Before you can buy a property, it needs to be valued and in some cases, physically surveyed. We’ll explain what a property survey is and the different types in this guide.
What Is a House Survey?
A house survey is an assessment of a property.
Types of house survey include:
- A physical valuation for mortgage purposes
- A homebuyer’s report
- A full structural survey
A mortgage valuation for lending purposes is a compulsory part of the property buying process. Your lender will always organise one, regardless of whether you arrange a survey yourself. Homebuyer surveys and full structural surveys are optional, and you can arrange them yourself or request that the lender arrange one with their surveyor when they carry out the valuation.
If you arrange either a homebuyer’s report or full structural survey yourself then it's best to schedule it early in the mortgage process, preferably before you receive your mortgage offer.
The type of home survey you require will depend on the age of the property, if it has any structural anomalies, whether you plan on having any major work carried out and what information you want.
Types of Property Survey
Mortgage Valuation for Lending Purposes
Before a lender will offer you money to buy a property, they’ll always need to arrange a mortgage valuation - otherwise known as a valuation for lending purposes. The lender will arrange one with a qualified surveyor of their choice, either before or after they start underwriting your mortgage application.
A valuation for lending purposes is straightforward and less detailed than other surveys. It’s where a surveyor ensures there aren’t any significant problems with the property, ones that would make it unsellable or unlivable - e.g. that there’s no working bathroom or kitchen.
A mortgage valuation is simply a way for the lender to make sure the property you want to buy is worth the minimum amount needed to justify how much you’ve asked to borrow and is suitable security for a mortgage. In fact, although a valuation for lending purposes typically involves an internal inspection, sometimes the surveyor can carry it out online, via a desktop – or computerized - valuation.
People sometimes think that a desktop mortgage valuation is a survey but this isn’t technically true, because the surveyor doesn’t physically visit the property and carry out an internal inspection.
Every so often, the lender will instruct a physical valuation after a desktop valuation reveals potential issues, e.g. subsidence issues in the area, risk of floods, etc.
You may have to pay the lender for the valuation, but there are some that will cover the cost.
A homebuyer’s report, sometimes referred to as a “home survey report”, is a type of property survey. It’s more detailed than a valuation for lending purposes and includes a report for the borrowers on the state of the property. It also outlines any future work the property may need, like rewiring, new pipes, or repairs to resolve any issues with dampness, etc.
You can hire a surveyor to carry out a homebuyer’s report for you or you can pay an additional cost for the lender’s surveyor to carry one out when they conduct the valuation for lending purposes. It’s worth bearing in mind that organising a homebuyer’s report through your surveyor may sometimes be cheaper than arranging one independently. The lender won’t see your homebuyer’s report even if you have their surveyor carry one out, as the ongoing maintenance of the property will be your responsibility.
We usually recommend organising a homebuyer’s report if your house is older than 10 years.
Full Structural Survey
A full structural survey, or full building survey as it’s sometimes called, is the most extensive – and most expensive - survey you can have on a property. It’s unnecessary for most buyers as it goes into great detail about the structural integrity of the building and any potential work the property may need.
Structural surveys are optional but are heavily advised if the property you want to buy is older than 200 years, has a structural anomaly – e.g. it’s attached to a windmill - or if you’re planning on developing the property by adding an extension, adding a new roof, renovating it, etc.
Typically, a lender won’t arrange a full structural survey. You'll usually need to organise one with an independent structural surveyor.
How Much Does a House Survey Cost?
House survey prices vary. The amount you’ll pay will depend on the surveyor, type of survey and purchase price of the property.
A valuation for mortgage purposes is typically cheaper than a homebuyer’s report or full structural survey as it’s less detailed and requires the least time. Depending on the size of the property, a valuation can cost anything from £150 to £1,500. Some lenders offer free standard valuations to applicants.
A homebuyer’s survey costs more than a mortgage valuation but less than a full structural survey. They start at £400 but can be a lot more, depending on the value of your property.
Full Structural Survey
A full structural survey is the most expensive survey because of the level of detail it goes into. These are typically upwards of £600.
How Long Does a House Survey Take?
With a mortgage valuation, the surveyor will sometimes carry out a desktop valuation which literally takes minutes. If they physically visit the property then, depending on its size, the valuation could be completed within 15 minutes.
Surveys, whether you opt for a homebuyer report or full structural survey, take much longer than a valuation. They can take up to several hours, depending on the level of survey you choose, as well as the age, condition and size of the property.
The time it takes to arrange a valuation – and a homebuyer’s report if they’re carrying it out – depends on the lender as they’re the ones hiring the surveyor. Some lenders will want to organise the valuation immediately while others will prefer to wait until after they’ve underwritten your application.
If you’re the one arranging a homebuyer’s report, or you want to organise a full structural survey, then the timeframe is really up to you and the availability of the surveyors.
Depending on the type of valuation, surveyors will typically take up to a week to finalise the report.
When you remortgage your property, you take out an entirely new mortgage but stay in the same property. Your new mortgage replaces your previous mortgage.
You will have already had a valuation for lending purposes carried out on your property when you first took a mortgage to buy it, and as you’ve lived there ever since – assuming it’s your main residence and not a rental property - then you’ll know the state of it.
Therefore, unless there’s been damage to your property, you’re remortgaging so you can add an extension or renovate your home, or there’s another, specific reason you need your property surveyed, then you won’t require anything too detailed. The surveyor might not even need to come out. They may simply conduct a desktop valuation instead. Whether the surveyor carries out a physical or desktop valuation will be up to the lender.
Are you ready to find somewhere new? Let us walk you through the process in our guide: Buying Your First Home.
You can also call us on 0330 433 2927 to speak with an adviser about the kind of mortgage you need. Or simply make an enquiry and we’ll get back to you.