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FAQs: Surveys as Part of a Property Purchase

Purchasing a property can be stressful, especially when the question of having a survey arises


The Query

“Should I get a survey as part of a property purchase?”

Our Advice:


There is a lot of confusion about surveys as part of a house purchase.



Unfortunately, there is no single, one-size-fits-all answer.

For example, if you are buying a house that is less than 10 years old and it has a warranty, then you should not need a survey at all, as the warranty is transferable – but please make sure you check this before making a decision.

However, as a rule, if the property is over 10 years old, it is prudent to have a survey. What is more, the older and more unusual the property, the more detailed the survey should be.


On top of this, your mortgage provider may insist on a more detailed survey for certain types of property.

The Types of Survey


A Valuation

The simplest “survey” is a valuation.

The only purpose of this is to confirm that the house is worth the agreed purchase price. This type of survey is carried out by a surveyor.

It is important to bear in mind that a valuation survey is unlikely to establish if there are any defects.

RICS Home Survey

It is commonplace to have a survey undertaken by a RICS qualified surveyor; and you can choose between 3 levels – each providing a different level of detail to the inspection.

  • Level 1 is called a Condition Survey and provides the lowest level of detail.

  • Level 2 is called a Homebuyer Survey and sits in the middle in terms of inspection detail.

  • Level 3 is called a Full Building Survey or Full Structural survey. This is the most detailed option and more on this later.


These surveys all follow a precise format, set out by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

They provide a general overview of the condition of the property and will identify any areas that need further tests or more specific investigation.

The surveyor may also identify elements of the structure that they are concerned about and may recommend a structural engineer investigates further.

A Structural Inspection

This type of survey is specifically designed to assess the property from the structural perspective – as the name suggests.

It is important to be aware that this type of survey doesn’t check for non-structural issues, such as rotten window frames, as they are unlikely to impact the integrity of the building in the short to medium-term.


In addition, bear in mind that a structural inspection does not usually include ‘opening up’ the property to expose the actual structural elements behind finishes – such as the walls or floorboards. Likewise, large furniture will generally not be moved and carpets may not be lifted.  ‘A chartered structural engineer has the expertise and training to assess the structural integrity of a building in this way. Underlying structural defects are usually manifested throughout the building and this can be assessed by the structural engineer.’

Normally this is sufficient to identify if there are defects, their cause and a description of any remedial measures required. On the rare occasion this can’t be done, further investigations will be recommended - the structural inspection will inform their scope.

A “full structural survey”

Although this is the highest level of RICs survey, it is important to understand what you are getting.

Although the term is widely used, a "Full Structural Survey" is not quite what it seems. The name implies every structural member has been examined, however this is usually not practical in a domestic property, where most of the structure is hidden. However, for buildings where the structure is clearly visible this can be undertaken e.g. a barn prior to a conversion to domestic use.

Do I need a Home Survey and Structural Inspection?

If there is nothing obviously wrong with the structure of the building, then it is advisable to have a Home Survey, and allow the surveyor to identify any potential structural issues.

However, if there are obvious problems with the property, such as cracks over 3 or 4 mm in width, then it may be better to start with the structural inspection, understanding of course that it will not provide any guidance on the fabric and services of the building.

At Structronix we have been providing structural inspections for over ten years.

If you have a property you’d like to discuss, contact us today on 01256 833628.

Looking for a structural engineer?

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