A guide to homebuyer surveys and costs

One in five homebuyers rely solely on a mortgage valuation report, so it’s no surprise that many are hit with repair bills once they move in. Getting a survey can help avoid the stress and cost of making repairs further down the line.

Types of property survey

Choose a survey based on the condition of the property itself, not the cost of the survey. Money spent on a decent survey can save you a fortune in the future.

RICS Condition Report

A Condition Report is a very basic ‘traffic light’ survey and the cheapest, costing around £250. It is most suitable for new-build and conventional homes in good condition. No advice or valuation is provided in this survey.

RICS HomeBuyer Report

A HomeBuyer Report is a survey suitable for conventional properties in reasonable condition. Costs start at £400 on average.

This will help you find out if there are any structural problems, such as subsidence or damp, as well as any other unwelcome hidden issues inside and outside. But the HomeBuyer Report doesn’t look beyond the floorboards or behind the walls.

Some homebuyer’s reports include a property valuation, so you may be able to revise your offer if the survey reveals a lower price than the mortgage lender’s valuation.

If there’s no valuation included, you could use the report’s suggestions for repairs to renegotiate the price. For example, if it’s going to cost you £5,000 to carry out work on the property’s damp walls, it’s reasonable to offer £5,000 less than the asking price.

Home Condition Survey

The Home Condition Survey provides the same level of in-depth inspection as a building survey. It uses a simple a clear presentation style and a 1, 2, 3 rating system to ensure that you can easily identify the most serious issues.

Included with the Home Condition Survey you should find some advice sheets on how to deal with some of the more common problems that have been found at the property. The typical cost is around £400-£500.

Building or full structural survey

This is the most comprehensive survey and is suitable for all residential properties. It’s particularly good for older homes or homes that may need repairs.

This type of survey typically costs upwards of £600 and provides detailed advice on repairs. It’s very extensive and in some circumstances worth the extra money but it does not usually include a valuation.

Although this survey and can’t look under floorboards or behind walls it should include the surveyor’s opinion on the potential for hidden defects in this area.

The surveyor should also provide information on potential repair options. Again, you could try to save money by comparing the details of the repairs required against the lender’s valuation.

New-build snagging survey

A New-build snagging survey is an independent inspection to look for any issues with the property. Costs typically start from £300 depending on the size of the property. Developers should fix faults highlighted before you move in.

Avoiding costly mistakes

Mortgage valuation survey

The sole aim of the mortgage valuation is to satisfy the lender that your desired property is worth the price you’re paying – or at least the amount it’s lending – before they approve your mortgage.

A valuation is just that – it won’t point out repairs or structural problems that you will have to pay to fix.

Generally, you will pay for the lender’s survey. The cost is based on the value and size of the property, and is typically £150 to £1,500. Sometimes lenders offer mortgages with free valuation surveys.

If the property is valued below your offer price, you can either:

  • Go back to the seller or the estate agent, and offer a lower price based on the lender’s valuation
  • Dispute the valuation by providing evidence, if possible, of similar properties in the area selling for the same price or higher

What to do if your survey uncovers problems

A surveyor’s report nearly always finds some issues, especially with older homes. You can go with them when the survey is carried out and ask questions about things that concern you. This is about your future home, so don’t be afraid to speak up.

The most common things you will have to investigate after a survey include:

  • Damp and timber issues
  • Central heating system
  • Electrical installation
  • Complications which will need a structural engineer
  • Problems with the roof

What to do next:

  • Find out whether any problems, such as a poor damp-proof course, are still covered by a guarantee
  • Ask the surveyor to give you an idea of how costly it will be to sort out any problems
  • For more major works, ask a builder to give you a quote
  • Use these estimates to try to renegotiate the price or ask the seller to fix the issues before you complete the sale

Remember it’s not just about cost but also the amount of upheaval that repair work will cause. If it all seems too much, you can walk away as you’re not committed yet.

Where to find a surveyor

You should ensure that your surveyor is a member of a recognised governing body such as the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) or Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

  • Ask friends and family
  • Ask your solicitor or conveyancer – but they may receive a commission which could increase the cost, so you don’t have to go with their suggestion
  • Ask the estate agent – but they may receive a commission which could increase the cost, so you don’t have to go with their suggestion
  • Look on the RPSA or RICS websites

Buying or selling in Scotland?

Sellers in Scotland have to arrange a Home Report to show to buyers before they can market their property. The report may include a survey by a RICS qualified surveyor.

It can also include a mortgage valuation, which may be acceptable to your lender. The Home Report must be prepared within 12 weeks of putting the property on the market.

Some properties, such as newly built or converted homes and those bought under Right to Buy, don’t have to have a Home Report. But you should still consider paying for a survey which may uncover costly issues.

Scottish homebuying timeline

If you have a problem with your surveyor you can complain to RICS.

Your next step

Contract exchange and completion