What type of survey do I need?

Our guide will help you decide what type of house survey you require for the house you are buying.

What type of survey do I need?

Why is a survey important?

Your home is likely to be the biggest, most important purchase you will ever make, so it is worth paying for a property survey to check that the building is sound, and discover the extent of repair work if it’s needed.

The advice of a Chartered Surveyor could save you a huge amount of money in expensive repairs later on, and potentially allow you to renegotiate your house offer. There are several types of survey, so understanding the differences between them will help you to pick the right survey to suit your needs.  When you employ a RICS house surveyor directly you will be issued with a survey report and own the details of the survey, allowing you to negotiate accordingly. Your independent house surveyor will discuss the results of their surveys and you can plan your next steps in purchasing your new home.
Apart from identifying defects and planning for necessary remedial work, both Building and HomeBuyer Reports allow you to potentially negotiate for a lower purchase price (if major structural defects are uncovered) and also prove useful for your insurance purposes.

What is a survey?

A survey is an inspection of a property's condition. There are various types of survey, each with their own benefits, but the more extensive a survey is, the easier it will be to find out everything you need to know about the property you are interested in purchasing.

House surveys are performed by Chartered Surveyors and it is strongly recommended that you employ a surveyor that is regulated by RICS for your house survey as they will provide you with clear, expert advice. To get the ball rolling in your search for a surveyor, you can compare quotes for Chartered Surveyors in your area.

Types of house survey

reallymoving.com recommends two types of property survey, the HomeBuyer Report and the Building Survey. The survey type that will be most appropriate for you will depend on a number of factors, such as the age, construction type and structural condition of the property.

If you are purchasing an old property of over 40 years or you are planning to invest in a property which appears to be in a deteriorated condition, or where the basic structure has been converted or altered, it is advisable to opt for an independent survey to assess its general condition.

We have created a table detailing both the HomeBuyer Report and the Building Survey. Your Chartered Surveyor will also be able to advise you on which survey would best suit you and your property.

HomeBuyer Report

A HomeBuyer Report, which is also referred to by house buyers as a Homebuyers Survey, is what you ought to opt for if you intend to purchase a property which appears to be in decent condition and which has not been subject to significant alterations since construction. The surveyor will only inspect visible areas which are reasonably accessible. The report which ensues will help you reach an informed decision on purchase of the property and whether it is priced appropriately.

  • This replaced the Homebuyer Survey and Valuation (HSV) in March 2010 and it is often still referred to as a Homebuyers Survey.
  • Suitable for modern, conventional properties in reasonable condition. Can be suitable for older properties if in reasonable state or repair.

  • Written in a standard format set out by the RICS, providing condition ratings of each element of the property

  • Rates the condition of all permanent structures in the property, e.g. garages etc.

  • Highlights important problems that could affect the property’s value

  • Market valuation and insurance rebuild costs are now optional with the new RICS HomeBuyers Report.
  • Will give on-going maintenance advice for the property

  • Provides an overview of the condition of the services based on visual inspection - they will not test the services

Building Survey

Building Surveys, also known as Structural Surveys, entail a more comprehensive, detailed inspection and assessment of the inside and outside of a building's structure, including both visual and non-visual aspects. This type of survey is strongly recommended if your property is old, made of unconventional material (like thatch or timber), or if it has had, or you intend to undertake, extensive structural alterations.

It involves checks on all easily accessible areas such as roof or cellar space, underneath the floors etc. Also attention will be paid to any issues which compromise the structural integrity of the building like damping problems, dry rot, wood worm infestation or any potential hazards such as existence of large trees close to the structure.

The inspection will culminate in a report which details everything that the surveyor feels you ought to know about your property. It will include a list of all defects uncovered, their probable cause, level of significance (if they require immediate action or can be ignored for the time being), and recommendations on what is needed to fix these defects. It will also include technical details on construction of property, materials used and the like.

  • Also known as a Full Structural Survey - provides a thoroughly detailed report and analysis the property’s construction and condition
  • There is no standard format; each surveyor has their own way of presenting their report

  • Can be applied to any age of property but is particularly helpful for old, large properties built with unconventional materials

  • The Building Survey is beneficial for dilapidated properties and those that have been extensively altered. 

  • Useful if you plan to renovate or convert the property

  • Advises on defects and repairs

  • Includes advice for future maintenance

  • Does not include a valuation unless you specifically request one from the surveyor



Lender’s Valuation report

HomeBuyers Report

Building Survey

Type of property this survey is suitable for:               

All – most mortgage lenders require a simple valuation. Sometimes the valuer does not enter the property.

Straight forward properties in a reasonable condition

Any property can have a Building Survey, but they are recommended particularly for:
Renovated/planned renovations, Unusually constructed buildings, Older properties and listed buildings

Type of examination

Partial assessment adequate for the lender’s needs

Mid price, mid range service using a standard format to bring major or urgent problems to your attention.

