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Posted on 30 June 2022

What are property surveys and should I get one?

There are many reasons to choose one type of survey over another when buying a house.…

There are many reasons to choose one type of survey over another when buying a house. Understanding which property survey to pick could be the difference between a headache and a happy move. We have put together some common questions and answers to help you avoid confusion.

What is a property survey?

A property survey happens when a licenced surveyor visits a property to establish its value and condition. They look for defects that may not be visible to the naked or untrained eye. This gives a buyer or buyers a better, clearer understanding of what they are paying for.

Why should I have a property survey done?

Property surveying can be a bit of an art that you get better at with experience. Cracked Tiles, blocked guttering, cracked ceilings, dampness and more are all things surveyors are trained to look out for.  Furthermore, these are things you as a buyer will not always see when viewing a property. This is why a property surveyor’s independent, objective view is helpful.

Both your estate agent and your solicitor will usually advise you to have surveys carried out on a property before completing.  after all, you don’t get hit with any unexpected bills to fix surprise problems.

What types of surveys are there?

There are three main surveys that are typically carried out on average home purchases:

Mortgage Survey

This is organised by your bank or mortgage lender and will require no involvement on your part. The mortgage survey is done so your lender has proof that the property exists and can be lived in.

In some cases, your lender will also check to see whether they believe the price you are paying for the property is accurate. There have been cases in the past when they don’t believe the property is worth the price listed. This alone will justify renegotiating the price as you will likely not be able to afford the house without the entire mortgage amount. Our blog on ‘mortgage retentions’ covers another possible outcome if the price is too high for lenders.

Home Buyers Report

This checks the interior and exterior of the property for any hidden issues. Damp, window condensation, lack of smoke alarms and no proof of property extensions and alterations are the most popular issues found in this survey.

Building Survey

Also known as an ‘RICS Level 3’, this is a more hands-on inspection performed by a qualified surveyor. Your surveyor will check all aspects of the property in detail, providing cost estimates for any work that needs doing. If you suspect; woodworm, wall cracking, roof issues or property sagging, this survey will help you understand the scale of the issue.

Structural Survey

This is very similar to a ‘building survey’, these are performed by civil or structural engineers with added focus on the structure and surrounding foundations.  They ensure the property is stable enough to live in.  It is also worth considering if the property is in a part of the country where subsidence or mining has taken place.

We should point out that most property professionals use Building or Structural interchangeably. Make sure they are clear about which one they are referring to and which one you want.

Are there any other surveys I should know about?

Electrical and Gas inspections often get referred to as surveys and are easy to organise. Simply organise a qualified electrician or gas engineer to inspect the property and write up a brief report on their condition. These are often done when a buyer is planning on refurbishing a property and want to know more about the price of any work that needs doing.

If you are looking at a new build ‘snagging surveys’ are highly recommended. These can give you real peace of mind and hold the developer to account for quality and ensure the right standards are met. If you want to find out more about new builds check out our blog on ‘buying a new build – the good and bad‘.

When should I book my survey?

You usually book a survey after an offer has been accepted and before property searches are ordered. That being said, each transaction is different, if you ask your solicitor when the best time to book your surveyor is, they should be able to advise you quickly.

Where do I find a property surveyor?

You can find local and national surveyors all across the country. Most surveyors are qualified in all areas of surveying so you will only need to make one appointment with one surveyor to have the property fully assessed, simple!

Below, we have listed a few places where you might find a surveyor:

  • Your estate agent will have a recommendation
  • Google Search Online. there are a number of comparison sites you could use
  • Your solicitor might have a contact they can recommend


How much do property surveys cost?

Surveys are quoted depending on the size and age of the property. For example, if the property is considered old and large, it will take more time and require a more in-depth analysis.

Using the experience of current and previous estate agents, survey costs could be anything from £400 to £1,200 for each survey. For your average 2/3-bedroom semi-detached house, you will most likely be looking at the lower end of that scale.


What happens if I don’t have a survey done?

The only survey required when purchasing a property is the mortgage survey, and only if you are getting a mortgage. Since these are arranged by your mortgage lender you will likely not be too involved.

The other surveys mentioned in this blog are only recommended however, not having these surveys done can be costly if problems are uncovered after you have exchanged.

Both your solicitor and your estate agent will use their experience and knowledge to recommend the right survey for you.