Surveys – a quick guide for buyers

Posted on: June 14th, 2016

It can be confusing for buyers, especially those buying their first home, to know what type of survey is needed when purchasing a property or why a survey is needed at all. 

Why do you need a survey?

A survey will tell you about the condition of the property and identify any defects that it may have.  It can help you make a decision as to whether you want to continue purchasing the property, highlight any future works that may be required (and help avoid any costly surprises in the future) and it can help determine if the property is reasonably priced or whether a renegotiation of the price should be considered.

When should I book my survey?

Ideally, you will want to arrange a survey as early as possible in the purchase transaction.  This is to ensure that any problems that may be identified can be looked into by you or a specialist with adequate time. It may reveal matters which require further investigation by your solicitor and time will be needed to deal with these.

You also want to ensure that you receive the results of the survey before proceeding to an exchange of contracts as you become legally bound to the transaction at this point and will no longer be able to re-negotiate the price or withdraw from the transaction due to physical defects.

Who will carry out the survey?

The survey will usually be carried out by an independent qualified surveyor.  Most qualified surveyors are members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) who carry professional indemnity insurance.

Your estate agents may be able to help recommend a surveyor.

Types of survey

There are three main types of survey:

  1. Condition Report – This survey provides an overview of the condition of the property, highlighting areas of major concern, but without extensive detail. It is useful for fairly modern properties in good condition.
  2. Homebuyers Survey – This type of survey is the most popular report for buyers and is most suitable for modern properties, or a standard older building in a reasonable condition. The results will give advice on major defects that may affect the value of the property, along with recommendations for repairs and ongoing maintenance.
  3. Building Survey – this is a comprehensive survey which details the condition and construction of the property and outlines defects and necessary repairs. It also provides repair and maintenance advice.  This is typically used for older properties or properties that have been extensively altered or if major conversion work is being considered in the future.


Surveys are not to be mistaken with lender valuations which are used by lenders to help assess what the property is worth.  A valuation will note any serious issues with the property that may affect its value but will not give a full picture of its condition.

For more information, please contact our Residential Property team, or visit