.
Are house surveys compulsory for home buyers in the UK?
There’s no legal obligation to get a house survey when you’re buying a house in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland. But most people do anyway, and we would always recommend that you get one. House surveys can save you a lot of time and money down the line, and prevent you from being blindsided by nasty surprises.
For example, if you chose to skip the survey when buying your next home, you may discover later that the house needs a new roof. This would cost you thousands of pounds that could have otherwise been saved if the issue had been spotted before your property purchase. In that case, you could try renegotiating the property’s sale price or get the owners to fix it first.
If all else fails, you could still walk away from the sale and withdraw your initial offer.
The cost of getting a survey done is low compared to what you’d incur after the contracts are signed, so it’s definitely a good idea to get one when you’re in the process of buying a house.
Quick summary: house surveys in the UK
There are four main types of house surveys to choose from, each offering different benefits depending on the type of property you’re looking to buy.
As a buyer in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland, you’d start thinking about arranging a house survey once you have your offer accepted and a mortgage in place. But in Scotland, it’s the seller's responsibility to have a home report ready when the property goes on the market.
With Habito, you can get your mortgage, legal work, and property survey all in one place. We take the stress away from home-buying and guide you through the whole process, from searching for the right mortgage to picking up the keys to your new home.