CONVEYANCING: What is a Property Survey?

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A property survey examines the structure and condition of a building, and is likely to suggest work or repairs that are needed. It is about the ‘bricks and mortar’, NOT the legal status of a property.

The house we live in is the most significant financial investment most of us will make.  Despite this, many choose to buy ‘blindly’ by not having a survey done before they commit to the purchase of their home.

Here, specialist property solicitor Sonia Balrai explains the importance of a building survey.

What is a survey?

A survey report will tell you everything you need to know about the fabric of the building you are buying.  It can:-

  • be a useful tool for negotiating a price reduction if repairs are needed
  • identify defects, and the costs associated to resolving them
  • give you peace of mind (if everything is in order!)

There are different types of survey reports, and you should go with the one that suits you.  When you engage the services of a surveyor, they will explain the different types of surveys on offer (usually the level of detail the report goes into).

What is a homebuyers report?

This survey is endorsed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).  Buyers tend to choose this survey if the property is generally in good condition and built within the last 150 years.  It highlights defects and problems which are in need of urgent repair that can affect the value of the property.

Your property survey can vary from a simple valuation, to a detailed report.

What is a full building survey?

This type of survey is always recommended.  It should reveal all unseen problems.  This survey tends to be more expensive than the homebuyers report as it is more detailed.  Buyers choose a full survey if the property is old, listed, has unusual construction and has lots of alterations.  The survey itself will not give a valuation of the property – this will cost extra!

Your surveyor may recommend further specialist surveys to be carried out (i.e damp, timber, drainage, electrical).

Is a mortgage valuation a survey?

Most of us buy a property with the assistance of a secured loan, or ‘mortgage’.  The lender will insist on valuing the property, and invariably it is the buyer that pays for that!  Also, the valuation is generally carried out by a surveyor.

But, beware – this is not a survey!  It is solely for the benefit of the lender, to satisfy them that the bricks and mortar are worth (in financial terms) the price being paid.  This is to ensure that they could sell it if needed (if the borrower defaulted on their mortgage payments), and get their money back.

Buyers often, and wrongly assume that, because they’re having a bank valuation there is no need to have a survey.  Wrong!  They’re two completely different things.

When should a survey be done?

You should have your survey done before you have exchanged contracts.  This is so that you know everything you need to about the bricks and mortar of the building before you have committed to buying it!  Do one after exchange and you are committed to buying come what may.

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For advice on any of the subjects raised above please reach out to our expert team who will be happy to help with all of your queries regarding conveyancing.  You can call us on 03300 020 365, and email us at