What is a property structural survey?

Once you’ve had an offer accepted on your next home, it’s important to get a structural survey done.

If a property appears in good condition it can be tempting to assume there won’t be any problems, but this has the potential to lead to expensive surprises after you have moved in.

There are several different levels of property survey to choose from. This guide will explain the various different options and costs, and help you decide on the right level of property survey for you.

Taking a house structural survey

What is a property survey?

A property survey is an inspection that looks for any areas to be aware of when buying the home.

As part of the home buying process, it is wise to ask a qualified surveyor to assess the property. Once the inspection has been completed, the surveyor will prepare a property survey report. This report will contain information about the general condition of the house or flat. It will also provide details of any potential issues that you should be aware of before proceeding. How much depth the inspection goes into about any potential issues will depend on the level of survey you select.

Types of property survey

There are two main professional accredited organisations that offer property surveys in the UK. The first is the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the other is the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA).

RICS offers three different levels of property survey: Condition Report, HomeBuyer Report or Building Survey (more commonly known as structural survey). RPSA offers three different property survey products: Home Condition Survey, Building Survey and a specialist Buy-To-Let Survey.

RICS Surveys

Condition Report:

A Condition Report is the lowest level of property survey. It will provide you with basic information on the condition of the property. It will highlight any potential issues or legal problems, and alert you to any area that needs urgent attention.

This level of survey tends to be aimed at newer properties and does not usually provide any sort of valuation as part of the report.

HomeBuyer Report:

A HomeBuyer Report goes into a little more detail than a Condition Report.

A HomeBuyer Report is usually suitable for a standard construction property in a reasonable condition. It will look for any structural issues, including damp and subsidence, and give the property a more thorough review, both inside and out.

A HomeBuyer Report may also offer basic information regarding work you might need to carry out in the short-term and long-term. This will give you a good overview of the condition of the property and alert you to any costly work that may be required. You will be able to choose whether you have just the RICS HomeBuyer Report, or a report and valuation together.

Building Survey (full structural survey):

A Building Survey (or structural survey) is the most thorough property survey you can have. It is useful for older, larger and more complex properties, or if you have any specific concerns that you want to investigate.

A Building Survey offers an in-depth analysis of the property, its condition and any issues that may arise. A Building Survey will go further than a HomeBuyer Report by offering advice and information on any work that is required or that would benefit the property.

RPSA Surveys

Home Condition Survey:

An RPSA Home Condition Survey is a similar level survey to the RICS HomeBuyer Report. It will include a colour-coded condition report to help you easily identify potential issues and a number of diagrams to help you understand your new property.

Building Survey:

An RPSA Building Survey is similar to a RICS Building Survey. Both offer a full structural survey, which is the highest level of non-invasive survey that is usually carried out during the property buying process.

This level of survey will be most suited to an older, larger or more unusual property, or one that you have particular concerns about.

Buy-To-Let Survey:

RPSA’s Buy-To-Let Survey is designed specifically to meet the needs of those buying a property as a buy-to-let investment.

As part of the inspection, the surveyor will review the 29 potential hazard profiles listed in the Housing Health & Safety Rating System and carry out a Decent & Safe Homes (DASH) report highlighting any health and safety concerns.

Property survey costs

Exact property survey costs will vary according to the level of service chosen and the size of the property, but the figures below offer an average figure.

Level of surveyAverage cost
RICS Condition Report£400-£950
RICS HomeBuyer Report/ RPSA Home Condition Survey£450-£1,000
RICS Building Survey/ RPSA Building Survey (structural survey)£600-£1,500
RPSA Buy-To-Let Survey£400-£600

Survey cost figures taken from Which? and RPSA

Which type of property survey should I get?

Which type of survey you decide on will depend on several factors. You should consider the age of the property and how much you know about its history. Do you have any concerns about potential issues? Has your mortgage lender required a certain level of survey?

If you’re buying a new build property, you’re very unlikely to need a full Building Survey.  If, on the other hand, you are buying a period property, you might want to invest in a more thorough report.

Buying a property is the biggest financial investment most people will make in their lifetime, so it’s important you feel confident that you are investing wisely. Spending an extra few hundreds of pounds on a more thorough survey has the potential to save you thousands of pounds in the future and reduce the risk of any expensive surprises.

Choosing a surveyor

Your mortgage lender will usually arrange a survey on your behalf as part of their property valuation. If you aren’t using a mortgage to purchase the property, or you would prefer to choose your own surveyor, you can arrange your own survey separately. When using a mortgage to buy the property, your lender will still want to get their own independent property valuation. If you are looking for an independent surveyor in your area, you can use the RICS surveyor search service.

What kind of issues might be flagged up by a property survey?

The level of survey you choose will have an impact on the depth of the survey report.

A basic level survey will look at the overall condition of the property and whether it has been well maintained.

A more thorough report will look for potential issues such as damp and subsidence, any boundary concerns, quality of construction and roofing, and even whether the services provided to the property (utilities and waste) are sufficient.

Issues that are commonly picked up in property surveys include:

  • Asbestos (particularly in garage construction)
  • Condensation
  • Advisory warning about a flat roof at the property
  • Risk of flooding
  • Concern regarding the level of insulation
  • Japanese Knotweed
  • Any concern about structural movement
  • Damp
  • Visible winter damage (eg. damaged guttering or drainpipes)

Some of these issues will require immediate action, whilst others will simply come with a warning that action may be required in the future.

What to do if your survey uncovers problems?

If your survey uncovers problems, it is important to read your property survey in full. You should also carry out further investigation if necessary.

Many of the more common issues can be resolved relatively easily, so a bad survey is not necessarily a reason to pull out. Your survey report should give you the information you need on the severity of the problem and potential costs. Consider your options carefully before deciding on the way forward. You will also need to consider whether any issues identified will have an impact on your mortgage offer.

Property surveys play a vital role in the home buying process. Failing to invest in an appropriate structural survey can lead to upsetting and costly discoveries after you have moved into the property, so it is important that you choose the level of your survey carefully.  

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Beth Lane

Beth Lane

As an integral part of the marketing team, Beth is responsible for creating Quick Move Now’s external communications and dealing with national and regional press enquiries.

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