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Do I need a survey when buying a property

When purchasing a property, we understand that this is a significant decision, and you may have questions about the process.  Knowing whether a survey is needed and understanding the differences between the various options can make all the difference in negotiations and deciding whether you proceed with the property at all.

Here, we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions relating to surveys and home ownership.  Should you have any further queries relating to buying a home, you can visit our Conveyancing Process or Buying a Property pages, or contact one of the team in your local office.


Survey and Home Ownership Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I need a survey when buying a property?

Purchasing a property is a substantial investment, and a survey plays a vital role in ensuring that you are making a well-informed decision, highlighting the condition of the property, any potential works that may be required and whether the price is an accurate reflection.  A survey can help in various ways:

  • Uncovering hidden issues: A surveyor’s trained eye can identify potential structural problems, such as damp, subsidence, or faulty wiring, which may not be apparent otherwise.
  • Negotiating: If a survey uncovers significant issues, you can negotiate with the seller to address the problems or potentially renegotiate the purchase price.
  • Future planning: A survey report can help you anticipate any maintenance or repair costs that may arise in the future, allowing you to budget accordingly.
  • Peace of mind: By commissioning a survey, you gain confidence in your decision, knowing that you have conducted due diligence and are fully aware of the property’s condition.

Who will carry out the property survey?

This will usually be an independent qualified surveyor.  Most qualified surveyors are members of the Royal Institute of Charted Surveyors (RICS).

What type of property survey do I need?

Choosing the right survey depends on various factors, including the age and condition of the property, as well as your specific requirements and concerns. Surveyors generally offer three surveys; understanding these options will help you determine which one is most suitable for your situation. The following are the three commonly provided surveys:

  • RICS Condition Report - The RICS Condition Report is the most basic survey, providing a general overview of the property. While it highlights significant issues, it does not go into extensive detail, using a traffic light system to demonstrate the condition. This type of survey is particularly useful for modern properties that are in good condition.
  • RICS HomeBuyer’s Report - The RICS HomeBuyer’s Report is more detailed than the Condition Report and focuses on specific problems such as dampness or subsidence. It also includes recommendations for repairs and ongoing maintenance, as well as pointing out anything that does not meet current building regulations. In order to conduct the survey, the surveyor will not look any further than ‘surface level’ problems and usually will be completed in two to four hours. This survey is popular among buyers of modern properties or older properties that are reasonably well-maintained.
  • RICS Building Survey - The RICS Building Survey is the most comprehensive survey available, offering a thorough examination of the property’s condition and construction. It provides detailed information about defects and necessary repairs, along with advice on maintenance. The surveyor will complete a more in-depth review of the property, looking under floorboards, in the loft and behind walls, and so it can take up to a day to complete. This type of survey is typically recommended for older properties, unusual properties or those that have undergone extensive alterations or conversions.  If you are buying a Listed Building, we would recommend you obtain a Listed Building Survey.

It is important to note that none of these surveys cover elements such as the heating system, electrical wiring, or plumbing. If you have concerns about any of these areas, it is advisable to seek further testing or consult with a specialist such as an electrician.

What is the difference between a valuation and a survey?

The mortgage valuation is not a survey but rather an assessment conducted by the lender to determine the property’s value. It may not uncover hidden issues or provide a detailed analysis of the property’s condition. Therefore, it is recommended to commission a separate survey.

Can I have a survey completed on my new-build property?

If you are buying a new-build property, you can request a new-build snagging survey to be completed.  This will cover anything from decorative issues through to structural problems and, if provided to your developer before you move in, they can rectify the issues under the two year developer warranty.

Who is responsible for organising a property survey?

If you are in need of a survey, it is generally the buyer’s responsibility to organise it. In some cases, certain lenders may include a survey as part of their mortgage product, so it is advisable to check with your mortgage broker or directly with the lender to see what is covered, but ensure this is not confused with their valuation. Organising the survey is not the estate agent’s or solicitor’s responsibility, although they may be able to provide recommendations for local surveyors.

We would always recommend that you arrange the survey as soon as possible after your offer has been accepted. This allows for any identified issues to be thoroughly examined by your Conveyancer. Obtaining the survey results before the exchange of contracts is crucial. Once you exchange contracts, you become legally bound to the transaction, and renegotiating the price or withdrawing due to physical defects becomes challenging or impossible.

What do I do if the property survey reveals major problems?

If the survey identifies major problems or potential works that need to be done to the property, this can affect the value of the property.  Obtaining quotes for the works specified may allow you to renegotiate the price, which can be done any point up until exchange of contracts, or to ask the seller to carry out the remedial work before proceeding.  Should you choose the latter approach, it is recommended you ask for receipts and paperwork proving the work has been completed.

How much do property surveys cost?

Survey costs can vary depending on the type of survey and the property’s size, location, and value. It is advisable to obtain quotes from several reputable surveyors and consider their expertise and credentials before making a decision.

Are surveys mandatory when buying a property?

Surveys are not legally required when purchasing a property. However, it is highly recommended to have a survey conducted to ensure that you are fully aware of the property’s condition and any potential issues before completing the purchase.

Contact our Residential Property Solicitors

As explained, having a survey completed on the property you are buying is highly recommended to provide you with the transparency needed for this significant investment.  Should you have any questions relating to a home purchase, you can contact a member of our experienced Residential Property team from our offices in AndoverRomseySalisburyTotton or Witney by using the Contact Form, emailing or calling your local office from the numbers below: