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Do I need a survey when purchasing a property?

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When purchasing a property, it can be confusing to know whether a survey is needed, what type of survey is best and who is responsible for organising this.  Genni Cooper, Associate Solicitor in our Waterlooville Residential Conveyancing team, explains the key information you need to help answer these questions.

Why do I need a survey?

A survey will tell you about the condition of the property.  A survey can help you make a decision as to whether you wish to purchase the property, highlight any potential works that may be required (to avoid any nasty surprises!) and it can help determine if the property is reasonably priced.

What type of survey do I need?

Most surveyors provide three different types of survey:

  1. RICS Condition Report – This is the most basic type of survey and will give an overview of the condition of the property.  This survey will highlight significant issues but without extensive detail.  This type of survey is useful for modern properties in good condition.
  2. RICS HomeBuyer’s Report – This is more detailed than a condition report and will highlight particular problems such as damp or subsidence. This survey will include recommendations for repairs and ongoing maintenance.  This is the most popular type of survey and is most suitable for modern properties or older properties in a reasonable state of repair.
  3. RICS Building Survey – This is the most comprehensive survey that can be carried out which will detail the condition and construction of the property and will outline defects and necessary repairs.  It will also include repairs and maintenance advice. This type of survey is most often used for older properties or those which have been extensively altered or converted.

It is worth noting, that none of these surveys will cover elements such as the heating system, electrics or plumbing.  If there are concerns over any of these, it would be recommended to seek further testing or speak to a specialist such as an electrician.

What is the difference between a valuation and a survey?

The word valuation is often heard when purchasing a property with a mortgage.  While a survey looks at the condition of the property and would be carried out by a surveyor, a valuation is a tool used by a lender to determine the value/worth of the property.  A valuation may note serious defects with the property that affect the value but it will not provide a full picture of the condition. 

Who is responsible for organising a survey?

If you require a survey, then in most circumstances you would need to organise this as the buyer.  Some lenders offer a survey as part of their mortgage product, so it is always worth checking what is included either with your mortgage broker or with the lender directly.  It will not be the responsibility of the estate agent or your solicitor to organise this, although they may be able to help recommend a surveyor in the local area.

Ideally, you would want the survey to be arranged as early as possible after your offer has been accepted. This is to ensure that any issues that are identified can be looked into i.e. by your solicitor or by a specialist depending on their nature, with sufficient time.  You will also want to ensure that the result of your survey is received prior to an exchange of contracts as once you exchange, you become legally bound to the transaction and will not longer be able to renegotiate the price or withdraw from the transaction due to physical defects.

Who will carry out the survey?

This will usually be an independent qualified surveyor.  Most qualified surveyors are members of the Royal Institute of Charted Surveyors (RICS).

What do I do if the survey reveals major problems?

If the survey identifies major problems or potential works that need to be done to the property, this can affect the value of the property.  You may wish to obtain quotes for the works specified as it may be possible for you to renegotiate the price (which can be done any point up until exchange of contracts) or to ask the seller to carry out the remedial work before proceeding.

If you are buying a property and have questions about the surveys required, or any other questions relating to your purchase, you can contact Genni or the Residential Conveyancing team on 023 9277 6569 or email


This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.