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What is a homebuyer’s survey?

By Maurice Shasha  //  Wed 5th June 2019
A homebuyer’s survey could reveal structural issues with the property, saving you from an expensive mistake
Buying your first home is, most likely, the biggest purchase you’ve ever made. Yet unlike smaller, less significant items – if something goes wrong further down the line, there may not be much you can do.

This is why it’s important to commission a survey of your future home. A homebuyer’s survey could reveal structural issues with the property, saving you from an expensive mistake or meaning you’re well informed about the cost of repairs, if you go ahead.

If you’re buying in England there are currently three different types of homebuyer survey to choose from; the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Condition Report, the RICS HomeBuyer Report and the RICS Building Survey.

Firstly, it’s important to be aware that these surveys are different from your mortgage valuation report, produced for your lender. This is a brief inspection and market valuation, designed to confirm the property’s worth and whether there are any serious defects. It won’t tell you everything you need to know about the condition of the property.

Yet, according to RICS, one in five buyers fails to commission a survey of their own,
relying instead on the mortgage valuation as the only condition rating of their purchase.

Types of survey

Your decision about which of the three surveys to opt for should be based on the type and age of the property you are buying – not how much the surveys costs. To find out which homebuyer survey is right for you, read more about the different options.

RICS Condition Report

The RICS Condition Report uses a traffic light system to describe the condition of the property. The report includes risks and potential legal issues and will highlight any defects, which urgently require attention. This type of survey can cost as little as £250 and is most suitable for new-builds and conventional homes, which are clearly in good condition. The report will not offer advice or provide a valuation.

RICS Homebuyer Report

The RICS Homebuyer Report is an analysis of the property, which will reveal most major issues. It does have limitations, though; the surveyor will not look behind furniture or lift flooring. It may be supplied with caveats, limiting the liability of the surveyor, which could be an issue if you do later discover a major problem.

The Homebuyer Report is best suited to conventional properties, which are less than 150 years old and will cost you from £400. It will include:
  • an assessment of the location
  • the estimated cost of rebuilding the property for insurance purposes
  • an assessment of any drainage or damp-proofing in the building
  • the condition of timbers and whether rot or woodworm is present
  • the identification of subsidence or damp
  • information highlighting urgent problems that require attention
  • details of faults in easy-to-access parts of the property that could affect its value

Some Homebuyer Reports include a property valuation. This, and any problems identified, could be used to negotiate a lower purchase price.

3 RICS Building Survey

Previously known as a full structural survey, the RICS Building Survey is the most comprehensive choice, and the most expensive. However, it could be an excellent investment.

The surveyor will conduct a full assessment of the property, both internally and externally and the report could be a lengthy document. It will cover everything from subsidence to invasive weeds and will highlight repairs and maintenance, which you will need to undertake.

It will explain what could happen if you don’t carry out the repairs and might also include an estimate of the costs involved.

Building Surveys are the best choice for older properties and those which have been substantially renovated or which you know require major works.

Unlike a Homebuyer Report, the Building Survey does not have a standard format. Instead, the surveyor will tailor the assessment to the individual property and include anything you specifically want looked at.

The survey will present the information clearly, using a rating system to make it easy to interpret.

The cost of a RICS Building Survey usually starts at around £600.

You can expect the survey to cover:
  • the estimated cost of rebuilding the property for insurance purposes
  • all defects of the property and its general structural integrity
  • the results of tests for damp in the walls
  • an assessment of woodworm, dry rot and any other damage to timbers
  • the condition of existing insulation and damp-proofing
  • information on the materials used to build the property
  • the identification of invasive weeds and their location
  • the condition of the electrics
  • recommendations for further investigations on the property

New-build snagging survey

A new-build snagging survey is an independent inspection, which you can commission before you buy a new property. The results will enable you to insist that the developers fix any faults before you move in. Costs usually start from £300 depending on the property.

Find a surveyor

Make sure your surveyor is a member of a recognised professional body such as the RICS or the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) Find out more on the RPSA or RICS websites.

If you think that buying a house is stressful enough, and that commissioning a survey is just one more thing to worry about – think again. Investing in the right survey for your type of property really could mean big savings later on. It may give you the information you need to negotiate a reduction in the selling price that will pay for the work – the vendor may even agree to complete the repairs for you.


If you’re looking to buy in Central London, Plaza Estates is a leading independent estate agent. We can advise you about which survey to opt for and tell you more about our portfolio of outstanding properties. Contact us today.

Offices at

Marble Arch
29 Edgware Road
London
W2 2JE
f: 020-7258-3090
Knightsbridge
34 Beauchamp Place
London
SW3 1NU
f: 020-7581-7005