What kind of survey do I need?

A mortgage is one of the biggest financial commitments you can make, and a survey is the best way make sure the property you’re buying is worth the money you want to borrow.

Broadly, there are three kinds of survey to choose from. Here’s how they differ, and which could be the best fit for you.

What is a survey?

A survey gives you important information about a property’s construction and condition.

It can reveal problems with everything from drainage to damp, ensuring there are no surprises when you eventually move in and empowering you to negotiate on the asking price or terms.

Surveys are conducted by specially trained and independent chartered surveyors. You can search for one in your area here.

Not all surveys are equal. There are three types of survey, each more thorough than the last and, as you might expect, each more expensive than the last.

How a survey benefits you

You don’t have to do a survey when you buy a house, but it’s a sensible thing to do.

Without a survey you’ll have no way of knowing the property is good enough to live in, or worth the asking price.

Your lender will carry out a valuation, but these checks are pretty simple and are carried out in their interest – not yours.

Finding out about problems with a property doesn’t have to be a downer. For one thing, better to know about them before you fork over the cash and for another, it can put you in a better position to negotiate on price.

What survey options are there?

Here’s how the three survey types differ:

  • RICS Condition Report (around £250) This is the cheapest and most basic survey. It describes the property and highlights risks or potential legal issues. It does not give you a valuation or any advice. A Condition Report is best for new builds or conventional properties in good condition.

  • ICS Homebuyer’s Report (from around £400) This survey will do everything a Condition Report does, but also looks for structural issues like subsidence and damp. Some Homebuyer’s Reports include a valuation. A Homebuyer’s Report is appropriate for conventional properties in reasonable condition.

  • RICS Building Survey (£500 upwards) This survey is the most thorough of the three, even going under the floorboards to give you a detailed report about the construction and condition of the property. A RICS Building Survey will rate problems on a scale of 1-3 to give you context on how serious an issue is. It also offers advice on dealing with the issues found, along with a valuation of the property. This type of survey is better if you’re buying a larger or older property, or if you’ve got plans to build on the property.

Only you can decide which, if any, survey is best for you. Just bear in mind that while surveys might seem like a place you can save some money, the cost of and having to fix problems once you move in could be much greater than any savings you’d make.

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