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Do I Have To Have A Survey When Buying A House? A set of weighing scales showing the value of getting a survey outweighs the price. SAM Conveyancing explains why it is worth getting a survey or the appropriate level when buying a home

Do I Have to Have a Survey When Buying a House?

(Last Updated: 13/06/2024)
10 min read
Key Takeaways
  • Most of the time, you should have a Level 2 home survey, but there are some situations where you shouldn't
  • You might be tempted to skip your survey due to cost and time constraints
  • Your RICS surveyor is trained, qualified and experienced to find defects you might not be aware of
  • According to RICS, on average, homebuyers spend £5,750 repairing defects once they move in
  • Defects like this can get flagged within a HomeBuyers Survey before exchange and used to negotiate with the seller, which makes getting a survey worthwhile

Is it a legal requirement to have a survey when buying a house?

You are not legally required to have a survey when buying a house in the UK; however, we strongly recommend it as they save homebuyers thousands of pounds in hidden defects.

Is it worth getting a survey on a house?

If you are buying with a mortgage, your lender will require a valuation; it is essential to note that this is not the same as getting a thorough survey, which will provide proper insight into the condition of the home. It is worth getting a survey on a house, or any home, to get a professional inspection, which can save you thousands in hidden defects.

If the survey picks up something terrible, you can pull out of the purchase or negotiate for a price adjustment to leave you money to fix it. If everything is fine, you can go ahead with your mind at ease. In the rare occasion when a surveyor misses a defect they shouldn't have, they will have professional indemnity insurance to cover any losses they suffer.

The better question is not: Do I need a property survey?But which property survey is it worth getting?

16% of homeowners discover defects

In our recent survey, 16% of homeowners found defects; including 2% who were able to pull out of a bad purchase, 7% who were able to negotiate a better price, and sadly, 7% of homeowners who did not get a survey and discovered defects after the purchase.

12 of the 39 who remembered how much these defects cost to remedy spent over £5,000

Don't burn your money, book a survey.

RICS Surveyors | Fixed Fees | Same week availability | Access arranged


What are the three types of house surveys?

The main three surveys are the Level 1 house survey, or condition valuation; the Level 2 house survey, or homebuyers report; and the Level 3 house survey, or building or structural survey. We do not recommend the Level 1 survey to our clients as it does not offer enough detail.

Most homes should have a Level 2 or Level 3 survey depending on:

New builds only need a snagging survey, and we also offer valuations (without a condition report) for transfers, buyouts, settlements and staircasing:

A new build property suitable for a snagging survey from SAM Conveyancing

What is included in a Snagging Survey?

Your surveyor will examine all aspects of the build and fabric of the property to check that it matches the plans and specifications which the developer set down for it and is generally finished to a high standard.

It will identify any visible defects such as cracked tiles, leaking plumbing and sloppy painting.

Toy houses on stacks of coins representing an independent current market valuation from SAM Conveyancing

What is included in a current market valuation?

A property valuation report will include a detailed analysis of factors which influence the market value of your house. For example, location, property condition and local market. Your surveyor will take notes and photographs and compile these into a valuation report for you. Providing an accurate and unbiased valuation for sale, buy-out, transfer or staircasing.

This valuation does not include a reinstatement value for insurance purposes.

Standard Construction house suitable for a Level 2 House Survey with SAM Conveyancing

What is included in a Level 2 Home Survey?

A Level 2 House survey is a visual, non intrusive inspection of the inside and outside of the building and any permanent outbuildings. The surveyor won't lift up fitted carpets or boards, but will flag in their report if there is visible evidence to suggest there may be a hidden defect. It will give a detailed report on the overall condition of the property. It is not an exhaustive inspection and no tests are undertaken.

It includes a valuation as well as a reinstatement value for insurance purposes, which Level 3 does not.

Edwardian houses suitable for an a Level 3 House Survey with SAM Conveyancing

What is included in a Level 3 Home Survey?

A Level 3 House survey is a more thorough and detailed inspection of the inside and outside of the building and any permanent outbuildings. The surveyor will spend much longer inspecting the property, with more consideration for the roof, grounds, floors and services.

They will aim to establish how the property is built, the materials used and how they are likely to perform in the future as well as outlining repair options and timelines as well as risks of not acting.

What is the best house survey to get?

You should get the appropriate level survey for the property. The HomeBuyer Report (Level 2) is better for most standard modern houses and will look to identify visible defects that affect the property’s value. The full survey (Level 3) is better if the property is older or unusual and if you have any building work planned. Click on the question below to see how we determine which level is best for your property.

What does a property survey look for?

What is included in the survey and what are its main focal points?
Home Survey Level 2
Home Survey Level 3
Describes the construction and condition of the property on the date of the inspection
Aims to identify and problems that need urgent attention or are serious
Aims to identify things that need to be investigated further to prevent serious damage
Aims to tell you about problems that may be dangerous
Aims to show up potential issues and defects, before any transaction takes place
Includes the standard visual inspection during which secured panels, electrical fittings, inspection chamber covers and other similar features are not removed
Aims to help you decide whether you need extra advice before committing to purchase
Aims to enable you to budget for any repairs or restoration
Aims to advise you on the amount of ongoing maintenance required in the future
An enhanced service that includes all the features of the standard inspection plus a more extensive roof space and underground drainage inspection
Provides a reinstatement cost to help you avoid under- or over-insurance
Provides market valuation
Aims to establish how the property is built, what materials are used and how these will perform in the future
Aims to describe visible defects, plus exposing potential problems posed by hidden defects
Aims to outline the repair options and give you a repair timeline, whilst explaining the consequences of not acting
A longer and more detailed visual inspection of a wider range of issues including a more thorough consideration of the roof space, grounds, floors and services

What is the cost of a Home Buyer Survey?

from £400 EXC VAT from £500 EXC VAT

Source: RICS professional guidance.

Are homebuyer reports worth it?

A homebuyer report or Level 2 House Survey is worth getting when you are buying a modern, standard construction property. It can save you money by providing evidence to negotiate a lower price; it can reveal defects which allow you to pull out of a bad purchase before it is too late.

Is a building survey worth it?

A building survey or Level 3 House Survey is worth getting when you are buying an older, larger or unusual property. It can save you money by providing evidence to negotiate a lower price; it can reveal defects which allow you to pull out of a bad purchase before it is too late; it can include a recommended roadmap and estimated timeline and costs of necessary work to remedy problems, as well as predicted consequences if you don't act.

When is it not worth having a survey?

If you are buying a new build, it's generally not worth getting a homebuyers survey. Instead, you should get a snagging survey to pick up on build quality issues that can be then used to get the developer to make good any snags before or after you move in (subject to your contract).

If you are not buying a property and only need a valuation, for example if you are repaying a help to buy loan, staircasing a shared ownership property, or buying someone out, then you can just get a current market valuation without a condition report.

In all other circumstances it is advisable to get a qualified RICS surveyor to review the property before you buy it. Their years of training and hands-on experience will be invaluable in finding any visible defects or signs of hidden. If defects are revealed then you can look to negotiate with the seller, if there isn't then you can rest easy knowing all is in order in your new home.

How do you negotiate with the seller?

When your House Purchase Survey picks up a defect that affects the value of the property then it is advisable to negotiate with the seller to reduce the price being asked. If you need to know how best to negotiate with your seller then read our article - How to Negotiate When Buying a House.

Top Tip You can play 'good cop, bad cop' with your surveyor, positioning yourself on the seller's side and encouraging them to reach a compromise with the surveyor/lender

Frequently Asked Questions
Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Written by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands-on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Reviewed by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.

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