With any big purchase, it's important to make sure what you're buying is of the quality you expect and the seller isn't hiding any issues. Buying a home is no different, and the way to check the quality and condition of a property is by hiring a surveyor.
Below we explain the different types of surveys, a rough estimate of their cost and who they're best for.
Condition Report (RICS) – Level 1
People buying a modern property seeking confirmation of its condition.
The Condition Report is the most basic of all property surveys available. It highlights any risks or defects with the property and tells you of any legal issues you may face once you take ownership. The report itself uses a traffic light system to denote the status of different parts of the property. Green means it's in good condition, orange means something needs your attention, and red means it urgently needs repair. This is as much detail as the RICS Condition Report goes into, and it doesn't offer any advice; as such, it's the cheapest of all property surveys, starting at around £250.
This type of survey is most suitable for those buying a modern property that they are confident is in good condition and want some formal confirmation.
HomeBuyers Report (survey only) (RICS) – Level 2
People who want a more detailed report of their property.
The HomeBuyers Report is a more detailed type of property survey. It includes everything in the Condition Report and more. The surveyor will check for structural problems and any issues likely to affect the property's value, such as dampness and subsidence. The most significant benefit of this survey is that it not only gives more detail on the issues found, it also includes advice on how to deal with them.
It's important to note that the HomeBuyers Report is non-intrusive, meaning the surveyor will only assess visible "surface-level" areas of the property. In other words, they won't look behind furniture, or under floorboards, so while it's a thorough inspection, it's not foolproof. Prices start at approximately £350, and the survey can last several hours.
HomeBuyers Report (survey & valuation) (RICS) – Level 2
People who want to ensure they're paying the right price for a property.
This is the same survey as the above, but it includes a valuation. People often opt for the valuation because it shows them if the price they're about to pay for the property is accurate. Suppose the surveyor values the house significantly lower than the asking price. In that case, you can renegotiate with the seller. The surveyor's report will substantially strengthen your case and increase your chances of getting a lower price. The cost of a HomeBuyers Report survey and valuation starts at £450.
Building Survey (RICS) – Level 3
Those buying older properties or properties in noticeably poor condition.
The Building Survey from RICS is the most comprehensive property survey available. As such, it can cost as much as £2000, depending on the size of the property you're buying. It includes an analysis of the building's structural integrity and condition, delving beyond the HomeBuyers Report to check behind walls, below floorboards and behind furniture. Additionally, it provides detailed recommendations for repairs and informs you of the timings and approximate costs for these repairs. It also forecasts what may happen if the suggested repairs aren't carried out.
Given the exhaustiveness and cost of this type of property survey, it's only recommended for some circumstances. It's most suited for older properties (50+ years) or houses in noticeably poor condition.