How to pick the right survey when buying a home

Buying a home is usually an exciting time in anyone’s life. By the time you’ve spent hours scouring the internet for homes that are suitable, arranging viewings, finding ‘the one’ and making offers, you’ll probably be fairly heavily emotionally invested in the purchase.

But ploughing ahead without getting an expert opinion in the form of a survey can prove to be foolhardy. In fact, the RICS suggests that the average amount people moving house have to pay out for repairs once they have moved into a house is £5750, with some facing bills that are significantly higher. So unless you’ve got that sort of money lying around, having a Chartered Surveyor complete a survey is always a sensible precaution.

But which survey is the right one to go for? Here, we look at the different types of survey available…

RICS Homebuyer Survey

This type of survey is the most popular report for buyers and is most suitable for modern properties, or a standard older building in a reasonable condition.

RICS Homebuyer Surveys are produced in a standard document format that is approved by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. This provides homebuyers with an overview of the property’s condition in an easy to understand and follow format. The report requires a visit from a Chartered Surveyor, who will identify any significant defects/areas of concern and describe the overall condition of the house.

One feature of the RICS Homebuyer Report that buyers often find useful is that it provides useful ratings on the basis of priority/urgency for the repairs required. This gives a clear idea of the areas of the property that need attention and in what order you should prioritise the works. 

RICS Homebuyer Surveys are an affordable option, providing a good overview to property buyers on what they can expect once they move in.

Building Survey Report

The ‘Rolls Royce’ of residential surveys, Building Survey Reports are the most detailed form of property report you can get.

Suitable for all types of residential properties, Building Survey Reports provides a buyer with full details of the construction and condition of the property. The report requires a full internal and external inspection to be completed by a Chartered Surveyor, who will then report on all areas of the property their state of repair – covering both minor defects as well as major works required.

Due to the thorough level of inspection and reporting involved in a Building Survey Report, this type of survey is recommended particularly if a house is an old period property, requires extensive renovation work, or has been unusually constructed.

Building Survey Reports are the most expensive type of residential survey available. For some properties, the level of detail involved isn’t necessary and a RICS Homebuyer Surveys would be entirely sufficient. However, for other properties, it is well worth the investment to get an expert opinion on every aspect of the property, so you can go into the purchase with your eyes wide open.

A word of warning…

Not all buyers are aware that a Valuation Report is not the same as a Survey Report, and therefore some house buyers proceed with a purchase unaware that they have not had the property’s condition fully investigated. Often, as part of the mortgage process, the lender will stipulate that a Valuation be completed on the property at the buyer’s expense. This does not mean that you are having a Survey completed! The Valuation Report in this instance is simply to satisfy the lender that the property is worth providing a mortgage for.  It does nothing to protect the buyer, so it is always worth having your own survey report completed.


Contact Matthew Parkinson – Chartered Surveyor

If you are still unsure which survey is right for you, please contact us. Matthew Parkinson, Chartered Building Surveyor and RICS Registered Valuer will be happy to advise you.