What is a house survey?


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According to the HomeOwners Alliance, only 20% of people get a survey before buying a house*. But what is a house survey exactly, and why are they so important?

A quick guide to house surveys

A house survey is carried out by a surveyor who checks the condition of a home before you buy.  In the same way you might get a car checked over before you buy it, it’s a good idea to find out more about the property you are looking to buy.

There are a few different types of survey:

RICS Surveys – The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) offers 3 different types of report. Surveyors can produce them under licence and as they are in a prescribed format, they will largely be the same whichever surveyor you appoint.  

The survey types are:

●        The RICS Condition Report – a basic house survey to check the property’s condition, it does not give any advice only rates and identifies matters that need repair or further investigation before you commitment to purchase. It reports on the condition of the property but does not provide a valuation or a reinstatement figure.

●        The RICS HomeBuyer’s report – this type of report is most typically offered by surveyors. The report identifies urgent and significant matters that need investigating before commitment to purchase and also a valuation of the property and a reinstatement figure.

●        The RICS Building Survey  this is a detailed report which is most suited to older properties or one that have been heavily altered and extended. It does not include a valuation.

Non-RICS surveys – there are other types of survey available and not all surveyors are RICS qualified. Importantly with any advice you receive, you should check the terms of engagement carefully and that the surveyor has adequate personal indemnity insurance should there be a problem.

●        The SAVA Home Condition Survey – similar to the RICS Condition report

The type of survey you choose and how much it will cost will depend on the size, age and type of property. The types of survey should be seen as bronze, silver or gold, as one is not better than the other – they are each for a different purpose. When you get the report read it, take action on the items highlighted and speak to your surveyor if there is anything you do not understand.

You may be able to use the items raised in the report to renegotiate your purchase, however the contents of the surveyor are for your purposes only and should not be disclosed to the seller.

This guide to house surveys was produced in collaboration with Countrywide, the UK’s largest and most successful estate agency and property services Group.