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Home Buyer and House Surveys

Find and compare home surveys with Optimus

  • Nationwide network of RICS surveyors

  • Immediate up-front quotes

  • Competitive fees

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What is a house survey?

Whether you’re buying your first flat, your dream home, or your fifth investment property, a house survey is the best way to check it’s structurally sound. House surveys are not compulsory, but they can be very important when it comes to purchasing a new home.

In fact, a house survey will uncover any hidden faults and issues with the structure of the property you want to buy. This way, you won’t be faced with unexpected repairs once you start living in it. What’s more, based on the results of a house survey, you can consciously negotiate the value of the house, especially if structural problems have been found. If you discover that the property is in a poor condition, the findings of a house survey can make you reconsider buying the home in question and look elsewhere.

All this said, it can be confusing trying to decide which type of home survey you need. MoneySuperMarket has partnered with property survey expert Optimus to offer you access to its panel of more than 200 chartered surveyors. This way, you can find the right survey at the right price.

What is the difference between the new levels of surveys and a mortgage valuation?

A mortgage valuation is a basic check, carried out on behalf of a mortgage lender or a cash buyer. It’s main aim is to ensure the property is worth the money being paid for it. If you are purchasing a property, it is important you do not rely solely on the valuation. You should also instruct a house survey on your own behalf.

A house survey is something you can have done to give you an idea of the structural safety and value of a property you want to buy. There are three levels of house survey you can get for a potential home: Home Survey Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3.

Ascertaining the market value will help you get a mortgage. But when you  buy a property, it’s your responsibility to ensure it is structurally sound. Booking a house survey by a qualified Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) surveyor is the best way to spot any unforeseen problems.

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What are the different types of house surveys?

RICS Level 1

The Level 1 Home Survey, also known as Condition Report, identifies any urgent defects. However, it doesn’t provide a market valuation or an insurance rebuild cost, which is why many buyers opt for a Level 2 or a Level 3 Home Survey.

This is a visual inspection, without the surveyor looking in depth at the property as they would do with Level 2 and Level 3. You will receive a report using a traffic light system to reveal the property’s overall condition. You will not receive advice on ongoing repairs or maintenance and no tests on the building’s fabrication will be carried out.

How much does a RICS Level 1 survey cost?

A RICS Level 1 survey costs between £300 and £900 depending on the value and size of the property being surveyed. They take around one hour to complete.

RICS Level 2

A Level 2 Home Survey highlights any major problems with a property and can be paired with a home valuation, so that you can cover all bases in one visit to your potential new home.

An intermediate level survey, Level 2 will give you an assessment on the overall condition of the property, with an extensive visual inspection of the building and its wider surroundings. However, specific tests are not carried out.

Surveyors will look into concealed areas such as cupboards, lofts and basements. By adding a valuation, the surveyor will be able to tell you the cost of the property they believe to be correct, a rebuild cost for insurance purposes and may advise on any minor repairs that may be required.

How much does a RICS Level 2 survey cost?

A RICS Level 2 home survey costs between £400 and £1,000 depending on the size and value of the property. They can take between one and four hours.

RICS Level 3

The Level 3 RICS full structural survey, also called a building survey, comprises the same approach as Level 2, but adds an extra level of detail. This means that surveyors will turn on services to ensure that they work and give a full description of the construction and materials used in the building.

They will also be able to deliver detailed information on any structural issues and the remedial work that will need to be carried out. This, in turn, will allow buyers to negotiate the price or decide against making the purchase if problems are too great.

Level 3 is a good idea for those buying larger, older properties. It will reveal issues such as woodworm or subsidence, and deliver extra peace of mind.

How much does a RICS Level 3 survey cost?

A RICS Level 3 building survey can cost between £600 and £1,200 depending on the property’s size and its valuation.

What’s included in a Level 2 Survey?

  • An easy-to-understand traffic light condition-rating system

  • Details about any urgent or significant repairs that may be required

  • Details about problems that could affect the property value

What’s included in a Level 3 Survey?

