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What Do Surveyors Look For In A Homebuyers Survey

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  • 11-04-2023
What Do Surveyors Look For In A Homebuyers Survey

Have you considered: what do surveyors look for in a homebuyers survey? TJF Chartered Surveyors are RICS chartered building surveyors working in Westminster and London. We look at what a homebuyer survey is and what surveyors look for during a house survey. 

What is a Homebuyer Survey?

RICS Homebuyer Surveys sit somewhere between full RICS Building Surveys and mortgage valuations. They cover more of the features of the home than a valuation but are more concise. Homebuyer Surveys are one of the most popular services for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. The price of a Homebuyer Survey depends on how large the property is and how valuable it is.

The survey will be non-intrusive, consisting of a visual inspection of the home. Your surveyor will check the visible areas of the property to assess their condition, giving you a report noting any defects. This means that the surveyor won't go around moving furniture or moving coverings. If you want a more thorough survey, you'll need to arrange a complete Building Survey.

If you already know that the property is structurally sound, an RICS Homebuyer Survey is all you'll need. You can conduct a survey on modern or traditional homes to discover any obvious problems. Again, if you suspect there are deeper issues within the property, you'll want to conduct a more detailed Building Survey.

This is especially true for dilapidated properties. A Building Survey will reveal hidden issues you won't see with the naked eye. Most RICS surveyors will offer two options for Homebuyer Surveys. The first includes the survey alone. This service will include:

  • A condition report
  • Professional advice on urgent issues
  • How these issues affect your property's value
  • Maintenance advice
  • Repair advice

The second option is to have a Homebuyer Survey and a valuation. This includes all the checks mentioned above, along with a market valuation. Your surveyor may also include insurance rebuild costs as part of this survey option. 

 What Do Surveyors Look For In A Homebuyers Survey? RICS Chartered Building Surveyors in Westminster and London

What do surveyors look for during a house survey?

Depending on the type of survey you request, your surveyors will assess different aspects of your property. For example, they may focus on the structural condition of your property and check for any maintenance issues. 

These can include weak walls, leaks, unsafe chimneys or subsidence. Surveyors can also identify what materials are used in your property. 

From timber to glazing, they can reveal what your home is essentially made from. This will inform your maintenance duties and repairs, allowing you to insure your property appropriately.

Most building surveys use a traffic light system to denote your property's condition. Your surveyor can also inspect any outbuildings you have. The guidance they offer is crucial when identifying risky areas and places where urgent repairs are needed. Homebuyer Reports can also include recommendations on whether you should purchase the property or not.

They can tell you whether the listing price is appropriate for the building's condition. If not, you can suggest a cheaper price or have the original owner fix any issues before any contracts are signed. The faults these surveys can reveal might not be immediately problematic.

Some structural issues might only start to show themselves in the future. But your surveyor will pick up on these dormant issues, allowing you to purchase with confidence. Some of these long-term issues might include dry rot or woodworm in the timber. Surveyors can also test for damp and whether the damp-proofing, wall insulation and drains are in good condition. This will give you a great overview of the whole property.

Again, if you specifically request one, your surveyor can include a valuation as part of the homebuyer survey. This will include any rebuilding costs, insurance estimates and an open market value for the property. This will help you decide whether the quoted price from the owner is fair. If your surveyor does find issues with your property, they will include relevant photographs and diagrams explaining the extent of the damage.

What Do Surveyors Look For During A House Survey? RICS Chartered Building Surveyors in Westminster and London

They will also offer a debriefing service where they can thoroughly explain the condition of the property face-to-face. If you're not sure which survey would best suit your property, you can ask your conveyance or the surveyor themselves. Depending on the type of property, they ill recommend different surveys.

For example, older properties are more likely to suffer from serious structural issues. They will therefore suggest a more thorough building survey. Most surveys will cost between £250 - £1,500, depending on what you need. 

Larger properties likely to have extensive issues will be more expensive to survey. On average, Homebuyer Surveys cost around £400, with an additional £100 for a property valuation. 

