House survey guide: what they are and how to choose the right survey when buying a house

Daniel Copley from Zoopla explains what house surveys are, and when you need one

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Published: March 24, 2022 at 3:33 pm
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A house survey is an expert inspection of a property's condition, which will identify any problems. A survey is usually organised by the buyer of a property when their offer has been accepted - however rules do differ in Scotland (check out our guide to the house buying process in England and Wales for more information).

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Although it's not a legal requirement to carry out a survey on a property you're purchasing, it's highly recommended that you do one to make an informed decision and avoid any potentially serious problems later. Daniel Copley from Zoopla, explains how to get one, and what to do afterwards.

What is a surveyor?

A surveyor will inspect and report on the condition of the property you are about to buy by providing a survey, which is essentially a health check on a property intended to reveal any problems. It’s always worth using a surveyor that is a member of a recognised governing body, such as RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) for peace of mind, and make sure you get quotes from different surveyors to find the best price for your budget.

To find a RICS-accredited surveyor, visit ricsfirms.com.

What are the different levels of survey?

In England, RICS currently offers three types of home-buyer survey:

  • Condition Report (Level 1 Survey)
  • HomeBuyer Report (Level 2 Survey)
  • Building Survey (Level 3 survey)

If you’re unsure which one is right for your needs, it’s a good idea to talk to a surveyor as they can give you independent advice on what would work best.

Do I need different types of survey if I live in a flat?

No, the same types of surveys apply to both houses and flats — although it's worth noting that if you purchase a new build property, you should get a 10-year warranty from the builder which largely negates the need for a HomeBuyer Report. However, it might still be worth investing in a snagging survey to cover minor issues, repairs or defects that may have occurred after completion.

If my home is being surveyed, do I need to prepare anything? 

It’s always a good idea to tidy your home and remove any clutter before it’s surveyed to make the process as smooth as possible. It’s also worth moving furniture away from exterior walls, removing any plants from window sills and clearing items away from areas that might have problems to ensure ease of access. 

What can I do if my home gets a bad survey?

Firstly, it’s worth discussing the results with your surveyor to fully understand the extent of any problems. You can then consider whether it makes more sense to get the issue fixed yourself, or lowering the asking price for the property.

If the home I want to buy gets a bad survey, what should I do?

It’s worth bearing in mind that most surveys will find some sort of issue, especially with older properties. Discuss the findings with your surveyor who might be able to advise on the costs associated with any issues. You can then make a decision on whether you’d like to contact a builder to get a quote for any major works, renegotiate the asking price, ask the seller to fix any issues before completing the sale, or indeed pull out of the sale.

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