What home buyer survey should I have?

Written on 1 November 2021 by Courtney Manton in Frequently Asked Questions


Buying a new home is one of the most exciting things you will ever do and one of the most significant financial commitments you will ever make. Choosing an appropriate survey is essential to highlight any potential problems.

What survey should I have?

What is a survey?

A survey is an inspection of a property designed to inform the prospective buyer of any potential problems. The buyer will commission the survey after their offer has been accepted. A qualified surveyor should carry out surveys. The main accrediting body for surveyors in the UK is the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), two smaller organisations are the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) and Sava. All offer slightly different but roughly comparable home buyer surveys.

Why do I need a survey?

The average house price in Belgravia is £2.7 million. When spending this much money on a new home, a survey can feel like an unnecessary expense. House surveys are essential because they will identify any significant problems that could be very costly to fix. A survey might stop you from buying a property that could quickly become a nightmare.

Surveys also pick up more minor problems, which may not be deal-breakers but could give you leverage to negotiate on price. For instance, if an old boiler needs replacing or the roof requires repairs.

But I already have a mortgage valuation report

Homebuyers who use a mortgage to fund their purchase often believe that their lender’s standard valuation provides all the protection they need. In the majority of cases, they are mistaken.

Mortgage valuations typically take around 15 minutes to complete and sometimes don’t involve someone actually visiting the property. They are designed to give the lender confidence that the property is worth roughly what you are paying for it.

Mortgage valuations are often called valuation surveys, this is misleading. As a type of property survey, mortgage valuations are very limited in scope and are unlikely to uncover any defects.

mortgage valuation

Unless you are purchasing a new-build home that comes with a 10-year warranty, property purchasers are better off commissioning a Condition Report, HomeBuyer Report or Building Survey.

Three types of survey

There are three types of homebuyers surveys. We will look at each in turn so that you can decide which type of survey you need.

1. Condition report

A Condition Report provides traffic light-style indications as to the state of various parts of the property. Green means everything is OK, orange is some cause for concern and red means serious repairs are vital.

You will be able to find out any severe defects which require immediate attention.

Cost: £500 to £950

Best for: Standard, modern properties that are in a good condition.

2. Homebuyer report

A Homebuyer report is an intermediate level of survey. The surveyor will conduct a visual inspection to assess the general condition of the main elements of the property. This survey is non-intrusive, so no tests of the property’s fabric are included. You can opt to have a homebuyer report with and without a valuation.

Cost: £500 – £1000

Best for: Conventional homes built no more than 150 years ago and appear to be in reasonable condition.

3. Building survey

A Building Survey is the most comprehensive survey available for residential homes and will provide a detailed evaluation of a property’s condition.

Also known as a Structural Survey, a Building Survey is carried out by a chartered surveyor who will produce a report that describes the condition of each element of the property. The surveyor will actively search for any structural problems or defects.

Unlike a HomeBuyer Report, Building Survey reports do not have a standard format, which means the surveyor can tailor the investigation to suit a property purchaser’s needs. You can also ask the surveyor to include estimated costs and timings of any repair work identified.

Cost: £700 – £1,500

Best for: Purchases of older houses or those that have either undergone renovation or are in need of major work. Building surveys are generally not carried out on flats.

Do I need a survey for a new build property?

If you are purchasing a new-build home it will probably come with a 10-year warranty, so a traditional survey is unnecessary. However, new build homes often have minor defects, also called snags. You need to itemise these and report them to your house builder. If you don’t want to do this yourself, you can hire a company to undertake a snagging survey for you. Expect this to cost around £300.

new build snagging survey

How do I find a good surveyor?

The best way to find a good surveyor is through personal recommendation. If this is not possible, you can look on the RICS, RPSA or Sava websites. Alternatively, you could ask your lenders surveyor to do a homebuyer survey when they carry out the mortgage valuation.

You should ask to see example reports of the type of survey you require to be confident that the report will be helpful to you. Check how soon they can carry out the survey to make sure it fits with your timescales.

What to do if issues are flagged in your survey

It is disappointing to receive a bad survey on a property you have fallen in love with. Bear in mind that a surveyor’s report will nearly always find faults, after all it is the surveyor’s job to identify problems so that you understand what you are buying. In the first instance, talk through any issues with your surveyor. If significant problems have been identified, we suggest you:

Get estimates for the work. Find out how much it will cost to fix the problem, ideally get three different quotes.

Negotiate with the seller. Armed with your quotes, ask the vendor for a price reduction to reflect the work required. Alternatively, you could make having the work done a condition of the sale.

Walk away if necessary. You are not legally bound to buy the property until you have exchanged contracts. If the problems are too extensive or the seller will not negotiate, be prepared to walk away.

Purchasing a property in Belgravia, Chelsea, Knightsbridge, Mayfair, Pimlico, South Kensington or Westminster delivers a range of lifestyle benefits. For expert help finding your perfect property in prime central London, contact Best Gapp today.

Courtney Manton

Courtney is a Chartered Surveyor, the senior partner and owner of the Best Gapp group.

His special talent honed over the last 30 years is winning. Winning for his many clients.

Winning a Leasehold Enfranchisement case, winning a negotiation to sell or buy, winning a lower rent at review, winning a planning permission to enhance value, winning trust.

All articles by Courtney Manton

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