Keystone IMC Mortgage Section The different types of surveys

Which type of survey do I need?

Choosing the right survey for the property you are buying

There are three types of survey to consider when purchasing property. Below we look at the different types as well as the pros and cons of each option.

The Basic Valuation also known as a Lenders Valuation

If you are applying for a mortgage your mortgage lender will insist that they carry out a basic valuation. The purpose of this report is for the lender to be satisfied that the property you are proposing to purchase is adequate security for the mortgage you are applying for. Although it is carried out by a suitably qualified surveyor it is by no means a survey and therefore should not be treated as such.

When the surveyor writes up his survey report for the bank or building society he will, where possible, have collated comparable similar properties that have sold, ideally, within the last 3 months to use as evidence to support his valuation. Occasionally the surveyor's valuation will differ to the price you have agreed to pay the vendor and this may affect your mortgage application. Examples of this would be where a lender refuses to lend on the property, offers you a reduced mortgage or places a retention or undertaking as a condition of your mortgage loan.

See the glossary on the right for definitions of retentions and undertakings. If you are looking for a more detailed report on the property you should consider either a Homebuyer Survey & Valuation or a Full Structural Survey.

good for..

  • the cheapest option of the 3 surveys available
  • some lenders will offer you a basic valuation for free
  • will include an estimated rebuild cost for buildings insurance purposes


  • the report is written for the lenders benefit
  • the report will not highlight minor points that don't affect the security
  • often the surveyor will not even enter the property

The Homebuyers Survey also known as a Homebuyers Report

The Homebuyers Survey is a mid price and mid range option that usually follows a standard form for the surveyor to complete when he/she visits the property. In addition to the Homebuyers Report a mortgage valuation is usually carried out at the same time. This type of survey is considered suitable for properties that are of standard construction and in reasonable condition.

This type of survey is the minimum we would recommend to buyers. The cost of a homebuyers report is typically about £200 more than the basic valuation report but could save you thousands of pounds in the future.

good for..

  • will highlight major defects that should be addressed before contracts are signed
  • will test for damp in the walls
  • will test for damaged timbers including woodworm or rot
  • the condition and effectiveness of any past works done to the property such as a damp course.


  • the Homebuyers Report is more expensive than the Basic Valuation
  • tends to only focus on urgent matters that require attention
  • Is not considered suitable for properties that require renovation or major alterations
  • not considered suitable for properties over 150 years old

What if the report says I need to spend thousands on repairs?

Assuming you were not aware of the repairs and their likely cost before you agreed to purchase the property then the report can be used to renegotiate the price. What you thought was worth £150,000 when you offered all of a sudden doesn't seem quite such good value if you have to spend £15,000 replacing the roof.

The Full Structural Survey

Due to the Full Structural Surveys cost it is often not considered the most popular however it is the best option when cost is put aside. This survey will go in to the most detail of all the surveys and is strongly recommended when you are purchasing a property that is listed, of non standard construction or older than 150 years old.

The Full Structural survey is usually arranged independently by the buyer.

good for..

  • the most comprehensive option available
  • properties you intend to renovate or carry out extensive alterations
  • a tailored service between you and your surveyor
  • suitable for listed properties, unusual properties and older properties
  • will help answer questions you have regarding renovations, repairs or alterations to the property
  • will detail the property's construction and materials used.


  • the most expensive of the three options
  • often cannot be done by the lenders chosen firm of surveyors
  • will not usually include a lenders valuation

See what the surveyors see with our cutaway house

The picture below illustrates all of the components that make up a property and highlights the fact that a simple glance over when viewing a property doesn't really tell you everything you need to know.

cutaway house
For mortgage advice we can charge a fee of typically £295 or we can receive commission from the lender

Mini glossary

Mortgage Retention
When the surveyor recommends that the lender retains an amount of money equal to what he/she believes would cover the cost of works he deems are necessary then the lender may place a retention equal to or greater than this amount. Once the works have been completed and following a successful re-inspection then the lender releases the retained money. Retentions can often make the sale fall through because the buyer does not have the funds to complete the purchase and therefore can not pay the purchase price in full. For example Mr Smith wants to purchase a property for £100,000. He has a deposit of £10,000 and wishes to borrow £90,000 but the lender is retaining £5,000 from the mortgage due to works that need to be carried out. This means Mr Smith is now £5,000 short and unless he can raise the extra funds himself he will be unable to complete the purchase.
When a lender places an undertaking as a condition of your mortgage offer it means that they recommend that repairs are carried out in accordance with the surveyors comments on the basic valuation report following completion. This is different to retention
In the context of a mortgage the 'security' is the property on which the mortgage is secured. It's the lenders security and in the event of repossession the security can be sold to repay the outstanding mortgage and fees.
The owner of the property - the seller
A Surveyor is the person who visits the property to report on, amongst other things, it's value, condition and suitability for lending purposes
Listed Properties
A listed property is a building that has been placed on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. A listed building cannot be demolished, altered and extended without special permission from the local planning office. There are 3 types of listing today, Grade 1, Grade 2 & Grade 2*. Grade 1 is for properties of exceptional interest, Grade 2 is for particularly important buildings of more than special interest and Grade 2* are for buildings that are of special interest that warrant every effort to preserve them

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