Property Surveys – Do I Legally Need One?

Moving house is a costly process so it’s only natural that buyers will look at the expenses and determine whether or not they need to spend the money on a property survey.  The ‘do I or don’t I’ question is a hard one to answer.  For example, if buying a brand new property, is it necessary to get a survey done?  It’s brand new so there will be nothing wrong with it, right?  We hate to say it but it’s not always the case; let us explain why.

What is a property survey?

Let’s start with the basics.  A property survey is a detailed overview of the property you are intending to purchase.  It is carried out by a qualified, registered surveyor who inspects the property.  The surveyor will write a report that sets out any existing or potential problems with the property, such as the overall condition of the property, any damage or repairs that need doing and the recommended time frame, whether it needs new windows and more major structural issues.

The majority of qualified surveyors are members of RICS (the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) and carry professional indemnity insurance.  It is always wise to choose a surveyor that is local to the area you are moving to.  If buying an older style property, or one in need of extensive renovation or, indeed, one that is a little unusual, opt for a surveyor that has experience with these types of property.

Is a mortgage valuation a survey and can I rely on it?

Now, if you’re buying a property with a mortgage, your mortgage provider will instruct a surveyor to inspect the property, but this is not a survey.  It is a mortgage valuation whereby the surveyor determines whether the property is worth the money you are paying.

The cost of the mortgage valuation is down to the purchaser and depends on the type and size of the property being bought.  However, there are some mortgage providers that will include the mortgage valuation as part of the mortgage package but read the small print.  Most mortgage companies will insist on using their preferred surveyor.

If you are purchasing a brand new property, it is possible to rely on the mortgage valuation as the report will provide certain details about the condition of the property.  Opting for a survey however will highlight any below-par building work, such as uneven floors or doors.  In this instance, we would recommend getting a professional snagging survey done that will identify these types of problems.  If you are buying an older property, we would highly recommend you instruct a surveyor to conduct an inspection of the property on your behalf.

Buying a home is expensive and you don’t want to be landed with a whole range of problems that may have been avoided by getting a survey done.

Types of surveys

There are essentially six types of surveys that range in detail and cost.  Which one you choose depends on the property you are buying, and your budget.

  • Condition Report – this is the most basic of property surveys; and the cheapest. It doesn’t go into much detail about the property but will highlight any glaring problems.  The report is submitted using a ‘traffic light’ system; green indicates all is ok, orange says there is cause for concern and red advises serious repairs are needed.  There is no advice or valuation from the surveyor with a Condition Report.
  • HomeBuyers Report – similar to the Condition Report, however, the surveyor will go into more detail about the property and its condition. This type of property survey is the most popular and you can opt to have a valuation or not by the surveyor.  The HomeBuyers Report will list any major problems, such as wood rot or subsiding walls, but the surveyor will not go as far as lifting floorboards or moving furniture.
  • Home Condition Survey – this type of property survey is offered by the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) rather than by RICS surveyors. Specialist surveyors in residential properties conduct the Home Condition Survey which will include everything a HomeBuyers Report does plus boundary issues and broadband speed in the area.
  • Building Survey – this is the ‘best of the best’ of property surveys and whilst more expensive if buying an older property, or one that needs extensive refurbishment or a more unusual property, it is highly recommended. The cost depends on the size of the property and the grounds it sits in.  It is very detailed and the surveyor will inspect every single aspect of the property in-depth including behind walls, under the floorboards, in the attic and above ceilings.  The surveyor will provide advice on any repairs including timings and costs (estimated) as well as give you a market valuation.

Whilst it is not a legal requirement to get a property survey done on the new home you are planning on purchasing, we would highly recommend that you do.  Yes, it is yet another expense but in the long run, it could save you a lot more money.

At Elizabeth Hunt & Associates, we are always available to answer anyone’s queries and provide professional advice.  If you’re not sure what you should or shouldn’t be doing whilst moving house, please contact us on 01483 285255 or email