Should I get a property survey when I buy a house?

Do you need to get a property survey when you buy a house?

According to recent research, fewer buyers are choosing to get a property survey when buying their new home. According to Countrywide Surveying Services, fewer than 1 in 10 buyers now have a survey carried out on the home they are purchasing.

Experts warn this could end up being a risky move for buyers, who may end up with costly repairs they haven’t budgeted or negotiated for.

So, what is a property survey? Do you need one? And what might the consequences be of not getting one? This guide will cover everything you need to know.

What is a property survey?

A property survey is a type of inspection. It will assess the condition of the property and look for any areas of concern.

Should I get a property survey when buying a house?

Most property experts will advise you to get a property survey when buying a house. Whether you choose to do so, or not, might depend on how risk-averse you are.

Buying a property may well be the biggest financial investment you’ll ever make. Getting a survey can help to ensure your investment is a wise one.

There are a number of issues that are commonly found in a property survey, some of which can be very expensive to fix. Damp, electrical concerns, roof maintenance issues, and even signs of property movement frequently show up in property surveys. Rectifying these issues can cost anything from a few hundred pounds to tens of thousands of pounds.

And it’s not just the cost that can impact people. Having major work done to your property can cause a huge amount of stress and disruption. According to Churchill, 56% of buyers who had major works carried out on their homes after discovering a pre-existing issue said it would have impacted their decision to buy the property if they had been aware of the problem in advance.

Getting a survey done before you buy a property will not only help to prepare you, it can also give you the opportunity to try to recoup some of the cost of repairs from the seller. You can use your property survey report to renegotiate the purchase price if something unexpected is found. In more extreme circumstances, you might decide to pull out of the purchase if the survey finds something you’re not prepared to take on.

Why don’t people get a property survey?

There are a few theories about why we’ve seen such a drop in the number of people getting a property survey when buying a home.

1. Budgets are more stretched

Buyer budgets are hugely stretched at the moment. High living costs mean deposits are harder to save, and higher mortgage interest rates have reduced buyer affordability.

In light of this, it’s not surprising that buyers are more reluctant to stump up additional cash for optional services.

2. People not being aware of the difference between a lender’s valuation report and a full property survey

If you’re buying with a mortgage, your lender will carry out a property valuation. At this point, they will usually ask whether you’d like to upgrade to a survey. Otherwise, you’ll need to arrange your own property survey (if you want one).

It seems fewer people are aware of the benefits of getting your own independent survey of a property.

Mortgage lender valuations are simply to assess whether the property is worth the amount you’ve agreed to pay for it. This is to ensure they’ll get their money back if you default on your mortgage and they’re forced to repossess the property.

Most mortgage lender valuations are now carried out as desktop/online research using local property market data. Sometimes these will be supported by a simple drive-by assessment, but it’s not unusual for a valuation report to be completed without anyone actually visiting the property.

Property surveys are completely different. A property survey is carried out in the interest of the buyer. Your surveyor will be looking for any areas of the property that may be cause for concern or require work. Depending on the level of survey you choose, the report may also suggest the likely cost of any issues identified.

Some buyers will think that if the lender’s valuation survey comes back ok, there’s nothing to be concerned about. That may not be the case. If the valuer has not actually entered the property, they’ll have no way of knowing whether there are any major causes for concern. Valuers are playing a game of averages, using local property data and recent sold prices to value the home. If the property you’re buying has a major issue – such as subsidence – it will be worth significantly less than they’ve estimated. Not getting a survey means you could go into the purchase unaware of the issue. The potential consequences of this could be large, unexpected bills, difficulty re-selling and significant financial loss.

3. Property surveys not being advocated for

Estate agents know that property surveys often result in price renegotiations. As a result, they’re unlikely to push for buyers to have one.

There are also few other people in the property buying process that are likely to advocate for a property survey. Surveys are purely for the buyer’s benefit, so if you are keen to ensure you don’t get any nasty surprises when the purchase completes, it’s important that you take the initiative to have one carried out.

4. Less guidance from family members

In 1960 the average age of a first-time buyer in the UK was 23 years old. Now, the average first-time buyer is 34 years old. This means those purchasing a property for the first time are now less likely to live near their parents or other family members than they might have been 50 years ago. Depending on their age, they may also have few friends who have already purchased a property.

Friends and family members who have already been through the property buying process often offer invaluable advice and guidance. If you don’t have family nearby, or you’re the first in your friendship group to buy a house, you may miss out on priceless wisdom and advice.

