What You Need to Know

Our guide to surveys

Do I need to get an independent house survey?

There is no legal obligation to obtain an independent house survey but purchasing a property without full knowledge of its condition dramatically increases the risk of significant unexpected expenditure. Consumer organisations, mortgage lenders and conveyancing solicitors will all recommend you commission your own survey prior to purchase. As well as covering major defects, a house survey will provide detailed information on the condition of elements such as the roof, windows, heating system and electrics, all of which could require considerable expenditure. The majority of houses have issues but an independent house survey reduces the level of risk and helps you plan for the future.

Isn't my mortgage lender carrying out a survey?

In short - no. Even among property professionals, the terms ‘mortgage valuation’ and ‘survey’ are used interchangeably. This can create confusion for purchasers but there is a significant difference between the two and the report produced for your mortgage lender is not the same as an independent property survey.

A mortgage valuation report is carried out for your mortgage lender even though you may have to pay for it. It is based around a very limited inspection and provides the lender with the basic information they require to make a lending decision. The valuation report sometimes includes basic information on the construction and condition of the property, the market value, and any significant issues that require immediate repair to protect the property. You may not receive a copy of the mortgage valuation and, even if you do, it will not contain the detail you would expect in a survey. It is important to note that the surveyor is not acting for you in a mortgage valuation and therefore you cannot rely on the report.

In contrast, an independent property survey is carried out for individual purchasers and includes a detailed inspection and an extensive report on the condition of each element of the property. This will give you a clear picture of the house you are buying and help you to anticipate works that are required and to budget for these. Depending on the level of survey, it may also include advice from the surveyor, photographs and a valuation. This house survey report is confidential to you and is a report you can rely upon.

Relying on a mortgage valuation report to highlight any issues with a property is very risky as the limited inspection means critical issues can be overlooked. For example, roof space inspections are not included as standard in mortgage valuation reports even though serious defects can occur unseen in the roof void. In contrast, during a HomeBuyer Report inspection, the surveyor will fully enter the roof space (where it is safe to do) and uncover any issues.

How do I know which type of house survey to choose?

The descriptions on our Home Surveys page detail what each type of survey includes and for which properties it is most suitable. Alternatively, you can contact us and speak to a surveyor who will advise you. Please include the address of the property you wish to have surveyed in your email so that we can tailor our advice.

How much does a house survey cost?

The price of a house survey depends on the size and age of the property and reflects the amount of time it will take the surveyor to carry out the inspection and prepare the report.

As a guide

RICS Condition Reports start from around £225+ VAT
RICS HomeBuyer Reports start from around £300+ VAT
RICS Building Surveys start from around £600+VAT.

Please contact us to speak to a surveyor and obtain an accurate quote.

Which locations do you cover?

We carry out home surveys and residential valuations in Greater Belfast, Co Antrim, Co Down and the North Coast. If you are unsure whether we cover your area, please contact us to speak to a surveyor.

When should I instruct the survey?

We would always recommend you instruct an independent house survey early in the purchase process. This reduces the pressure to make a quick decision and allows you time to fully consider if this is the right property for you. It will also save money on legal fees if you decide not to proceed with the purchase.

When can you carry out the survey?

Our surveyors usually carry out inspections 2-3 working days after receiving your formal instruction depending on availability. There is documentation which we require to be returned prior to booking the inspection so please factor this in when you are planning to instruct a home survey. This is an RICS Regulatory requirement and is common to all surveying practices, however our documentation can be emailed to expedite the process.

We understand there is often pressure from vendors, estate agents and solicitors so we’ll let you know when the inspection is booked and when you can expect the report. That way, you can keep everyone informed.

When will the report be ready?

The surveyor will usually have the survey report ready 3-4 working days after the inspection. This gives the surveyor time to reflect on their findings and ensure each report is prepared to the highest standard. In order to tailor our reports, surveyors do not use time-saving standard paragraphs or survey writing software and each paragraph is written individually. Our surveyors pride themselves on producing meaningful reports that are specific to each property.

Do you test services?

All our surveys include a visual inspection of services and the RICS Building Survey includes observation of services in normal operation. However, surveyors are not qualified to test services and no RICS survey would be able to provide this option.

Why do you recommend further investigations in your surveys?

Sometimes, it is necessary for the surveyors to advise clients to obtain a further report on an element of the property as the particular defect requires specialist knowledge. This is akin to your GP referring you to a specialist consultant to deal with a specific health problem. It is usually easier and more economical to obtain a general survey followed by specialist reports, where required, than to ask a range of specialists to inspect the property on the off-chance there is an issue.

Can I speak to the surveyor after the inspection?

We like to talk to our clients to get a feel for their knowledge and expectations but, equally, we understand that not everyone has time or wants to talk on the phone. When you instruct your survey, please advise if you’d like a post-inspection telephone call from the surveyor at no extra cost to summarise their findings prior to receiving the report.

Can I meet the surveyor at the property?

If you would like to meet the surveyor at the property we can facilitate this although we do ask that you obtain the vendor’s permission in advance. We recommend that clients meet the surveyor towards the end of their inspection as the inspection can take a significant amount of time and concentration. This will allow the surveyor to provide you with a clear summary and talk you through their findings.

How do I instruct you to carry out a survey?

If you would like to instruct an independent house survey, please contact us to speak to a surveyor.

The estate agent doesn’t understand why I’m getting a survey. Why not?

Independent house surveys can make estate agents nervous as they worry the sale will fall through or the purchaser will ask for a reduction in price. However, it is not unreasonable for a purchaser to want to find out exactly what they are buying and what repair works they can expect to carry out. All consumer and property-related organisations strongly advise that you obtain an independent survey for your own protection so don’t feel pressurised into proceeding without a home survey.