Home buying surveys

A home buying survey is an expert inspection and report on your potential new home before you buy it – but what type of survey should you choose?

goco author
Updated 19 October 2021  | 6 min read

What’s a house survey?

A home survey helps you check that the house you’re buying is in good condition and is worth the price you’ll be paying for it.

It usually takes place after the seller has accepted your offer.

Key points

  • If you’re considering buying a house or flat, a home survey helps you check the property’s condition before the sale goes ahead
  • Make sure you use an accredited chartered surveyor
  • There are three levels of survey to choose from
  • A survey can help you make the right decision on your purchase and can save you money in the long run

The home buyer survey is done by a qualified surveyor who visits the property, carries out a thorough inspection and provides you with a detailed report outlining the key findings.

When you’re booking a survey to be done on your prospective property, you should check that your surveyor is a member of either of the following:

  • the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
  • the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA)
  • Sava

What’s the difference between a house survey and valuation?

A valuation is a type of survey, but it’s only used by the mortgage lender to determine if the property you want to buy is worth the amount you want to borrow.

It’s a basic check that helps the mortgage provider assess whether their investment will be safe.

A full survey is much more in-depth and is for your benefit, not just the lender’s. 

It helps give you a clearer picture of the property’s condition and structural stability by uncovering less obvious issues.

Types of house survey

There are three main types of survey available. The right one for you will depend on the depth of survey you want and the age, location and type of property you’re considering:

Level Type What's covered? Suitability Cost [1]
1 Condition Report The most basic and cheapest survey. Indicates the property’s general condition and highlights any serious defects. New homes and standard properties less than five years old. £300+
2 Homebuyer Report

A more detailed survey. Includes all the features of the Condition Report as well as highlighting major problems and providing advice on repair and ongoing maintenance costs. 

Can also include the option of a market valuation and insurance reinstatement value for the cost of rebuilding the property from scratch.

Standard properties in a reasonable condition and less than 50 years old.

£350+ survey only 

£450+ for survey and valuation 

£400-£900 for RSPA Home Condition Survey


Building Survey 

(previously known as Structural Survey)

The most in-depth survey available. Includes a thorough inspection and detailed advice on the condition of the property, outlining potential risks, hidden defects and areas for urgent repair. Suitable for all properties but particularly larger, more unusual, or older homes, and properties in poor condition. £500-£2,000 depending on size of the property

What type of house survey is best for me?

This will depend on a number of factors, including the type of property you’re buying, its age and location. 

The Homebuyer Report is the most popular type of survey and should be adequate for most properties that are in reasonable condition and less than 100 years old.

If you have particular concerns about how structurally sound the property is – or if you want extra peace of mind before committing to buying – paying extra for a Building Survey could save you money in the long run if it uncovers any major or unexpected issues.

Do I really need a house survey?

You’re not legally required to have a survey and, with all the other costs involved with a house purchase, it may even seem like an unnecessary expense. 

But if you need a mortgage your lender will insist on a valuation at least. Sometimes the cost is included with your mortgage, but you may have to pay extra for it.

When you’re buying a home it’s your responsibility to look into and check for any issues with the property. 

If you choose not to have a survey there’s a risk you may discover problems with your home once you’ve bought it. As a result, you could find yourself paying out far more than you’d bargained for, or not being able to sell the property for the amount you paid for it.

On the other hand, if you have a professional survey done, any unexpected findings may mean you’re able to renegotiate with the property’s seller. The agreed price could be reduced by several thousand pounds.

Do I need a survey for a new build property?

If you’re buying a new build home you should get a 10-year warranty from the developer. But while this covers some aspects it can’t be wholly relied on.

Although the new build property shouldn’t have any structural issues, it’s still a good idea to have a survey and a Condition Report is usually sufficient. 

Another popular option for new builds is to have a professional snagging survey. This will spot any defects or fixes that need to be resolved by your developer before you move in.

How long does a house survey take?

The time a survey takes depends on the level of survey you choose and the size of the property you want surveyed:

Typically, the time it takes to inspect the property for each survey level is as follows:

Level one – a Condition Report can take an hour or so to complete.

Level two – a Homebuyer Survey can take a surveyor from 90 minutes to four hours to inspect the property.

Level three – The more in-depth inspection of a Building Survey can take up to eight hours to complete, depending on the size and type of property.

When will I get my survey report back?

The onsite inspection by the surveyor isn’t the only time you need to allow for – it can take some time for the survey report to be written up and delivered to you.

When you commission the survey your surveyor will let you know how long they’ll take to produce the report. 

Again, this will depend on the type of report and the depth of detail your surveyor goes into.

You can usually expect reports for survey levels one and two to take around five days, while a more detailed level three report can take ten working days or more. Delivery times can be longer if it’s a busy time of year.

How will I find a good surveyor?

One of the easiest ways to find a chartered surveyor is through a comparison website, but you can also find one by looking at local listings or getting a personal recommendation. 

A local surveying company will have more knowledge of the area, while an independent surveyor is likely to give you a more personalised service than a large surveying company.

Whichever surveyor you choose, it’s important to check they’re registered with a trade association. You can do this by visiting the RICS and RSPA websites.

[1]Indicative costs from the Home Owners’ Association