House survey checklist

Your surveyor will follow this checklist when inspecting your property:

  • The visual condition of floors, walls, ceilings, roofs, bathrooms and any permanent outbuildings and outdoor structures, such as garages.
  • Detailed background information about the property's location and the building itself. Damp-proofing, insulation and drainage checks.
  • Building timber checks.
  • Damp test the interior walls.
  • Inspect the heating system, plumbing and electricity (although your surveyor won't be a trained plumber or electrician, and will only check that these systems are working).
  • Search for issues that change the value of the property.
  • Provide information about issues that need urgent repairs, such as gas leaks.
  • Provide a reinstatement value (rebuild costs for insurance purposes.
  • Provide information about issues in obvious areas of the property that require repair, such as evidence of subsidence.
  • Provide a current valuation of the property (a service that may cost more than the initial survey).

House Survey Checklist - RICS Chartered Building Surveyors in Westminster and London

What doesn't a Homebuyers Survey cover?

Your surveyor won't provide information on the following areas during a Homebuyer Survey:

  • Information on areas of the property they cannot access. Whether these are areas covered by furniture or where it is unsafe to go. Places that aren't accessible shout be included in the final property report. Building Surveys will include information on these areas, including non-visible areas. Neither of these surveys includes the surveyor putting themselves at risk to check hazardous areas.
  • Communal areas in shared accommodation, such as flats.
  • Technical inspections of plumbing, gas or electrical systems. Though your surveyor can offer advice if they deem these systems worth investigating.
  • Roof spaces in flats, unless there is an access point within the flat.
  • Temporary structures outside, such as sheds. 

Again, a Homebuyer Survey is best suited to newer properties. If you're confident the building is structurally sound, you won't need an in-depth Building Survey. But, if you are concerned about the areas a Homebuyer Survey won't cover, you'll need a more thorough survey.

Once your surveyor has assessed the property, they will send you a full report. This will either be by post or email. Your surveyor will then go through the report with you over the phone or in person. They will explain their assessment and go into detail about any issues they found.

What Doesn't A Homebuyers Survey Cover? - RICS Chartered Building Surveyors in Westminster and London

What are the timescales for a survey?

The ideal time to have a Homebuyer Survey conducted is directly after your offer has been accepted. This gives you the best chance to change your offer price if any issues or expensive repairs present themselves. Alternatively, if there's no rush, you can ask your vendor to fix any issues at their expense before agreeing to a sale.

If speed is important, you'll want to research local chartered surveyors while you're looking for potential properties to buy. This way, once you find a house you want to purchase, you can quickly arrange a survey. There are several places to find qualified and trusted chartered surveyors, including:




Each of these databases holds information on different types of surveyors. So, you'll need to determine which is best for your needs before contacting them. Also, it's important that you consult any survey reports before paying your deposit. As once you've swapped contracts with your vendor, your offer will be legally binding. Regarding how long the survey itself will take, it usually won't be that long.

Most Homebuyer Surveys take between 1 to 4 hours at the most. A more thorough Building Survey will take a bit longer, typically around 3 to 8 hours. This is because the Building Survey will report on more of the property's features, providing detailed information on the overall structural condition of the property. These time scales are for the inspections themselves, the reports will take longer to generate.

However, you'll typically receive your surveyor's reports 3 to 5 working days after the inspection for Homebuyer Surveys. Structural building survey reports take a little longer, perhaps up to 8 working days, given the amount of detail they contain.

Naturally, these turnaround times will be different for different surveyors. Each will have their own way of working. So, when you contact a surveyor you want to hire, you can tell them you only have a short timescale to work with. They can then check their workloads and determine whether they can help you in time or not. 

How Much Does A Homebuyers Survey Cost - ? RICS Chartered Building Surveyors in Westminster and London

How much does a Homebuyers Survey cost

As mentioned above, a Homebuyer Survey can cost anywhere between £250 and £1,500. However, a more accurate estimate would be £300 to £850. This is the average cost that most buyers will pay. While this is an average estimate, there are factors which can dramatically alter these figures. These factors include:

Property Age

Property Size

Property Type

Property Condition

Larger, older, more dilapidated buildings will take longer to assess than small, new structurally-sound ones. Depending on the property you are thinking of buying, your surveyor's costs may vary. It's always best to check with the surveyors themselves.

They can quote you an accurate price for their services once they know which property you want to buy. You should also remember that different firms and surveying practices will charge different rates. This gives you the opportunity to shop around and find the right surveyor for your budget. The RICS is the most reliable resource when looking for a qualified and competent surveyor.

Are you looking for homebuyer building surveys in Westminster and London? Discuss your requirements with our surveyors.