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Residential Surveys

There are several types of survey available, this section aims to explain the main differences. If you would like to discuss your requirements please contact us.

According to the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors), surveys are a kind of ‘health check’ for buildings. If you’re buying a property, you should have a survey done before you enter into a contract – or before making an offer, if you live in Scotland.

A survey can actually save you money. If there are serious structural problems, you can often re-negotiate the sale price of the property to reflect the cost of necessary repairs – or you may even decide you don't want to buy it at all.

Your surveyor will report on all the parts of the property they can easily reach. They don’t inspect under carpets or furniture, and they don’t test the water supply or wiring – though they’ll comment on their condition.

There are two main types of survey, a Homebuyer Survey and Valuation (HSV) and a Building Survey

Mortgage valuations

A valuation isn’t a survey. It’s a limited check on the property that your mortgage lender carries out to ensure it’s worth the money they’re lending you. They’ll probably ask you to pay for the valuation. Many lenders provide a copy of the mortgage valuation to the buyer but it is unlikely to cover items of detail which would be picked up in a survey.

However, there may be structural problems in the property that would cost a huge amount to put right – and they won’t appear in the valuation report. Which is why it’s really important you have a survey. An RICS member is fully qualified to carry out a more detailed survey, before you buy your home.

Homebuyer Survey and Valuation Report

A Homebuyer Survey and Valuation (HSV), also known as a Homebuyer’s Report, is a survey done to a standard format set out by RICS – it’s most suitable for conventional properties built within the last 150 years, which are in reasonable condition.

It doesn’t detail every aspect of the property, and only focuses on urgent matters needing attention. It’s not usually suitable for properties in need of renovation, or if you’re planning major alterations.

An HSV includes details of:

  • The general condition of the property
  • Any major faults in accessible parts of the building that may affect the value
  • Any urgent problems that need inspecting by a specialist before you sign a contract
  • Results of tests for damp in the walls
  • Damage to timbers – including woodworm or rot
  • The condition of any damp-proofing, insulation and drainage (though drains aren’t tested)
  • The estimated cost of rebuilding the property after a fire, for building insurance purposes
  • The value of the property on the open market.

Building Survey

A Building Survey is a comprehensive inspection of a property. It’s suitable for all properties, especially:

  • Listed buildings
  • Older properties,
  • Buildings constructed in an unusual way, however old they are
  • Properties you plan to renovate or alter in any way
  • Properties that have had extensive alterations.

It examines all accessible parts of the property – and you can ask to have specific areas included, so it covers any particular concerns you have about the building.

A Building Survey includes details of:

  • Major and minor defects and what they could mean
  • The possible cost of repairs
  • Results of damp testing on walls
  • Damage to timbers – including woodworm and rot
  • The condition of damp-proofing, insulation and drainage (though drains aren’t tested)
  • Technical information on the construction of the property and the materials used
  • The location
  • Recommendations for any further special inspections.

Building Survey doesn’t include a valuation, but your surveyor can provide this separately if you need one.

Having an independent and comprehensive survey by an RICS member makes good sense – and could save you thousands of pounds in repair bills.



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