Surveys: what are they and why does my property need one?

Once you have had your offer accepted, it is time to think about instructing a survey on the property you are buying. This is a detailed inspection of the property and its current condition which will flag any potential structural issues. Here, we explain why surveying a property is an important step in the purchasing process, how to find the right surveyor and what kind of survey you need. 

Do you need a survey?

It isn’t a legal requirement however we would always recommend instructing a survey, purely because it’s better to be aware of any potential repair/maintenance issues (and their respective costs) before you purchase the property. Sometimes the survey results can be used to negotiate the property’s value with the seller, especially if it comes to light that substantial repairs are required that you weren’t anticipating

How to find a surveyor:

It is recommended to pick a surveyor that is a member of a trade association such as RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) as they ensure certain professional standards of work for their surveyors. There are 3 main bodies of surveyors for residential surveys:

One. To find a Rics-accredited surveyor, visit

Two. For an RPSA surveyor, visit

Three. To find a Sava-registered surveyor, visit

Your estate agent, mortgage broker or lender may also be able to recommend a surveyor to you.

What type of survey do you need?

One. Condition Report – It gives a broad overview of the property’s condition, highlighting any significant issues that either need to be fixed or may cause safety issues. However, this type of survey does not provide any substantial detail. It uses a traffic light system to illustrate the condition of different aspects of the property but does not include a valuation. It is suited to standard build and relatively new properties in good condition, built from common materials

Two. Homebuyer’s report – This is the most popular type of survey. It will cover everything in the condition report and will confirm any problems that may affect the value. The surveyor will be able to give their opinion on how much the property is worth. The report also gives advice on repairs and ongoing maintenance that may be required (e.g., damp and subsidence issues, work which doesn’t comply with planning or building regulation approval etc) and will flag these matters to your conveyancer. It is non-intrusive in nature which means they won’t be checking under floorboards or drilling holes in walls etc. It is suited to standard properties that are in reasonably good condition

Three. Building Survey – This is sometimes referred to as a ‘Full Structural Survey’. It is a thoroughly detailed look into the property’s condition and provides advice on any defects/repairs as well as estimated costs and their respective timings. The surveyor will do a full invasive sweep of the property, looking under floorboards and checking behind walls. This survey doesn’t include a valuation. It is suited to large, old or unusual properties or those that are in poor structural condition. It is also useful if you are planning any big renovations or significant work to the property to opt for this kind of survey

*The above is based on the RICS reports available*

RSPA offer a home condition survey, a building survey, and a buy-to-let survey.

Sava offers a home condition survey which is similar to a Homebuyers Report.

Mortgage Valuations:

Please be aware that a mortgage valuation is NOT a survey and cannot be relied upon as proof that the property is in good condition. This valuation is simply for the lenders use. Quite often it doesn’t actually involve anybody visiting the property, instead, they carry out what is known as a ‘desktop valuation’

Home Survey Standard:

RICS introduced a new Home Survey Standard (a best practice standard) which came into effect on 01.03.2021 but since then has been operating under a transitional period where both the old and new types of survey were in use. This period ended on 31.08.2021. Currently, the new home survey reports must be used by RICS-accredited surveyors, you may therefore see the various types of surveys referred to as the following:

  1. RICS Home Survey Level 1 – this is the RICS condition report
  2. RICS Home Survey Level 2 (survey only) – this is the RICS Homebuyers Report
  3. RICS Home Survey Level 2 (survey and valuation) – this is the RICS Homebuyers Report
  4. RICS Home Survey Level 3 – this is the building survey
  • Emma Jeffrey