Do I Need a Survey When Buying a House?

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Do I need a survey when buying a house? What are the risks? What if the property appears in good condition? Read about our experience on the need for a home survey.
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    Buying a house is undeniably thrilling, filled with anticipation and the promise of a new chapter in your life. However, amidst the excitement, there’s an undercurrent of uncertainty and nerves. The myriad considerations – solicitors, removals, mortgages – all come with hefty price tags, making it tempting for homebuyers to question the necessity of a home survey. The belief that the property appears sound and worry-free often leads buyers to skip this critical step in the process.

    Yet, the consequences of forgoing a home survey can prove to be far more expensive in the long run. A superficial glance during a handful of property viewings may not unveil concealed defects cleverly camouflaged behind a strategically placed sofa or a fresh coat of paint. What seems like a well-maintained property may harbour hidden issues that only a thorough property survey can uncover.

    The Role of Home Surveys

    When you commission a home survey, a skilled surveyor dedicates hours meticulously examining every visible part of the property. Their experience enables them to identify common defects that might easily be overlooked during a casual viewing. In our surveys, we discover defects in nearly all properties, with less than 10% being entirely issue-free. The remaining 90% often reveal defects that, if left undiscovered, could potentially cost buyers thousands of pounds to rectify.

    In the case of UK house purchases, the Latin phrase “caveat emptor” holds sway, translating to “let the buyer beware.” Essentially, it means that when you purchase a property in the UK, you also inherit all of its problems. Post-purchase, the seller bears no responsibility for defects uncovered after the transaction, leaving buyers with no recourse.

    So, to the question, “Do I need a survey when buying a house?” the answer becomes clear. A home survey serves a critical purpose: to inform purchasers about the property’s condition before sealing the deal. This invaluable step empowers buyers to negotiate on the price should defects be uncovered. Invariably, these negotiations can yield far more substantial savings than the cost of the survey itself. In essence, a home survey is not just an additional expense but a strategic investment that safeguards your financial well-being and ensures a sound investment in your new home.

    The Main Types of Home Survey

    In the UK, home surveys are typically undertaken by a surveyor who is a chartered or associate member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Becoming a chartered surveyor takes years of study and practical experience, and they undergo very high-level assessments to confirm that they have the knowledge and expertise to become a member of the RICS. This ensures that when you appoint a RICS surveyor, you know you are appointing a professional with the requisite knowledge to comment on the condition of properties and their defects.

    RICS home surveys can only be undertaken by surveyors that are MRICS, FRICS, or AssocRICS qualified.

    The RICS offers three levels of home surveys:

    The level of detail for each survey type increases with each level, with the Level 1 Condition Report being the least detailed, and the Level 3 Building Survey being the most thorough condition report that you can have on a property.

    The most common types of home surveys are Level 2 Homebuyer Reports and Level 3 Building Surveys. These reports include an inspection of all visible parts of the property, accompanied by a detailed report on the findings.

    Level 2 Homebuyer Surveys are most appropriate for reasonably new homes that are in good condition.

    Level 3 Building Surveys are most appropriate for unusual properties or properties where defects are considered likely or known to exist.

    Read more about the RICS Homebuyer Report (Level 2)

    Read more about the Building Survey (Level 3)

    The Importance of a Home Survey When Buying a Home

    Often buyers think that the mortgage survey undertaken by their mortgage lender confirms that the property is in good condition. However, this is incorrect. A mortgage survey is not a home survey. It has the simple purpose of advising a lender whether or not they should lend on the property. Often the mortgage valuation survey can be carried out without even visiting the property!

    A Level 2 or Level 3 home survey, on the other hand, will provide extensive information about the condition of the property and will usually run to several thousand words in length.

    • A home survey report will:
    • Highlight existing and potential issues at the property.
    • Highlight structural concerns.
    • Identify damp and moisture problems.
    • Look at potential defects with the services.
    • Mitigate the risk of unexpected expenses.
    • Ensure a sound investment for the future.

    Given the surveyor’s expertise in assessing the condition of properties in the UK, they will be best placed to identify common defects and follow the trail if they find anything that does not seem right. It is the only type of survey that will inform you in detail about the condition of the property and highlight any defects that may cost you thousands of pounds later down the line.

    concealed cracking to wall below floor - do I need a home survey?
    Concealed cracking to the base of a structural wall that was concealed below the floor. Found during a Building Survey inspection of a property in South London. Such defects would usually only be found by a detailed home survey.

    The Cost-Benefit Analysis of Getting a Home Survey

    A Homebuyer Survey or a Building Survey for a typical property in the UK will, on average, cost somewhere between £500 and £1,000, yet the typical cost of making good the defects found during a home survey is between £5,000 and £15,000. This makes a home survey one of the best investments you can make.

    Furthermore, with the information provided in the survey report, you will be able to negotiate the price you pay for the property. We regularly have clients who pay £600 for a survey and then are able to negotiate a reduction in the purchase price of over £10,000 based on the findings of the report.

    So, Do I Need a Survey When Buying a House?

    As you can see, the cost of a survey should not be seen as an expense but rather as an investment. Not just an investment in your financial well-being but also in your peace of mind. While the answer to the question technically may be ‘no,’ the risks, both financial and emotional, of not getting one far outweigh the cost of getting one. A survey is a sound investment in safeguarding your financial and emotional interests when making one of the biggest purchases in your life. Spending a few hundred pounds on a survey is a minimal upfront cost compared to the potential risks associated with purchasing a defective property.

    Final Thoughts

    As a firm of RICS Chartered Building Surveyors, we will, of course, advise everyone to get a home survey before buying, even if the property appears to be in good condition. That’s not just because we want your money; it’s about recognising the immense benefits it provides our clients. Several times we have seen our clients either negotiate on the price or pull out completely after they have had a survey carried out. If those clients had decided that the property looked okay, and therefore that they didn’t need a survey, they would have found themselves severely out of pocket.

    We always recommend speaking to an RICS Surveyor about getting a survey to understand what’s included and what the risks of not getting one are. So if you are thinking about buying a property and want expert advice from experienced RICS Surveyors to help you know whether you need a survey when buying a house, give us a call on 020 7112 8877, or email for a free initial discussion.

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