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Property renovation: Which survey is right for you?

BY Ned Browne

1st Jan 2015 Property

Property renovation: Which survey is right for you?

Most people buying properties get them surveyed before committing to the purchase although there are some exceptions. Most lenders will require you to get a survey before they lend the money. Ned Browne explains the different types of survey available.

Valuation report

This isn’t a proper survey, as the inspector is only there to ascertain that the property is worth what the purchaser has agreed to pay. The ‘surveyor’ is unlikely to pick up on anything you haven’t already noticed.  This type of survey is often used with remortgages.

Expect to pay in the region of £300 + VAT for this survey.


Homebuyer’s report

This is a proper survey and will highlight problems such as woodworm, subsidence or rot. The report will also make suggestions as to what remedial works needs to be undertaken. 

However, in my experience, most reports are peppered with ‘legal speak’ to mitigate any liability should they miss anything. This is a line from a recent report I read: “Although no woodworm was evident, you are advised to employ a specialist company to carry out a full woodworm inspection.”

The report also advised the buyer to get specialists to inspect the electrics, gas and the roof/chimney. This is partly because this is a sight-only report—they won’t lift carpets or floorboards.  You have been warned!

In addition, this survey should flag changes to the property that would have required building control sign off, such as the creation of a through-lounge. This allows you to check that the relevant sign-offs have been obtained. The report also includes rebuild costs, which is useful when you’re getting building insurance quotes.

Expect to pay in the region of £500 + VAT for this survey.


Full structural survey

This is the most comprehensive survey you can get. The inspector will carry out a full inspection of the property internally and externally. 

As with the homebuyer’s survey, it will flag issues and suggest possible remedies. This survey is far more likely to unearth more problems. The loft space, for example, will be inspected.

Expect to pay in the region of £750 + VAT for this survey.


New builds come with a 10-year guarantee. For such properties, surveyors can be employed to draw up a snagging list. This is well worth doing as it’s much easier to get the builder to do this work before you’ve handed over the money.


Choosing the survey

Choosing the survey depends on your budget, your experience and your attitude to risk. 

If you’re remortgaging, I would always suggest just getting a valuation—you know your property and its foibles. 

For most other situations, a homebuyer’s report will probably suffice. But, more cautious buyers with less experience may choose a full structural survey, especially if the property is in a poor state of repair. 

As an aside, I once sold a house that I had gutted and rebuilt (and had full building control sign off)—it was completely bulletproof. Despite this, the buyers chose to get a full structural report. The surveyor arrived, having expected to encounter a near-derelict property, scratched his head and said, “I really have no idea why I’m here—they’ve paid for the wrong survey”. Don’t do the same!


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