Landscape view not supported, please use portrait view!

Building Survey – Definition, Overview & FAQ

What is a building survey?

Definition: A building survey, also commonly referred to as a structural survey or a full structural survey, is a comprehensive and detailed inspection of a property’s condition, structure, and construction. The primary purpose of a building survey is to assess the overall state of a building, identify any defects or issues, and provide a thorough report to the property owner or potential buyer.

Key components of a building survey typically include:

  •  Structural Assessment: The surveyor examines the structural integrity of the property, including the foundation, walls, roof, and other structural elements. They look for signs of structural damage, such as cracks, settlement, or subsidence.
  •  Condition of Building: The surveyor assesses the overall condition of the building, both internally and externally. They check for issues like dampness, rot, decay, and any necessary repairs or maintenance.
  •  Safety Concerns: Safety-related issues, such as electrical and gas systems, are evaluated to ensure they meet safety standards. The surveyor may also identify fire hazards or other safety concerns.
  •  Legal Compliance: The survey may include a review of the property’s compliance with local building regulations and planning permissions.
  •  Recommendations: The surveyor provides recommendations for repairs, maintenance, and potential improvements. They may offer guidance on the urgency and cost of necessary work.
  •  Cost Estimates: Some building surveys may include cost estimates for the recommended repairs or improvements, which can be valuable for budgeting purposes.

Building surveys are typically more detailed and comprehensive than other types of property surveys, such as Homebuyer’s Reports, which are often less extensive and focus on specific areas of concern. Building surveys are especially useful for older or more complex properties or when there is uncertainty about the property’s condition.

Property buyers often commission building surveys to thoroughly understand the property’s condition before making a purchase. A building survey can help existing property owners identify maintenance needs and plan for necessary repairs or renovations.

Types of building surveys

1. Condition Report

The Condition Report is a level-one survey designed to provide a basic assessment of a property’s condition. It focuses on identifying potential risks, legal issues, and urgent defects.

This type of survey is typically suitable for standard properties and relatively new homes in good condition. It offers a snapshot of the property’s current state and is a cost-effective option for those seeking essential information about a property’s condition.

A Condition Report is typically the shortest of the three common types of surveys, and it can often be completed in a few hours to half a day.

The cost of a Condition Report typically falls in the range of £400 to £950, making it a budget-friendly choice for property buyers.

2. HomeBuyer Report (Home Condition Survey)

The HomeBuyer Report, also known as the Home Condition Survey, is a level two survey that goes beyond the basic assessment provided by the Condition Report. In addition to identifying defects, it offers advice on repairs and maintenance.

The report can also include a market valuation if needed. This type of survey is typically recommended for standard properties in reasonable condition. It offers a more comprehensive overview of the property’s condition, highlighting potential issues, and providing recommendations for improvements and maintenance.

It usually takes a surveyor a half-day to a full day to conduct a HomeBuyer Report, depending on the property’s size and complexity.

The cost of a HomeBuyer Report usually ranges between £450 and £1,000.

3. Full Building Survey

The Full Building Survey, a level three report, is the most comprehensive option among building surveys.

It is designed for properties with unique characteristics, older homes, renovation projects, or those in poor condition. This survey provides an in-depth examination of the property’s structural integrity, potential defects, and detailed guidance for maintenance and renovation.

While it offers a thorough assessment, it also comes at a higher cost, typically ranging between £600 and £1,500.

Surveyors may spend several days or even longer conducting a Full Building Survey, especially for larger or more complex properties. The time required depends on the property’s age, size, and the level of detail involved.

The Full Building Survey is the choice for those who require a comprehensive understanding of the property’s condition and are willing to invest in a thorough assessment to make informed decisions about renovations, repairs, or purchases.

When do you need a building survey

Here are some common scenarios when it’s advisable to consider getting a building survey:

  •  Before Purchasing a Property: If you are buying a property, especially an older or non-standard one, commissioning a building survey is often recommended. A survey can help you understand the property’s condition, identify potential issues, and estimate the cost of necessary repairs or renovations. This information can be crucial for making an informed decision about the purchase.
  • Before Major Renovations or Extensions: If you plan to undertake significant renovations, extensions, or structural alterations to a property, a building survey can provide a baseline assessment of the property’s condition. This can help you plan the scope of the project, budget accurately, and ensure that the existing structure can support the proposed changes.
  • When Selling a Property: If you are selling a property, you may choose to commission a building survey to identify and address any issues before listing it for sale. This can help prevent surprises and potential negotiations with buyers regarding repairs or price reductions.
  • For Property Owners Planning Maintenance: Property owners who want to proactively address maintenance issues, such as roof repairs, dampness, or structural concerns, may opt for a building survey. This can help prioritize and plan for maintenance tasks.
  • To Resolve Disputes: Building surveys can be useful in resolving disputes related to property issues, such as boundary disputes, damage claims, or disagreements between neighbors over shared structures.
  • For Peace of Mind: Some individuals choose to have a building survey for peace of mind, even if they do not have immediate plans to buy, sell, or renovate. Knowing the condition of the property can provide assurance about its safety and maintenance needs.
  • As Part of Regular Property Inspections: Property investors or landlords may conduct periodic building surveys as part of their maintenance and risk management strategy, ensuring that their properties are in good condition and meet regulatory requirements.


How long does a building survey take?

The duration depends on the property size and condition. Typically, it can take a few hours to a full day for the surveyor to complete the inspection.

Where do I find a surveyor?

You can find a qualified surveyor through various sources, including local directories, professional organizations like RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors), real estate agents or friends’ recommendations, and online platforms connecting homeowners with surveyors. Ensure the surveyor is experienced in the type of survey you require and check their credentials.

How long does a building survey take?

The duration of a building survey depends on the type of survey and the property’s complexity. A Condition Report may take a few hours, a HomeBuyer Report half a day to a full day, and a Full Building Survey several days or more for larger or intricate properties. Surveyors will provide an estimated timeframe when you contact them.

When should I get a building survey?

A building survey is advisable before purchasing a property, especially if it’s older, has been significantly altered, or if you’re planning major works.

What's the difference between a building survey and a homebuyer's report?

A building survey is more detailed than a homebuyer’s report. While a homebuyer’s report includes a property valuation and basic assessment, a building survey provides an in-depth analysis of the property’s condition.

What does a building survey cover?

It covers structural elements (walls, floors, roof), internal and external conditions, any major repairs or alterations needed, dampness, insulation, drainage, and potential legal issues.

How much does a building survey cost?

The cost varies based on the property size, type, and location. Generally, the fees range from a few hundred to several thousand pounds.

Do I need a survey for a new build property?

It’s recommended to get a survey even for new builds to identify any potential issues or construction faults.

Can a building survey report help in negotiating the property price?

Yes, if significant issues are uncovered, you can use this information to negotiate the price or request repairs before purchase.

Who should carry out the building survey?

A qualified and experienced surveyor, ideally a member of a professional body like the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

What happens after the survey?

You’ll receive a detailed report outlining the findings. This can guide your decisions regarding the property purchase, repairs, and maintenance.