Purchasing a house is a thrilling moment and you mustn’t let your excitement cloud your next steps. A survey will help you determine if the property is worth your opening offer.

Nowadays, people know how to present their property in the best light. So, if you want to actually understand the condition of the home you’re buying beyond the new paint coatings a survey is essential. You need to find out if there are any issues lurking beneath the surface and whether you should make further negotiation on price as a result. Sometimes the issues are severe enough that you may decide to walk away.

Deciding which type of survey to commission depends upon the age of the home, any personal worries you can have about its condition, and if you have identified any tell-tale signs of something less than perfect.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has a relatively global reach and are the main global surveying body, but the types of survey can vary from one country to another. You should speak to your real estate agent or advisor to find out what is available in the country where you will buy. If you can, aim to get a RICS survey done. You can find RICS surveyors here. http://www.rics.org/uk/find-a-member/

So what types of survey are available and which is relevant to you?

Mortgage Valuation

The mortgage lender will usually require a survey by their own surveyor which the buyer normally has to pay for, but does this cover what a home buyer needs to know?

Actually, no it doesn’t. The mortgage lender surveyor is providing a valuation on the basis of resale value. This doesn’t take into account elements such as repairs that you are likely to have to undertake to make the property liveable and it doesn’t make a full assessment of the condition of the property. This sort of survey gives a very crude valuation with little substance.

Condition Report

A condition report is a pretty basic report but still provided by RICS. This tends to be a reasonable option for newer properties where there is no evident defects. A traffic light system is used to identify the general condition of different parts of the property.

Home Buyers Report (RICS) / Home Condition Survey (SAVA)

The home buyer’s report is the most popular kind of survey commissioned. RICS provide a Homebuyers report while SAVA provide a home condition survey without an accompanying valuation. It goes into sufficient detail to permit buyers to make informed decisions about the property and its value as well as understanding any remedial works they may have to undertake. It will highlight problems such as subsidence and draws attention to anything that doesn’t adhere to building regulations.

It isn’t fully comprehensive however, as the surveyor will not move furniture, look under flooring or undertake in depth examination.

Building Survey

The building survey is a full analysis of the condition of a property. It is provided by a RICS accredited surveyor. The surveyor will check everything from the attic to beneath the floorboards. They will list defects and repairs needed including indicative costs and duration of remedial works.

This can be a quite intrusive survey, sometimes occurring over a number of visits. It is probably only worth it for a very old property when you have serious concerns about the condition of the home.

Snagging Survey

The defects that a new home will have are of a certain type and are not usually hidden.

When you take delivery of a new-build property, it is important that you secure a snagging survey. At the very least you should undertake snagging yourself at handover. There is no official surveying qualification for snagging, but you should work with a company or individual who are familiar with snagging.

While in some countries you secure a warranty for a period, this usually only covers you for structural and substantial defects. So, if there is bad cutting in or messy pipework, a badly installed sink and so on, if you don’t identify it at the outset, you are unlikely to be able to get it rectified at the cost of the developer.

A comprehensive building survey isn’t necessary for a new-build property but a snagging survey can really help to ensure that you don’t get any nasty surprises.

Add-On Surveys

Depending on your concerns relating to the property, there are some add-on surveys that you can undertake to try and protect yourself even more. These are really only necessary for older properties or where there is a particular concern about one of these issues.


Having a survey done of a property that you will buy is really about protecting yourself and properly understanding the value and condition of the property. Any credible developers should encourage property surveys by an independent third party, this shows that they have nothing to hide. We can provide snagging inspections for overseas new build properties.


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