A house survey is a detailed inspection of a property’s underlying condition, usually carried out when it’s up for sale. It’s a crucial next step once you’ve had an offer accepted, helping you identify any potential problems with the property before you finalise things. But who organises a survey when buying a house? Who pays for it? And how do you arrange one?
Let’s dive into the details below.
Who arranges a house survey in the UK?
Whether you’re the one responsible for arranging a survey will depend on where in the UK you’re buying (or selling):
- In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, it’s the buyer’s job to organise a survey when buying a house.
- However, in Scotland, the seller must provide a survey as part of a Home Report within 12 weeks of putting their property on the market.
Of course, for complete peace of mind, you may still want to arrange your own detailed house survey as a buyer in Scotland — especially if you have any concerns about the property’s condition.
Who pays for the survey?
Again, it depends on where in the UK you’re buying:
- If you’re purchasing property in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland, you’ll need to cover the cost of the survey.
- If you’re buying in Scotland, the seller must pay for a house survey as part of the Home Report.
Who should carry out the survey? Do estate agents do surveys?
No, estate agents don’t do surveys. House surveys need to be carried out by qualified surveyors. Your chosen surveyor should be a member of one of the two main accrediting bodies:
- The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), or
- The Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA).
That way, you’ll know you’re getting expert advice from a qualified professional, and the surveyor will be covered by professional indemnity insurance as part of their membership.
Your estate agent may be able to recommend a surveyor, but it’s always a good idea to shop around and get three to four quotes to find the best price. Your agent could be receiving a commission.
Does the solicitor arrange a survey?
No, your solicitor isn’t responsible for arranging a house survey. While they may be able to recommend someone, it’s ultimately up to you as the buyer (or seller in Scotland) to organise a survey.
Does your mortgage lender arrange a house survey?
No, mortgage lenders don’t organise house surveys. However, they do require a valuation to check that the property is worth what you’re planning to pay for it. This is called a “mortgage valuation”, and it’s different from a property survey.
To get this valuation, your lender will ask a surveyor to check the property you want to buy and make sure they could sell it to recover their loan if you can’t keep up with the repayments.
Although you’ll need to pay for a mortgage valuation as part of your mortgage application, you won’t get to see the results of the survey unless the lender chooses to disclose them.
And a mortgage valuation isn’t nearly as detailed as a house survey, anyway. It won’t help you identify potential faults with the property, and it often won’t involve a surveyor visiting the property in person. Your lender will typically use online research to determine the value of the property in question.
So, if you want to know if the house you’re buying has any skeletons in the cupboard (or damp, subsidence, or issues with its structural integrity), you’ll need to arrange a house survey. Here’s how to do it.
How to arrange a house survey
Arranging a house survey is pretty straightforward. Simply search for local, qualified surveyors online, or ask friends and family who’ve moved recently for recommendations.
Once you’ve compiled a shortlist, check their credentials and request a quote from each.
Here are a few tips for choosing a surveyor:
- Hire a surveyor familiar with the area. They’ll probably have a better understanding of the local property market, including valuations and wider environmental issues.
- Ask to see sample reports so you understand what level of detail you’re getting from each surveyor.
- If you’re buying an older or unusual property (for example, one with a thatched roof), hiring a surveyor with a track record of inspecting those types of buildings is always best.
- Check the surveyor is willing to answer any questions you might have after they’ve finalised their report. The last thing you want is radio silence if you need clarification on something urgently. Communication is key.
Found a surveyor you’d like to work with? Arrange the survey ASAP. Depending on the time of year and their schedule, it could take some time for them to visit the property, conduct the survey, and write their report.
What are the different types of house surveys?
Between RICS and RSPA, there are five different building survey types to choose from across three levels of detail, from basic to in-depth.
The surveys are:
- RICS Level One House Survey: This is the shortest and most basic of the three levels offered by RICS surveyors. It looks at the general condition of a property, highlighting any risks, defects, or potential legal issues. The report is presented in a simple “traffic light” format without any detailed advice.
- RICS Level Two House Survey/RSPA Home Condition Survey: These mid-level surveys dig a little deeper than Level One. Best suited to conventional homes in reasonable condition, they’ll help identify structural problems, like damp or subsidence. Some reports include a property valuation, while others don’t.
- RICS Level Three House Survey/RSPA Building Survey: These are the most comprehensive house surveys available. The surveyor will spend up to a full day exploring the property, before drawing up a highly detailed report, including clear advice on how to deal with any issues found. The surveyor will also outline your repair options and describe the consequences if these problems aren’t handled correctly.
We explore each type of house survey, including how long they take and how much they cost, in our guide: 5 Types of House Surveys to Know When Buying a New Home.
At what point do you get a surveyor?
It’s a good idea to have a survey carried out after you’ve had an offer accepted on a new house but before you exchange contracts.
Does everyone get a survey when buying a house?
Not everyone will get a survey when buying a new house, but everyone should.
While having a survey carried out isn’t a legal requirement for purchasing property, it’s a vital part of due diligence — especially as some problems aren’t always immediately obvious.
For example, you might not spot faulty plumbing, damp, or roof damage during your initial house viewings. And once you finalise the purchase, you’ll inherit these problems, which may be costly and time consuming to fix.
House survey problems: Who pays?
If your survey uncovers problems with the property you want to buy, you might be wondering who pays to fix them. Ultimately, you have three choices:
- You could renegotiate the final sale price by the amount it would cost to fix these issues, then pay for the repairs yourself once you own the property.
- You could request that the seller make the repairs before you go ahead with the purchase.
- Or, if the survey shows the house is in a far worse condition than you initially believed, you could pull out of the sale altogether — saving you time, money, and a lot of stress in the long run.
In summary: When buying a house, who organises the survey?
To recap, it all depends on where in the UK you’re buying if you need to arrange a survey.
- If you’re buying in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland, you’ll need to organise and pay for the survey yourself.
- If you’re buying in Scotland, the seller will need to arrange the survey as part of the Home Report.