Different types of house survey: What do they mean?

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types of house survey

Getting a property surveyed can be a difficult and confusing process, with there being many different types of house survey available, with each survey having a different purpose and meaning.

Trying to decide on which type of property survey you should go for isn’t easy, which is why we’re going to explain what each type of house survey is, what it does and when you should choose it.

We’re also going to cover the costs, length of time it takes and whether getting a house survey is always a good idea…

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What is a house survey?

A house survey or homebuyer survey, is an inspection of a property’s condition by an expert. There are quite a few different types of house surveys. Some house surveys involve the expert to identify problems with a property for a potential buyer whereas others are to establish the value of a property for a mortgage valuation.

House surveys are conducted by property surveyors, who are essential when buying a property to assess its conditions, identify any potential issues or defects and make informed decisions about a property purchase.

What is a property surveyor?

For a home survey, you need to make sure the surveyor carrying out the inspection is qualified and therefore a member of one of these accrediting bodies:

  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyor (RICS)
  • Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA)

A local surveyor will have better knowledge of market trends and values in an area, and specialist surveyors will be able to give you more informed surveys on unique properties. Most RICS or RPSA property surveyors will be able to carry out all the different types of house surveys.

Are homebuyer surveys a legal requirement?

While homebuyer surveys and house surveys are not a legal requirement they are highly recommended by financial advisors when purchasing a property. This should protect you from purchasing a property with unknown or hidden issues and improve your negotiating skills during the purchase.

Is a mortgage valuation a survey?

A mortgage valuation is not one of the types of house survey, it is an evaluation of how much a property is worth. Mortgage providers will require a valuation to make sure the property meets their requirements for a loan.

Mortgage valuation costs will vary depending on the size of the property but will start at around £350.

What are the different types of surveys?

There are many different types of house survey and which one you require will depend on what you’re needing the house survey for. If you’re buying an old house that looks to be in poor condition you will need a more detailed survey compared to a mortgage valuation survey.

Level 1 – Condition Report

The condition report is varied out by a RICS surveyor and is the most basic level of the different types of house survey available.

The idea of this report is it will highlight any defects or faults with the property and let you know of any legal issues you may face once you have bought the property. You will receive a ‘traffic light system’ verdict for each different aspect of the property – with green being in good condition to red meaning it needs repairing ASAP.

Level 2 – HomeBuyers Report

This type of property survey is more detailed in comparison to level 1, with it including everything a condition report does plus extras.

This survey is still slightly ‘surface level’ compared to a level 3 survey but will check for structural issues and any problems which could affect the property’s value, such as damp.

This type of property survey can be carried out just as a survey or also include a valuation, which buyers tend to go for to check they’re not overpaying for the property.

A great aspect of this type of survey is it doesn’t only highlight the issues, but also offer recommendations and advice on what can be done to deal with any faults that are found.

Level 2 – Home Condition Survey

The home condition report is carried out by an RSPA surveyor and has a more ‘customer-friendly’ report, making it easier for buyers to understand. The condition survey includes pictures to back up their inspection of the property and it’s verified by a separate surveyor to ensure the survey provides accurate and quality advice.

Level 3 – Building Survey

The level 3 building survey is the most detailed and thorough of all the different types of house survey and is generally used on older properties or those which are in visibly bad condition.

The survey includes an analysis of the building’s structural condition, checking under floorboards, between walls and behind furniture.

Alongside the report, buyers are given in-depth recommendations for repairs and will give you an idea of expected timescales and costs.

New Build Snagging Survey

A snagging survey is purely used in new build properties and is designed to check for problems. The best time for a snagging survey is between building work completion and your legal completion, so any issues can be fixed by the developer before you move in.

However, a snagging survey can be done any time within the first two years of living in a new build and the developer has to repair any defects free of charge.

You, as the homeowner, can also create a ‘snagging list’ and keep a list of problems that you come across when living in the property. If you notice something major but have lived in the property for more than two years, you will be able to make a claim under the 10-year NHBC warranty.

Mortgage Valuation Survey

Although not categorised under a house survey, a mortgage valuation survey will be carried out by a RICS surveyor and will take into account different things compared to the other types of house survey. A mortgage valuation will look at:

  • A property’s condition
  • Supply and demand of properties in the local area
  • Sold house prices locally for similar properties
  • The current state of the property market (i.e. whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market)

The outcome of the survey will be an idea of the value of the property for your mortgage lender, so they can confidently lend on the property, knowing they will be able to make their money back.

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Do you need to get a house survey?

