Home Survey Guide

May, 2022

When moving home, a home survey can be very useful. It offers many benefits, from saving you money to helping you make the right decision when buying your new home.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about a home survey, including what it is, how much it costs, when and why you need one. We will also cover the different types of home surveys that are available to you.

What Is a Home Survey?

A home survey is a detailed inspection of a property’s condition. It identifies any issues or problems with the property, such as structural faults, electrical defects or any areas of damp or mould. More common issues include problems with the roof, plumbing and central heating system. Depending on what type of home survey you get, it can also offer recommendations of any repair work that may need to be carried out on your new home. The report from the surveyor may also contain the specifications of the property, such as: the type of walls and what glazing is used on the windows. Essentially, a home survey gives you a clearer picture of the health of a property before you part with your money.

A home survey can only be carried out by a qualified surveyor. Most qualified surveyors are members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), a professional body that ensures all its members are adhering to certain codes of practice

When Do You Need a Home Survey?

A home survey is for when you purchase a new property. Ideally, you get a survey done after you’ve had an offer accepted on a house, but before you exchange contracts and move into it. Home surveys aren’t cheap, so it’s best to get one for a house that you’re seriously considering and not every house you go to view

A home survey is especially useful if… 

•           You have any specific or urgent worries about the property.

•           You’re unsure about what condition the property is in.

•           You’re looking to buy an old property.

•           You’re looking to buy an unusual property like a castle or a lighthouse.

•           The property has a thatched roof or has timber frames.

•           The building is listed (meaning it may not be demolished, extended, or altered without special permission from the local planning authority and a national amenity society).

A property survey is not a legal requirement; it’s optional. However, given the money that it can save you in the long term, it’s definitely worth thinking about.

What Are the Different Types of Home Survey? 

There are various types of home surveys, each providing different levels of information:

Condition Report (RICS) – Level 1

Ideal for: People buying a modern property seeking confirmation of its condition

Cost: £250+

The Condition Report is the most basic of all property surveys available. It highlights any risks or defects with the property and notifies you of any legal issues you may face once you take ownership. The report itself uses a traffic light system to denote the status of different parts of the property. Green means it’s in good condition, orange means something requires your attention, and red means it’s in urgent need of repair. This is as much detail as the RICS Condition Report goes into and it doesn’t offer any advice; as a result, it’s the cheapest of all property surveys, starting at around £250.

This type of survey is most suitable for those who are buying a modern property that they are confident is in good condition and just want some formal confirmation of this.

HomeBuyers Report (survey only) (RICS) – Level 2

Ideal for: People who want a more detailed report of their property

Cost: £350+

The HomeBuyers Report is a more detailed type of property survey. It includes everything in the Condition Report and more. The surveyor will check for structural problems and any issues that are likely to affect the value of the property, such as damp and subsidence. The biggest benefit of this survey is that it not only gives more detail on the issues found, it also includes advice on how to deal with them.

It’s important to note, however, that the HomeBuyers Report is non-intrusive, meaning the surveyor will only assess visible “surface-level” areas of the property. In other words, they won’t look behind furniture or under floorboards, so while it’s a thorough inspection, it’s not 100% fool-proof. Prices start at approximately £350 and the survey can last several hours.

HomeBuyers Report (survey & valuation) (RICS) – Level 2

Ideal for: People who want to ensure they’re paying the right price for a property

Cost: £450+

This is the same survey as the above but it includes a valuation. People often opt for the valuation because it shows them if the price they’re about to pay for the property is accurate. If the surveyor values the house significantly lower than the asking price, then you may be able to renegotiate with the seller. The surveyor’s report will significantly strengthen your case and it’s likely that the seller will concede. The cost of a HomeBuyers Report survey and valuation starts at £450.

Home Condition Survey (RPSA) – Level 2

Ideal for: People who appreciate a more consumer-friendly reporting style

Cost: £400-£900

This is a very similar survey to the HomeBuyers Report above, but it’s provided by the RPSA instead of RICS. The checks are largely the same, but they differ in a few key ways.

Firstly, the Home Condition Survey is independently verified by another surveyor to ensure that it’s accurate and offers quality advice. Secondly, they are produced in a more easy-to-understand format, with accompanying photographs to make their assessment crystal clear to the customer. The cost of an RPSA Home Condition Survey can be anywhere between £400 and £900, depending on the size and value of the property.

Building Survey (RICS) – Level 3

Ideal for: Those buying older properties or properties in noticeably poor condition

Cost: £500-£2000

The Building Survey from RICS is the most comprehensive property survey available, and as such, it can cost as much as £2000, depending on the size of the property. It includes an analysis of the building’s structural integrity and condition, delving beyond the HomeBuyers Report to check behind walls, below floorboards and behind furniture. Additionally, it provides detailed recommendations for repairs and informs you of timings and approximate costings for these repairs. It also forecasts what is likely to happen if the suggested repairs aren’t carried out.

Given the exhaustiveness and cost of this type of property survey, it’s not recommended for everyone. It’s most suited for older properties (50+ years) or houses in noticeably poor condition.

Which Home Survey Is Right For Me?

The best was to decide what survey is right for you is to base it on the age and condition of the home and not the cost of the survey. You will need to take into consideration the property’s appearance, age and historical of issues (such as flooding), as well as the land it’s built on. Which home survey you choose also depends on the depth of the survey you want, your budget and your attitude towards risk and reassurance. Do you want to cut costs going with a basic Condition Report, but risk underestimating certain issues? Or would you rather pay more for the peace of mind that you get with a Building Survey?

For a new-build property, you might want to go with a Condition Report. For a conventional property in reasonable condition, you might go for a HomeBuyers Report. For an older or larger property, you might consider paying for a Building Survey. This can also be useful if you’re planning major renovation works.

What are the Benefits of a Home Survey?

•           Save Money

Investing in a decent survey can save you a fortune in the long run and help you avoid expensive surprise costs on maintenance and repairs after you have moved in.

•           Peace of Mind

A home survey identifies any issues with your property ahead of time, helping you to avoid unwanted and potentially expensive issues down the road.

•           Helps you understand the potential renovation costs

Many homebuyers set aside money to pay for home improvements after they move in. A home survey lets you know exactly how much you need to invest in a property to bring it up to a satisfactory standard. This makes the budgeting process of buying a house much easier.

•           Helps You Negotiate a Fairer Asking Price 

If your home survey includes a property valuation (such as a HomeBuyers Report) that reveals a lower price than the mortgage lender’s valuation, you might be able to revise your initial offer.  

Home Survey vs. Mortgage Valuation

A mortgage valuation is just a cursory look at the property to assess how much it is worth. It won’t point out repairs or structural problems. It is carried out by mortgage lenders to ensure a mortgage can be against the property. In other words, to ensure that the house is worth the price you’re paying (or how much they’re lending to you). In most cases, you will need to pay for a mortgage valuation. This depends on the size of the property, but typically, they cost around £350. Some lenders will offer a free mortgage valuation but do the maths first A mortgage with a lower interest rate is likely to save you more money in the long run, even if you do have to pay a bit more for the mortgage valuation.


Are you thinking of selling?

HS Homes of Solihull is a small independent estate agent based in Shirley, Solihull. If you are interested to know what your home is worth, call us on 0121 430 4448. Alternatively, click here to book a free market appraisal.


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