  • A detailed report on the construction and condition of the property

  • Advice on repairs, on-going maintenance, and issues that may affect the property value

  • Clear information about areas that require urgent attention

Do I need a full house-survey?

A Level 2 Home Survey is sufficient for most modern homes built to typical construction standards and if there are no obvious issues. But if you’re buying a property that is more than 150 years old or has been significantly altered, a Level 3 Home Survey that offers greater insight is a better choice.

As a property purchase is such a big financial transaction, some people also opt for a Level 3 Home Survey as a form of protection. Sellers are under no obligation to mention any structural problems, even if they are aware of them. Therefore, a Level 3 Survey is the best way to ensure there are no nasty surprises after the contracts have been signed.

What type of home survey is right for me?

Level 2

Level 3

I’m buying a standard construction property 



I’d like a user-friendly traffic light rating



I’m buying a property that’s more than 150 years old



I’m buying a property that’s been significantly altered



I plan to significantly alter the property once it’s mine



I want advice on repairs and maintenance required



I want a key risks report



I want to know about issues that affect the value



I want details of problems that need urgent attention



I want a rebuild value for insurance purposes



I want an in-depth inspection



I want a comprehensive structural report



I want a description of the defects uncovered



I want professional advice on repair options



Who are Optimus?

MoneySuperMarket has partnered with Optimus to help you find the right house survey by providing access to Optimus’ panel of more than 300 RICS surveyors.

You’ll have to give Optimus a few details about your planned purchase to allow it to quote you for the survey. This way, they can give you an accurate fee instantly, rather than an estimate.

They offer a fixed-price guarantee on all survey types, regardless of location or property type – and there are no hidden fees.

You can contact Optimus here, send them an email at, or call on 0117 933 9471.

Compare surveys

It’s easy to find and compare home surveys with MoneySuperMarket’s partner Optimus. Simply answer a few questions about yourself and the property you’re hoping to buy. Optimus will be able to provide you with a quote.

If you are happy with the price, then all you need to do is book the house survey. Optimus will contact you to arrange an appointment for the house survey to take place, making sure that you get a surveyor that can work around your schedule. This way, you can find out everything you need to know about your potential new home.

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It’s your responsibility to check for structural risks and problems when you buy a house or flat. By going ahead without a house survey, you could therefore find yourself with a property that needs extensive repairs or can’t be sold on for anything like the amount you paid for it.

If a survey does reveal the property needs work, you may also be able to negotiate a better price. The same is true if the survey suggests a lower market value than the price you’ve agreed. So, getting a survey can save you money on the purchase, as well as in the future.

The Mortgage Valuation is for the lenders’ benefit and doesn’t provide any details regarding the condition of the property. You may not even get to see a copy of the report.

When you appoint a RICS-regulated surveyor to provide you with a full and thorough survey, you can relax knowing you have a full understanding of the condition of the property before you sign on the dotted line.

Of course, this is completely up to you. Bear in mind that, generally, if you buy a new-build property, you should be provided with a ten-year warranty from the developer. But this may not always be enough to give you the peace of mind you deserve.

New builds shouldn’t have structural problems, as they’ve only recently been constructed. However, it may still be wise to have a house survey to make sure everything is as it should be. This will help you identify and address any issues before you purchase the property and move in.

No, identifying any problems with a property is the buyer’s responsibility. So, you don’t have to get a house survey to sell your property. You may, however, wish to get a survey done to reassure potential buyers. This could be, for example, if it’s a very old property or you’re close to a flood-risk area.

When selling your home, you also have to provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). This rates the energy efficiency of the property with a letter between A and G.

When you book a RICS Level 2 Survey, the surveyor will check all major indoor features, including ceilings, walls, and bathrooms. Exterior features, such as roofing, pipes, gutters, walls, windows, and doors will also be inspected. Problems they will look out for include leaks, subsidence, and rising damp.