As discussed before, house surveys are not a legal requirement but they will aid you in avoiding expensive surprises, like Japanese Knotweed or rotting joists. While a house survey may cost a few hundred pounds, it may save you spending thousands later down the road.

The information provided from a house survey may help renegotiate the price of a property especially if the issues were not announced when you first enquired.

If the survey reveals that you will need to pay £10,000 for a herbicide treatment (Japanese Knotweed) then you may be able to negotiate £10,000 off the purchase price or ask the seller to fix any problems before you buy.

House surveys are recommended to all property buyers, but it is highly recommended if you have specific worries about the property, you don’t know its condition, its an old or unusual property, it has a thatched roof or timber frame or it is a listed property.

Most financial advisors or estate agents will insist on you getting a homebuyer survey being done, or one of the other types of house survey, depending on the condition of the property.

Do you need to get a survey on a new build property?

The new build snagging survey is recommended for new build properties as it identifies any defects or problems which need fixing before you move — they will cost in the range of £300 and £600, and some new build developers may cover this for you.

The snagging survey should spot any minor issues that were done by the contractors during the initial property build like loose tiles or something more sinister like faulty plumbing.

When should you do a homebuyers survey?

With homebuyer surveys, you should act as quickly as possible (once your offer has been accepted) as this shows the seller that you are a genuine buyer and it will speed up the buying process.

Striking fast also allows you more time to negotiate with a seller and allows for a little more wiggle room.

New build snagging surveys should ideally be completed before you exchange contracts or if the property is off-plan, then it should be carried pre-completion.

How do you get a survey?

If you are looking for a good surveyor, you should get quotes from multiple firms and compare them, looking at their online reviews and RICS or RPSA credentials.

We would recommend that when you instruct a surveyor, you should ask to see previous reports to get experience understanding the jargon and learning how to resolve issues.

When you book your property survey, you should always ensure that you read the terms of engagement, find out when the house survey will be undertaken and when you’ll get your report and stay in consistent contact with them to ensure the process is as streamlined as possible.

How long does a house survey take?

The length of time taken will depend on the level of home survey chosen and the size of the property being surveyed, but it will take no longer than a day, with the average time being between 2 to 5 hours.

There’s some extra work for the surveyor to do after a survey has been conducted, so you won’t get the results immediately, but it shouldn’t take longer than a week or two to get the results, depending upon how busy the surveyor is.

What are the different types of house survey costs?

As you may expect the cost of your house survey will vary depending upon the location, size, type of property and types of house survey.

The table below will give you a rough idea of the sort of price you should be expecting to pay:

Level of report Price = £100,000 – £249,000 Price = £250,000 – £349,000 Price = £350,000 – £499,000 Price = £500,000 to £1million
 Level 1 £500 £600 £700 £950
 Level 2 £500-£600 £600-£700 £700-£800 £1,000
 Level 3 £700-£750 £800-£900 £900-£1,100 £1,500

Figures taken from ‘Which?’

A new-build snagging survey will tend to cost between £300 to £600 and a mortgage valuation survey will cost between £150 to £800, with the possibility of it costing £1,500, if you’re buying an expensive property.

Is a house survey always a good idea?

There is no need for you to get a home buyers survey, as it’s purely for your own benefit. However, more often than not they are a good idea, as they can help you to avoid unwanted and unexpected surprises and can help to give you peace of mind.

A house survey can also be beneficial when it comes to negotiation tactics, as if a property has a lot of faults or an expensive defect, then you can ask for a sum of the agreed sold price to be knocked off to make up for the expenses you will need to cover.

If you’re using a mortgage to buy a house, however, you will have to have a mortgage valuation survey, as it’s for your lender’s benefit and they will want to limit their risk.

How can you get the most out of your survey?

When you instruct your property surveyor to complete the survey on your property, you should tell them of any concerns you have, and what aspects of the property you want examining.

If there is something about the property especially alarming then you could also ask your surveyor if you could turn up for the last 10 minutes of the survey and point out the concerns of the building.

Well, that’s everything you need to know about the different types of house survey, including what each survey does, what they cost and whether or not you actually need one.

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photo of Millie Archer

Millie is a perfectionist with a passion for property and writing articles. You’ll find her researching the latest housing trends and the newest up and coming areas worth investing in. Read more about Millie here.

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About Millie Archer 142 Articles
Millie is a perfectionist with a passion for property and writing articles. You'll find her researching the latest housing trends and the newest up and coming areas worth investing in. Read more about Millie here.

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