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What you need to know about house surveys

Holly Thomas / 27 April 2015 ( 24 March 2020 )

Buying a home can be a complicated business. One of the first things you need to do after your offer is accepted is arrange a survey. Holly Thomas explains the different types of survey and why it is important to invest in one.

Sold sign outside of ahouse
Not getting a survey done can be a false economy

Homebuyers should get a thorough survey done on any potential new home to ensure they do not expose themselves to any costly defects around the house.

Those who need a mortgage to buy their new home will be required to have at least the very basic of surveys to put the lender’s mind at rest that the place is worth what you’re paying.

If you are paying cash, it’s still crucial to get a survey done. Yet many fail to do so to save on costs - but scrimping on a survey to save time or money is foolish - and can prove a false economy.

The most common issues highlighted in a survey include blocked pipes, faulty electrics and damaged drains. Damp, rot and even structural defects are also often listed.

Types of survey

Surveys range from the very basic for a couple of hundred pounds to a full structural buildings report, which generally cost from around £400 and can hit £1000 or more.

Lenders offer the option of a survey at the point of the mortgage sale as part of a package with the valuation report.

Many lenders and brokers refer to the valuation as a mortgage survey, which can cause confusion. It is not compulsory to use the lender’s surveyor, but it may prove to be cheaper.

There might be little point paying for a full structural survey if you are buying a new-build home. Older properties have been standing for hundreds of years in some cases and need a full buildings survey to be carried out.

Key differences between the types of survey

It’s worth taking a good look at the differences between the different types of surveys, to make an informed choice about which one best suits your needs.

If the property is a pretty standard one and in reasonable condition, then an RICS HomeBuyer Report, costing around £400, could be your best choice. A HomeBuyer Report unearths structural problems such as subsidence or damp and will highlight any issues regarding the inside and outside of the property.

If you’re looking at a big renovation of a larger or older property, for an outlay in the region of £400-£500, an RICS Building Survey could be the one for you. It uses a rating system to pinpoint any problems.

At around £300, a New-Build Snagging Survey does exactly that - snagging a new-build – with the onus falling upon developers to put right any issues before you’re handed the keys to move in.

Reading the report

Don’t be too worried when your survey reads like the Domesday book. Remember you are paying the surveyor to highlight all the bad points.

From a legal point of view, a surveyor is obliged to write down every tiny detail. Call the surveyor after the report to chat through any major concerns and gauge whether you should go ahead – or run a mile.

If there is something unexpected in the survey, you can choose to renegotiate the price to reflect work that needs to be carried out.

Finding it hard to sell your house? Read our guide to selling a problematic property

Find a surveyor

If you are combining a mortgage valuation with a survey, you might have to use one from the lender’s approved panel.

If you are appointing an independent firm, you can search for a residential surveyor on the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors website.


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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.