You’ll also receive background information on the property and location. What’s more, you can get an estimated rebuild cost you can use for insurance purposes, as well as an assessment of the damp-proofing, drainage, and insulation (but not the drains themselves).

How long a house survey takes usually depends on what level of survey you choose, as well as how large the property is.

Generally speaking, a Level 1 Home Survey will take an hour or so to complete. A Level 2 is likely to take anything between 90 minutes and four hours, as the checks are more extensive and detailed.

As for Level 3 Home Survey, the inspection can last up to eight hours. This is because it is the most in-depth level of survey you can opt for.

Surveyors use a special damp or moisture-meter to check walls for rising damp. They also check for signs of damp such as stains, rotting floorboards, and peeling paint. These can be caused by leaking pipes, accidental floods, or insufficient ventilation.

Yes, both Level 2 and Lever 3 Home Surveys involve window checks, including whether or not the windows are double glazed. Most surveyors will also want to open the windows, so they can check for damaged timber and make sure the keys are not missing.

Yes, surveyors will check the loft because it’s often the easiest place to spot potential problems, such as a leaky roof or insufficient insulation. If you’ve had your loft converted, they’ll also want to check the quality of the work.

If you’re planning to convert the loft space after buying a property, a surveyor can also tell you whether or not this is possible.

The cost of a Level 3 Home Survey depends on the property being surveyed, but prices start at around £600. According to Optimus, a Level 2 Home Survey is generally a cheaper option at around £345 +VAT. However, its cost will also depend on the size and value of the house or flat in question. Either way, you can find a better deal by shopping around.

If you have to pay for your mortgage lender’s valuation survey, the average cost is around £250. A basic Level 1 Home Survey, meanwhile, costs from £300.

A home buyers report, at Level 2 and Level 3, gives a complete look at a property and any defects.

A snagging report is designed for new build properties and involves getting a list of any defects that can be fixed before you move in. This includes checking smoke alarms and any minor issues. You do not need a surveyor for a snagging report, but will require one for a home buyers report.

If major issues are revealed during a house survey, buyers have a couple of options. Firstly, they can decide that the problems are too costly and decide to pull out of the purchase. Remember that this may incur charges for any abortive purchase from your solicitor and that you will not get the fee paid for the survey back.

The other common option is to use the survey as a way to negotiate a lower price, meaning that you will secure the property but will potentially have some money left over to complete the repairs. You may also ask for sellers to complete any repairs on your behalf prior to moving in.

Other mortgage types to consider

Other mortgage types you might want to consider if you’re looking to remortgage include:

  • Capped-rate mortgage – a capped-rate mortgage is a variable-rate mortgage, but there is a limit to how high the rate can go. This can be useful if you want a variable-rate mortgage, while avoiding unaffordable payments if the rate rises

  • Discounted mortgage – a discounted mortgage is another type of variable-rate mortgage. This offers a discounted rate on the lender’s standard variable rate for a certain period of time

  • Offset mortgage – an offset mortgage helps to reduce the overall interest you pay by offsetting your savings against the outstanding balance of your mortgage. But this means you won’t be gaining any interest on your savings during the deal

Fixed-rate mortgages have an interest rate that stays the same for a set period. This could be anything from two to ten years. Your mortgage payments are the same every month and you don't need to worry about fluctuations in interest rates.

If you choose to leave the deal before the end of the fixed term, most will charge you a penalty. This is known as an early repayment charge (ERC).

Interest rates adjust periodically with a variable-rate mortgage, which means repayments may change throughout the loan term. Usually, the interest rate changes in relation to the Bank of England base rate. This is very influential on variable interest rates, as is the base rate of each lender.

For standard variable-rate (SVR) mortgages, each lender has a SVR that they can move when they like. In reality, this tends to roughly follow the Bank of England's base rate movements. SVRs can be anything from two to five percentage points above the base rate (or higher). They can also vary massively between lenders.

