Whenever you purchase a new home, you should have a qualified surveyor inspect the property. Even when the property appears to be in good condition and has been built to a high specification. Although surveys are not legally required in the UK, every conveyancer will recommend one. This is because they can save you costly headaches such as a brand-new roof or extensive rewiring later on and if you are buying at the top end of your budget and won’t have much money left over for repairs.

When a surveyor inspects your potential dream home, what do they really look for? See what a house survey entails and how their inspection process works.

When can I expect a survey to be completed?

Your survey should be arranged as soon as your offer has been accepted, since it may reveal maintenance issues or costly remedial work that could affect your offer. Alternatively, if time isn’t an issue and you aren’t in a chain, you may wish to ask the vendor to rectify any issues at their own expense.

Prior to paying your deposit and exchanging contracts with your vendor, you should also ensure that you have the survey findings.

A homebuyer’s survey (the most commonly undertaken survey) typically takes 1-4 hours, while a full structural survey can take anywhere from 3-8 hours, depending on the size of the property. You will usually receive the surveyor’s report within 3-5 working days for a homebuyer’s survey and 8 working days for a structural survey. When moving house, it is critical to find out how long the turnaround times will be with the surveyor you select. The turnaround times will depend on the surveyor’s current workload. 

Which types of surveys are there?

There are three types of surveys: a condition report, a homebuyer report, and a building survey, although they are referred to differently by RICS, RPSA, and Sava.

Condition report 
For fairly new, standard build properties in good condition, a condition report is the most basic option for home surveys. Reports provide information about the property’s condition, such as risks, urgent defects, or potential legal issues, such as access rights.

Homebuyer report 
This survey is also known as a home condition survey by RPSA and is generally sufficient for standard build properties in reasonable condition. All aspects of the condition report are included in the homebuyer report, along with maintenance and repair recommendations. Additionally, the report will highlight defects that may impact the project in the future.

Full structural survey
A full structural survey is also known as a building survey. In general, larger, older properties (more than 50 years old) and/or those with unusual building materials, such as a timber frame or thatched roof, require this type of survey. For properties in bad repair, those that have been significantly altered, or those that you want to make major structural changes to, you should also conduct a full structural survey.

How does a surveyor inspect a property?

Depending on the type of survey you request, a surveyor will look for different things during your house survey. Their main focus will be on the structural integrity of the property and maintenance issues such as subsidence, unstable walls, leaking roofs and unsafe chimney chutes. As far as ensuring your property is protected, they will also provide details on the type of materials and glazing used.

An inspection report includes a traffic light system for rating the building and any outbuildings included with the property, as well as guidance on any potential risks or areas that need to be addressed.  

As part of a RICS homebuyer report, the surveyor will tell you whether you should proceed with the purchase, if the price you have offered is reasonable for the building’s condition, and what action needs to be taken before contracts are exchanged.

In addition to assessing the general condition of the property, the surveyor will point out any major faults that may affect the value. Including any urgent issues requiring specialist attention before contracts are signed, testing for damp in the walls and wood damage such as dry rot and woodworm, and the condition of damp-proofing, insulation, and drainage.

A market valuation can also be included in the homebuyer report, although it is not a standard feature. An estimate of the cost to rebuild the dwelling for insurance purposes and the market value of the property will be provided.

RPSA home condition surveys also include colour-coded ratings, diagrams, photographs and a debrief session with the surveyor to answer any questions the buyer may have. 

As its name implies, a full structural survey includes a detailed assessment of a property’s condition, details of its construction materials, and advice on defects and repairs. Detailed testing for damp, insulation, drainage and wood damage will be included in the homebuyer report, as well as any recommendations for follow-up inspections.

Your conveyancer and the surveyor themselves can advise you on the type of survey to request based on the type of property you are purchasing. 

In England and Wales, it is the buyer’s responsibility to arrange the survey and cover the cost, whereas in Scotland, the vendor is responsible for the home buyer’s report pack, which contains the survey, property valuation, energy report, EPC, and an information sheet on council taxes and utilities. All of this must be done before the property is marketed, but buyers can also arrange their own additional surveys if necessary.

Contact us today to get a quote or book a survey today and our RICS chartered surveyors will carry out a detailed and thorough Homebuyer Survey on your property.