You receive a thorough report that is tailored to your needs.

Why have this survey?

To value the property so the lender knows they can recoup their costs. This report will not necessary disclose defects to you.

To provide an informed judgement allowing decision on whether to buy the property.
To show whether the property is reasonably priced
To outline actions necessary/to be agreed prior to exchange of contracts

To provide a detailed report  on the condition and construction of the property
Highlights faults and outlines necessary repairs.
Advice for future plans for extension/repairs or alterations to the property

Other aspects of this survey


Highlights urgent and major problems

Details the property’s construction, materials used major AND minor faults.

Valuation proposed?


Available as optional extra

No, but usually available as optional extra

Format of the report

In some cases, the lender will release basic details where a valuation inspection has been undertaken

Standard RICS format

Presented in the surveyor’s own format.


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Other types of surveys

Mortgage or Lender’s valuation survey

You pay for this, but it is organised by your mortgage lender. They send a valuation specialist to value the property to determine whether it is worth the amount you have negotiated, and whether the mortgage lender should give a mortgage on it. These can vary from ‘drive by’ valuations to a more in-depth inspection of the property.

You should note that the valuer is only concerned with problems that might affect the protection of the mortgage lender’s loan. The Mortgage Valuation is not obliged to reveal any structural problems to you. The lender simply needs to know that they can recoup their loan, if need be.

There may be problems with the property but they will not appear in the valuation report, so we strongly urge all our users to commission an independent survey that you own and can discuss further with your surveyor.

RICS Condition Report

In the spring of 2011, the RICS introduced a new type of survey called the RICS Condition Report. This is a cheaper version of the HomeBuyer Report which does not include a valuation. The RICS Condition Report shows the condition of the property and is intended to supplement the information provided with a mortgage valuation survey. 

This survey can be carried out by RICS Valuers as well as those who are not part of the RICS Valuer Registration Scheme.

Still need convincing about getting a house survey from a RICS Chartered Surveyor? Read more here: Why should I have a home survey?

What are the costs of house surveys?

Compared to the price of possible repair work needed, the important information a house survey provides significantly outweighs the cost of a HomeBuyer Report and a Building Survey.

  • The Mortgage Valuation Report: the cheapest option is usually priced by your mortgage lender and falls between £120 and £350 (depending on the property type, number of bedrooms, purchase price and the particular lender).

  • The HomeBuyer Report: the price ranges between £400 and £1,000, once again depending on the property type.

  • The Building Survey: (or “Structural Survey” as it is used to be known) is the most comprehensive and hence the most expensive. Fees can vary in the range of £500 to £1,300 plus VAT. While this might seem like a lot of money, it could also potentially save you a significantly more in the future, had you invested in a problem-ridden property. It minimizes risks, helps you reach an informed decision on your property purchase and, most importantly, affords you peace of mind.

To find the best price for a house survey from surveyors in your area, you can compare costs for Chartered Surveyors here at reallymoving.com.

How to get a House Survey

For the expert guidance a house survey provides, you will need to employ a RICS Chartered Surveyor. Quality Chartered Surveyors can be found in the reallymoving.com directory.

Although it may seem like another expense during the house buying process, the cost is relatively small in relation to the potential costs of having to repair something that could have been picked up during a survey. It could also provide you with evidence that may allow you to negotiate on price or you may decide to not go through with the purchase at all.

If you are unsure which survey would be more appropriate for the property you are hoping to buy, your Chartered Surveyor will be able to offer you expert, independent advice on which would be best for your potential home.

For a more detailed description of the two surveys, take a look at our guides on the HomeBuyer Report and the Building Survey.

Updated March 2017


  • Graham Cook says...

    posted on 13/11/2012 18:25:50

    Does a home survey include electrical wiring etc.

    Hi Graham, we have answered your question here:
    Does a home survey include electrical wiring?
    Hope this helps!

  • J Cottrell says...

    posted on 23/03/2014 11:28:49

    Can I just clarify if the Homebuyer's Report has to be set out using the traffic light system and whether there is an absolute format that must be used. I ask as I requested this report from a local Surveyor and have received a report that looks nothing like the typical format. It is detailed with photos and includes a replacement cost valuation but looks nothing like a recent homebuyer's report I requested from a different surveyor last year.

  • mrs Roslan says...

    posted on 12/03/2015 13:25:59

    could you please tell me how much extra a valuation on top of a builders survey would be thank you

  • Mrs J Powell says...

    posted on 16/04/2015 16:36:52

    I will be a cash buyer what would be the best survey Thank you

    reply from reallymoving.com: We strongly recommend that all buyers organise an independent house buyers survey. Here's a link to a similar question, answered by one of our Chartered Surveyors: Do I need a survey for a cash purchase?

  • Eva Cooper says...

    posted on 01/06/2015 14:42:39

    A home is perhaps the biggest investment in life, so you should choose it carefully. Thanks for explaining the two types of surveys. Eva

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