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What type of survey do I need?

The survey you need may depend on the type and age of the property you want to buy - here's how to tell which one is right for you.

What type of survey do I need?

Getting a survey is one of the most important things you can do when preparing to buy a property. But which one do you pick?

What is a survey?

A survey is an assessment of a property's condition. There are various types of survey, each with their own benefits, and they are organised by level. The higher the level, the more in depth the survey is.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland you would get a survey when you're a buyer considering a property. In Scotland, you get a survey (a Scottish Home Report) before you put the property on the market.

House surveys are carried out by Chartered Surveyors and we always recommend using a surveyor accredited by RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) as you know they'll have expert training and are up to date with any changes in the industry.

Types of house survey

We offer two main types of survey:

As a rule, if you're buying an older property, one that's had significant building work, or one you plan to do building work on, then a Building Survey is a great choice. It's more in depth and will highlight issues as well as the cost of potential works done to fix things.

A HomeBuyer Report is more basic, though still appropriate for the majority of properties.

If you are someone who wants as much detail and information as possible, a Building Survey is likely to be your best bet.

The table below outlines what's covered in both the HomeBuyer Report and Building Survey. You can also chat with a Chartered Surveyor to see what their recommendation for the property is.

HomeBuyer Report (Level 2)

A HomeBuyer Report is:

  • Suitable for modern, conventional properties in reasonable condition. 

  • Written in a standard format set out by the RICS, providing ratings of each element of the property in a 'traffic light' system

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

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

  • Will give on-going maintenance advice for the property

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

Building Survey (Level 3)

Building Surveys (previously known as Structural Surveys) are more comprehensive, offering a detailed inspection of the inside and outside. This type of survey is strongly recommended if your property is old, made of unconventional material (like thatch or timber),or has had significant building work done to it. Similarly, if you intend to do building work to the property, a Building Survey is probably the best choice.

It involves checks on accessible areas such as roof or cellar space, but will also look at any issues that might compromise the structural integrity of the building like damp, dry rot, wood worm infestation or any potential hazards such as large trees close to the structure.

The surveyor will send you a report which 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 (along with costs). It will also include technical details on construction of property, materials used etc

  • Provides a thoroughly detailed report and analysis of the property’s construction and condition
  • Can be applied to any age of property but is particularly helpful for old, large properties built with unconventional materials

  • Beneficial for dilapidated properties and those that have been extensively altered. 

  • Useful if you plan to renovate or convert the property

  • Advises on defects, repairs and costs

  • Includes advice for future maintenance

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

Other types of surveys

Mortgage valuation

This doesn't actually count as a survey - it's an assessment by your mortgage lender. They send a valuation specialist to value the property. This is to see if it's worth the money you're going to pay, and if the lender should give you a mortgage on it. These valuations can vary from ‘drive by’ to a more indepth inspection of the property.

The valuer is only concerned with problems that might affect the protection of the mortgage lender’s loan. They aren't obliged to reveal any structural problems to you. The lender simply needs to know that they can recoup their loan if they needed to.

Condition Report (Level 1)

This is the most basic of reports - it gives an overview of the condition of the property and is intended to supplement the information provided with a mortgage valuation survey. It may work best for new builds just to get a general assessment, but we would usually recommend a HomeBuyer Report.

Scottish Home Reports

A Scottish Home Report is slightly different, in that it's provided by the seller of the property. In order to sell a property in Scotland, you need an up-to-date Home Report. This need to be available for a potential buyer to look at before they make an offer. If you're selling in Scotland, you'll need a Home Report.

What are the costs of house surveys?

The price of a house survey varies on the type of survey and the type and size of the property. A survey is always a good investment as it could potentially save you thousands.

  • HomeBuyer Report (Level 2): the price ranges between £400 and £1,000, depending on the property type.
  • Building Survey (Level 3):   the price ranges from around £500 to £1,300 plus VAT. This is because it's more in depth and the surveyor will take more time assessing the property and providing the report.

