House Surveys

House surveys are essentially assessments of a property that identifies major issues for a prospective buyer. House surveys are undertaken by chartered surveyors, who will visit and inspect the property and write up a report outlining any issues they have found. Homebuyers typically do a house survey after a mortgage offer has been accepted.

Types of house surveys

There are two main accrediting bodies for surveyors – RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) and the RPSC (Residential Property Surveyors Association). It is important to check that the surveyor belongs to one of the two bodies. In terms of the type of survey, there are in general three different types of house surveys and they differ in the degree of depth that the survey goes into to identify the issues in the house.

RICS Condition Report (Basic Valuation)

This is a the most basic survey you can get done. It gives an overview of the property’s condition and highlights significant issues, but doesn’t go into detail.  It also gives traffic light ratings for the condition of different parts of the property. A level-one survey is only suitable if you’re buying a relatively new property with no previous issues, and just want some reassurance that everything looks OK. It is also a valuation for the lenders benefit. In some cases you may not even see a copy of the report and is designed to establish whether the property is deemed as good collateral to lend against. If there any issues the lender may recommend a further survey or inspections before they can proceed with a mortgage. In some cases the lender may charge a fee for this survey but this will vary depending on the lender.

RICS Homebuyers Report

A more in-depth report compared with the Condition Report, a Homebuyers Report should highlight areas of concern like damp or subsidence.  It includes advice on necessary repairs and ongoing maintenance and points out anything that doesn’t meet current building regulations.  The inspection is non-intrusive, meaning the surveyor will not look behind furniture or under floorboards, so they’ll only be able to identify ‘surface-level’ issues. The report will inform you of any major defects and will advise if further inspections may be needed. The report will also assess if the purchase price agreed is deemed to be suitable to help you to make an informed choice before you proceed. Unlike the basic survey if the survey or surveyor turns out to be negligent or you are dissatisfied you may have some recourse in terms of making a complaint or getting the property re-assessed. The buyer will generally cover all of the costs of this survey.

RICS Building Survey or Full Structural Survey

A building survey is the most detailed survey option and is highly advisable for unusual, listed or older (pre 1900) buildings. This survey covers all aspects and can take a few hours to complete. You have full recourse with this option and you can expect detailed advice on areas such as woodworm and damp that may arise. This is the most expensive option and the buyer will cover all the costs.

Mortgage Valuation versus House Surveys

When you apply for a mortgage, the mortgage lender will carry out a valuation to ensure the property is worth roughly what you’re planning to pay for it. A mortgage valuation is sometimes described as a ‘valuation survey’, but this title is misleading. A mortgage valuation is nowhere near comprehensive enough to take the place of a proper house survey – in fact it sometimes won’t even involve anyone visiting the property in person – so you should always commission your own independent survey once you’ve had an offer accepted.

How long does a house survey take

The amount of time a house survey takes depends on the level of survey you choose and, of course, the size of the property. For example: A level-one survey might take less than an hour to complete. A level-two survey could take up to four hours. The amount of time a full structural (level-three) survey takes varies considerably depending on the type of property you’re buying, with some taking as long as a full day.

  • A level one survey may take less than an hour to complete
  • A level two survey could take up to four hours
  • A full structural survey varies considerably but could take one whole day
Think carefully before securing debt against your home, your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.