The other type of variable mortgage is a discount mortgage. Rather than being linked to the Bank of England base rate (like a tracker mortgage), discounts are linked to the lender's standard variable rate (SVR). For example, if the SVR is 4.50% with a discount of 1%, the payable mortgage rate is 3.50%. If the SVR rose to 5.50%, the pay rate would rise to 4.50%.

The problem with discounts is that SVR changes are at the lender's discretion. So, your mortgage payments could change even if there has been no alteration in the Bank of England base rate. What's more, even if the SVR changes following a move in the base rate, there is no guarantee that it will increase or decrease by the same amount.

As a result, trackers are usually seen as more transparent than discounted deals. They are also often seen as being fairer for the borrower.

For example, when the base rate fell from 5.00% to 0.50% between October 2008 and March 2009, Lloyds TSB was the only top-20 lender to reduce its SVR by the full 4.50%. All the others cut their rates by less.

When the Bank of England raised the base rate from 0.25% to 0.5% in November 2017, anyone who wasn’t on a fixed-rate mortgage was at risk of seeing their repayments increase. A number of leading mortgage lenders followed and increased their tracker and/or SVR rates a month later.

Most mortgage deals carry arrangement fees, which can vary from a few hundred pounds up to a couple of thousand.

Also, bear in mind that these set-up costs can sometimes be made up of two fees. An increasing number of lenders charge a non-refundable booking fee, which is effectively a product reservation fee. If your house purchase falls through and you don’t end up taking the mortgage deal, you won’t get this fee back.

The second type of fee is an arrangement fee, which you pay on completion of the mortgage. Therefore, you won't have to pay it if, for any reason, you don't take the mortgage.

Calculate how early you could pay off your mortgage. But make sure you read our mortgage overpayment guide first, as overpaying isn’t the right move for all homeowners.

Mortgage overpayment calculator

Remember to always factor these into the overall cost of any deal. Even if a lender is offering a seemingly unbeatable rate, steep fees could mean that it’s actually more cost-effective to opt for a higher rate. In fact, this may come with a much lower fee, or no fee at all.

The best mortgage rate for you depends on how much you are looking to borrow. If you’re applying for a large mortgage, a high fee is often worth paying in order to secure a low interest rate. But those with smaller mortgages could be better off opting for a higher rate and lower fee.

However, while this is the general rule, it's well worth crunching the numbers when you’re comparing mortgages. You need to work out the total cost over the term of the deal. For example, if you are going for a two-year fix, you need to work out the cost of your repayments over the term. You can do this by finding out what the monthly payment will be using our mortgage calculator, then multiplying by 24. You then need to add on the arrangement fee to find out the total cost.

You'll likely find that you have more mortgage deals available to choose from if you have a good credit history. So, it’s worth making sure that your credit report is as good as it can be before applying for a mortgage.

Steps like paying off any outstanding borrowed credit you owe, as well as ensuring your current address is on the electoral roll, can help to improve your credit score.

The more money you can save as a deposit, the less you’ll need to borrow as a mortgage loan. What’s more, having a bigger deposit can help you get access to more competitive mortgage rates.

Lenders will often have a maximum ratio they’re prepared to offer you. Instead, the rest will need to be made up with either a deposit or an equity loan like the government's Help to Buy equity loan scheme.

Using a mortgage comparison tool can help to give you a better idea of how much you’d need to pay in monthly costs and interest. It provides information on the duration of the deal and the maximum loan-to-value ratio. It also tells you about product fees you may need to pay for the mortgage deals available based on your borrowing requirements.

It’s important to remember, though, that the actual mortgage deals you’re offered when you go to make an application may differ. This is because they will then be influenced by your financial situation and credit history.

Get free mortgage advice and see deals from the whole of the market with broker London & Country. Call free from your landline or mobile on 0800 170 1943 any day.

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We commit to providing you with clear and informative answers on all points such as this, so we have gathered the relevant information on this page.

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