5. Questions about how useful and reliable property surveys are

There have been some who have questioned the usefulness of property surveys in recent years. The main criticism is a suggestion that surveyors are now so concerned about being sued for not picking up on an issue that their reports are overly cautious and non-committal. It’s not unusual for surveys to recommend further investigation by other professionals (such as damp and timber specialists). This can add further expense and delays to the purchase.

How much is a property survey?

Exact property survey costs will vary depending on the size and location of your property. Figures below show the average cost for different levels of property survey.

    Level of surveyAverage cost
    RICS Condition Report (Level 1 survey)£380
    RICS HomeBuyer Report (Level 2 survey)£500
    RICS Building Survey (Level 3 survey)£800
    Snagging Survey (suitable for a new build home)£300
    Average survey costs taken from Compare My Move

    What does a surveyor do in a property survey?

    There are different types of property surveys. What your surveyor does will depend on the level of survey you’ve requested.

    Condition Report – Level 1 property survey

    A Condition Report is the lowest level of property survey. It will provide you with basic information about the condition of the property. It will highlight any potential issues or legal problems, and alert you to any areas that need 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 – Level 2 property survey

    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 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.

    HomeBuyer Reports 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 – Level 3 property survey

    A Building Survey is the most thorough of the standard property surveys. It is useful for older, larger or more complex properties. You may also choose a building survey is you have specific concerns about a property.

    A Building Survey offers an in-depth inspection of the property, its condition and any issues that may arise. Building Surveys go further than HomeBuyer reports by offering advice and information about any work that is required.

    Snagging Survey – new build survey

    Snagging Surveys are designed specifically for those buying a new build property. It will look for issues that are common with new homes and ensure the property meets the required standards. Whilst new homes are usually covered by NHBC warranties, it is still inconvenient to get remedial work carried out after you move in. Having a Snagging Survey can help you ensure any necessary work is carried out before the sale completes.

      How long does a property survey take?

      Depending on the level of survey you’ve chosen, the surveyor is likely to be at the property for between 1 hour and 5 hours. A level 3 Building Survey will require more thorough investigation and therefore take substantially longer than a level 1 Condition Report.

      What happens after the survey?

      Once the inspection has been completed, you should hear from your surveyor within a few days. Your surveyor will provide you with a property survey report that details their findings.

      How much detail your report goes into will depend on the level of survey you requested, but all reports should contain information about the general condition of the property along with details of any areas of potential concern.

      When to get a survey on a property

      If you are buying the property with a mortgage, your mortgage lender will arrange a property valuation. Most mortgage lenders will give you the option to upgrade this valuation to a property survey (usually giving you the choice of a level 1 Condition Report or a level 2 HomeBuyer Report).

      If your mortgage lender doesn’t give you the option to upgrade, you can arrange your own property survey.

      If you’re a cash buyer, you should arrange your property survey as soon as possible after your offer is accepted. Cash purchases are traditionally quicker than mortgaged purchases, so you don’t want your survey to hold up the sale.

      Find out more about:

      Do you need a survey on a new build property?

      If you’re buying a new build property, you’re unlikely to need a full Building Survey but you may want to arrange a Snagging Survey. This will look specifically at issues that can be common in new properties and give you a list of anything the builder will need to rectify before the sale should go ahead.

      According to the Home Builders Federation, 95% of people buying a new build home have had to report problems to their builder and a third of them had to report more than 15 issues. A Snagging Survey will provide you with all the information you need before you complete your sale, giving the builder time to rectify the issues before you move in. The last thing you want is to find a host of issues after you’ve moved into your new home.

      How can I find surveyors near me?

      If you arrange your survey as an upgrade to your mortgage lender’s property valuation, your lender will arrange the survey on your behalf.

      If you’re a cash buyer or choosing to arrange your own survey, you can use the RICS find a surveyor service to find RICS surveyors in your area.

      RICS surveyors are approved by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. This means they have been required to meet a certain standard of knowledge and expertise, and they participate in regular training and development.

      Getting a cash offer from Quick Move Now is quick and easy

      Get a cash offer

      Get an instant free estimate

      If you’d like to find out how much a professional home buying company could pay for your property, call Quick Move Now’s friendly team today on 0800 068 3366 or fill in our online enquiry form for a free, no-obligation cash offer


      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.

      View Beth's full profile