What is a house survey?

A house survey is an inspection of a property's condition. It’s done by a surveyor.

The survey lets you know if there are potential structural problems in the home you want to buy.

These problems could be:

  • unstable walls

  • a roof in need of repairs

  • subsidence

  • damp

You do not have to get a survey done but it's recommended.

The difference between a survey and mortgage valuation

A survey and a mortgage valuation are not the same.


A mortgage valuation is for the mortgage lender.

It shows the lender that the property is worth what you’re paying for it. 

It will not find structural problems with the property.


A survey is for you, the buyer.

The survey will tell you about any potential issues with the property’s structure.

What is RICS?

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is a recognised professional body. 

They enforce qualifications and standards for land, property, infrastructure and construction.¹

Most qualified surveyors are members of RICS.

It’s a good idea to use a RICS qualified surveyor as they’ll have professional indemnity insurance. This protects you from the cost of fixing issues that come up from the survey.

Some surveyors might be members of the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) instead. RPSA surveyors offer similar surveys to RICS surveyors.

What types of house surveys are there?

RICS offers 3 types of survey:

  • RICS Condition Report (survey level 1)

  • RICS Homebuyer Report (survey level 2)

  • RICS Building Survey (survey level 3)

The RICS Condition Report describes the condition of the property. It looks for any risks and potential legal issues and highlights any urgent issues.²

What does it include?

It covers “traffic light” ratings. This shows the condition of key parts of the property like the roof, windows or plumbing.

It does not include:

  • valuation  

  • advice

  • in depth testing of electricity or gas

What type of home is it suitable for?

A Condition Report is for newer homes and standard properties in a good condition.

The RICS Homebuyer Report gives you more detailed information about the property.

You can choose between either a survey or a survey and valuation.

What does it include?

A RICS Homebuyer Report includes:

  • all the features of the RICS Condition Report

  • advice on issues that may affect the property

  • maintenance advice

  • details of structural problems such as damp or subsidence

  • a market valuation (if you get a survey and a valuation)

  • insurance rebuild costs (if you get a survey and a valuation)

It does not include:

  • looking behind walls or under floorboards

  • in depth testing of electricity or gas

What type of home is it suitable for?

A Homebuyer Report is suitable for standard properties in reasonable condition.

A RICS Building Survey is the most detailed report. 

It gives you in depth analysis of the property's condition. As well as advice on defects, repairs and maintenance options.²

What does it include?

It includes:

  • a full structural survey and detailed report

  • checks in the attic, behind walls, below floorboards, and above ceilings

  • advice on repairs

  • estimates of the costs and timings of repairs

  • predictions of what’ll happen if you do not make certain repairs

Unless specified, it does not include:

  • market valuation

  • insurance rebuild costs

  • in depth testing of electricity or gas

What type of home is it suitable for?

You must get a Building Survey for larger or older properties. Or properties in poor condition.

How much is a house survey?

The cost of your survey depends on the:

  • location of the property

  • size of the property

  • type of survey

  • surveyor you use

Prices you might pay for each type of survey:³

  • RICS Condition Report: £300+

  • RICS Homebuyer Report (survey only): £350+

  • RICS Homebuyer Report (survey and valuation): £450+

  • RICS Building Survey: £500+

Base your decision on which type of survey you need and the type of property you’re buying. Not the cost of the survey.

Who organises a survey when buying a house?

It's up to you to get a survey when you buy a house.

It’s usually done after you've had your offer accepted on a property. Unless you're buying a property at an auction.

In this situation, we recommend getting a survey done before the auction date.

Once you have a surveyor they'll:

  1. arrange a time to visit the property with the seller or estate agent

  2. get the sales information and property's Energy Performance Certificate from the estate agent

  3. use the floor plan to note down any faults in different parts of the building

If you'd like to be there when the survey is being done, ask your surveyor.

What happens after a survey on a house?

After a survey, the surveyor will create a report that details the condition of the property.

How long it takes to get the report depends on the surveyor and the type of survey. It’s usually within 10 days.

Some surveyors will call you after a survey with a quick summary of any findings.

If there’s anything in the report you do not understand, you can ask the surveyor to explain.

If the survey finds any issues, you may want to:

  • get an expert to quote for work that needs doing

  • renegotiate the price with the seller

  • drop out of the purchase

Surveys on new builds

If you're buying a new build home, you'll need a new build snagging survey. Not a RICS survey.

This type of survey finds problems with new builds. For example, structural and smaller cosmetic issues.

You can use the snagging survey to ask the developer to sort out any issues with your new build.

It's best to get a snagging survey done before you exchange contracts with the developer. Some developers will not let you get a snagging inspection until completion.

House survey checklist

  1. Decide what sort of survey you need

  2. Compare quotes from different surveying firms

  3. Check the surveyor is a member of RICS

  4. Instruct a surveying firm

  5. Read the surveyor’s report

  6. Speak to the surveyor if there’s anything you do not understand

  7. Consider renegotiating the sale price if the survey reveals big issues

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¹ RICs.org

² RICS Consumer Guide: Home Surveys

³ HomeOwners Alliance: What sort of survey should I have?