Do you need a house survey?

You don’t need to get a survey done on the property you are buying. But a survey can help you avoid expensive and unwanted surprises, like an unexpected rewiring job, as well as giving you peace of mind by telling you that those hairline cracks, for example, don’t mean the house is falling down. Given the hundreds of thousands of pounds it costs to buy a property, a few hundred pounds on a survey to have the reassurance of an independent, expert surveyor looking over it feels like a good investment.

With the information from the survey you might reconsider whether to buy the property or use the unbiased information you have to renegotiate the price. If you find for example it needs £15,000 of roof repairs, it is reasonable to ask for £15,000 off the price. Alternatively, you might ask the seller to fix any problems before you buy.

If you’re asking should I get a survey when buying a house, we would recommend it, particularly if:

  • you have specific worries about any part of the property
  • you’re unsure about what sort of condition the property is in
  • you are looking to buy an old or unusual property
  • the property has a thatched roof or is timber framed
  • it is a listed building

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Types of house survey

There are a number of different types of house survey. What you choose depends on the depth of survey you want, your budget, plus the age and condition of the property – read on for more details.

It’s worth noting that in March 2021, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) launched new formats for home survey reports. So what was once known as Condition Report, HomeBuyer Report and Building Survey have been changed and updated.

Here are the different types of survey in 2022:

RICS Home Survey – Level 1

The RICS Home Survey Level 1 is the most basic – and cheapest – survey. It is suitable if you’re buying a conventional property built from common building materials and in reasonable condition. It was previously called a Condition Report.

The Level 1 survey provides a ‘traffic light’ rating of the condition of different parts of the building, services, and the grounds, showing problems that may require varying degrees of attention and an assessment of the relative importance of the problems. It also includes a summary of risks to the building, people and grounds. But the report doesn’t go into much detail and doesn’t include any advice nor a valuation.

RICS Home Survey – Level 2

Previously called a Home Buyer Report or Homebuyer survey, this mid-level survey is a popular choice for most people buying a conventional property in reasonable condition. It covers everything you’d get in a RICS Home Survey Level 1, plus they check roof spaces and cellars.

You’ll also get recommendations for further investigations where the property surveyor is unable to reach a conclusion with reasonable confidence. The report will also give advice on budget for any repairs and on the amount of ongoing maintenance required in the future

RICS Home Survey Level 2 are offered with or without a valuation. If you opt for a Home Survey Level 2 with Valuation, it will also include a market value, an insurance reinstatement figure and a list of problems that the property surveyor considers may affect the value of the property.

You can download an example of RICS Home Survey Level 2 with a valuation and without a valuation from their website.

For more information on RICS Home Survey Level 2, see our guide Homebuyer Survey explained.

RPSA Home Condition Survey

An RPSA Home Condition Survey is equivalent to the RICS Home Survey Level 2. Offered by the Residential Property Surveyors Association rather than RICS, Home Condition Surveys are produced in a consistent, consumer friendly format. They’re independently checked to ensure consistency and quality. And you’ll get information like broadband speed, damp assessment and boundary issues for the conveyancer to consider.

You can download an example of the RPSA Home Condition Survey for further information.

RICS Home Survey – Level 3

The RICS Home Survey Level 3, also known as a full structural survey and previously as a RICS Building Survey, is the most thorough survey offered by RICS.

It is a good house survey option if you’re buying a property over 50 years old, of unusual design, is a listed building or in poor condition; if you’re planning to undertake renovations or have any concerns about the property. And while they are more expensive, they are thorough.

The Level 3 survey will include everything you would get in a RICS Home Survey Level 2, plus it will describe the identifiable risk and causes of potential or hidden defects in areas not inspected. It will outline the likely scope of any appropriate remedial work and explain the likely consequences of non-repair. Plus you’ll get recommendations in respect of the priority and likely timescale for necessary repairs.

How to get a house survey

You’ll need to choose a good surveyor. To do this you should:

  1. Shop around: Get quotes from a few firms and compare. Don’t just go with the property surveyor recommended by your bank, estate agent, mortgage lender or other property expert as this can end up costing you more.
  2. Double check: Check your house surveyor is a member of RICS – he or she will have the letters MRICS or FRICS after his or her name. The RICS ensures that all its members maintain professional standards in their work. Or that they are a current member of the Residential Property Surveyors Association
  3. Know what you’re getting: We often hear complaints that property survey reports come with so many caveats that it is difficult to know how to respond to them. So ask if you can see copies of past reports – will that sort of report be useful for your situation?

And when booking your property survey, always:

  • Read the Terms of Engagement the property surveyor gives you as this will tell you what they will and won’t be doing.
  • Find out when the house survey will be undertaken and when you’ll get your report.
  • Have direct contact with the house surveyor who’ll be undertaking the property survey so you’re able to ask questions if anything is unclear.

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Green Grey – Selling property is the trading style of Green Grey Limited with offices in Meriden and Coleshill, working 8am to 10pm, seven days a week*. Part of Xactia Group, established in July 2000. Other residential property brands in the Group include H2L. Expert Letting, Home 2 Let Limited and Three Sixty Virtual Limited.

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