You can compare prices for both Building Surveys and HomeBuyer Reports by getting a survey quote.

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. If you're wondering how to make sure you pick a great Chartered Surveyor, check out our guide.

Updated February 2020

Comments (14)

  • Graham Cook

    posted on 13 Nov 2012

    Does a home survey include electrical wiring etc.

    Reallymoving response

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

    J Cottrell

    posted on 23 Mar 2014

    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

    posted on 12 Mar 2015

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

    Mrs J Powell

    posted on 16 Apr 2015

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

    Reallymoving response

    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

    posted on 1 Jun 2015

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

    Anne Bell

    posted on 7 Jun 2017

    I am buying an Anchor flat in Otley and only need an internal survey . Can you recommend a surveyor and tell me approx how much an internal survey would be? Thanks

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Anne,
    You can search for local surveyors here and you'll be given a quote by up to 4 companies.
    Best of luck in buying your flat.
    the reallymoving team

    Christine Arnold

    posted on 28 Sep 2017

    I am buying a house in Bournemouth, I would like to know what would be the best survey for me as there is a baby tree in the garden and I would like to know if it is going to be a problem with the house later.

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Christine,

    We have an article here on what kind of plants and trees a Chartered Surveyor will look out for - you can find a surveyor here.
    Best of luck with your move.
    the reallymoving team

    Robert Flook

    posted on 25 Nov 2017

    I am looking at buying a property but am concerned with the some of the pebble dashing on some of the outer walls. Do I need a Homebuyer report or Building Survey?


    posted on 20 Mar 2018

    I am buying an apartment and have had a mortgage valuation report do I need a survey?

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Gill,

    A mortgage valuation is not the same as a survey - that is only for your lender to assess how much they are willing to lend you. A survey will assess any issues that could stop you buying the property or might cost a lot to fix in the future.

    Paul Wilson

    posted on 20 Jul 2019

    I am buying a Victorian terrace house with no obvious defects. Almost all of the advice points toward a HSV but all of the surveyors I speak to are saying because it's older, and spread over 3 floors (it has a cellar), it qualifies as 'large' so I should get a building survey. Do I really need a building survey or is this advice likely to be somewhat profit driven?

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Paul,

    We usually recommend a Building Survey for older properties as standard because there are more opportunities for issues. A Building Survey is more in depth, and will take into consideration things like the impact of the cellar and the foundations etc. 

    Ultimately it is up to you and your peace of mind - if you feel strongly that the property is in good condition you can get a HomeBuyers Report, which is less detailed. No one will push you to get a Building Survey, but for a Victorian property it would likely be a standard recommendation by Chartered Surveyors.

    Kind regards,


    posted on 22 Jul 2019

    Hi there,

We are purchasing a property in London, and we have been advised that the previous owners have had recurring problems with blockages in the properties drains. 

We've been advised that it may be worth organising a CCTV Drain Surve. Would you recommend organising this as a part of the pre-purchase process? We're concerned there may be some damage along the line and may affect us in the long run...


    posted on 12 Sep 2019


I am buying a 1960's flat no mortage, do you think I still need to get a survey done.
Many thanks

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Nily,

    We always recommend getting a survey so you know about the property you're buying - mortgage lenders get valuations to assess the value of the property, but a surveyor actually goes inside, checks the structure, looks for problems and can alert you to issues. By getting a survey, you may find out about problems with the property, and can negotiate for a lower price if you need to pay to fix them.

    Kind regards,

    Alex Robertson

    posted on 8 Oct 2019

    We are buying a downstairs flat in a property that was built in 1900. The style of property is known for being susceptible to damp, and we wondered what type of survey to get please? 

We are first time buyers and really want to get this right.

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Alex,

    For older properties we recommend a Building Survey, and your Chartered Surveyor will be able to tell you if there are other elements you should consider.

    Kind regards,


    posted on 8 Jan 2020

    What sort of survey is recommended for the purchase of a new build property?

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Chris,

    A HomeBuyer Report is usually sufficient for a new build property.

    All the best with your property purchase,


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