Understanding Property Valuations And Structural Surveys

Property Valuations And Structural Surveys

Once you’ve found a property you’re interested in purchasing, secured the mortgage and have acquired the services of a conveyancing solicitor, you’re just about ready to start thinking about a structural survey to ensure you’re not about to purchase a flimsy death-trap that’s on the verge of toppling.

What is a structural Survey?

It’s a report that is designed to satisfy a consumer that the property has no obvious structural defects. The survey is basically there for consumer protection. There are three main types of surveys available:

  • Basic valuation
  • Homebuyers Survey & Valuation
  • Full structural

The differences are pretty straight forward; each report gets more elaborate from each other. The full structural is the most elaborate report, but it comes at a greater cost than the other two options. However, a full structural report has the potential to pick on defects that the other two reports may not. If you are buying an old property, it’s imperative you loosen the purse strings and opt for the full structural option. If your property does not need a comprehensive building survey, but you need more than just a simple Valuation, then the ‘Homebuyers Survey & Valuation’ is what you should require.

Basic Valuation

A basic valuation is an inspection performed by your mortgage lender to ensure their investment in your property is worthy. Essentially, your lender wants to know whether your property is worth at least the amount they are lending you. The valuation is not actually a survey; it’s merely a limited inspection. A property can have defects that a mortgage lender won’t care about and therefore won’t flag it on the report, however, it may affect you once you own the property.

If problems emerge which the basic survey didn’t warn you about then you have a case to claim for damages to cover the necessary repair work. A lot of people believe otherwise, but you can make claims if the problems are blatant and unnoticed.

Homebuyer’s Survey

This survey is the mid range report of the three. The service is carried out to a standard format defined by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). The survey is designed for properties built within the last 150 years, which are of conventional construction and in reasonable condition. The report focuses on significant and urgent matters, such as:

  • Property’s general condition
  • The value of the property on the open market
  • Comments on the existence and condition of damp proofing, insulation, and drainage
  • Results of any testing of walls and dampness
  • Any defects in accessible parts of the property, which may affect value
  • Urgent matters that need assessing before entering into exchanging contracts

Full structural Survey

Full structural Survey

Here are a few of the issues a full structural should report on:

  • Background: who wants the property and where it is located
  • Circumstances of the inspection: E.g. what the weather was like on the day on inspection
  • Description: history of the property; how the house has been adapted over the years
  • Construction: what material the walls and roof are made from, and any other construction features
  • Roof coverings: a detailed description of all roof coverings including porches
  • Rainwater goods and waste pipes: detailed description of efficiency of the guttering
  • Walling: detail of the walls both internal and external
  • Joinery: condition of external and internal joinery e.g windows and doors
  • Decorations: summary of how good the paintwork is
  • Damp proof: notes on the damp and ventilation
  • Garage and outbuildings: description of the garage e.g what kind of condition it is in
  • Drainage: location and state of drains
  • Site: description of the level of the site, fences, gardens and nearby roads
  • Roof void: internal roof description including state of timbers and ceiling
  • Internal flooring: description of flooring in all areas of the property including the type and finish
  • Ceilings: what materials they are made from, and the height
  • Timber infestations: report on whether the wood is suffering from woodworm, dry rot, wet rot
  • Electrics: state of wiring system
  • Plumbing: strand of water pressure, location of stop cocks and storage rank
  • Heating: type, age, and efficiency of heating system
  • Additional enquiries: any additional reports you required

Bear in mind, full structural surveys can be performed to meet your needs. If there is anything extra you want checked, you can request it. Surveyors are not obliged to inspect inaccessible areas- they won’t check in the corner of your loft for rotting timber unless you specifically ask them to do so.

Why is it a good idea to get a structural survey?

Buying a property is an expensive process, so it’s only natural that buyers want to make as many financial shortcuts as possible. One of the most common shortcuts is skimping on the survey. Buyers tend to rely on the information provided by the basic valuation when deciding whether or not to purchase a property. That’s probably acceptable if the property is fairly new, but relying on a valuation report for an old or unusual property is a big gamble, and I would never advise it. Remember, a survey will give you a legal recourse and benefits the borrower than the lender, a valuation won’t.

Forking out £1k on a structural survey may seem steep, but it doesn’t sound all that expensive when you consider how much money it could save you. You could purchase a property without doing a survey, and then later on find out that the entire roof needs restructuring, which could cost you £15k. Once contracts have exchanged, the vendor is no longer liable for that property.

Who does the survey?

The valuation is usually done on your behalf by your lender. If you want to go a step further by getting a homebuyer’s or full structural survey, you can instruct an independent surveyor to do so. However, your lender can also usually arrange it for you at a reasonable cost.

How much is a structural report?

Costs can vary, but a basic valuation can start from about £200, and a full structural one can cost approx £1k. These are vague estimates. Feel free to shop around (I advise you to do so).

Do I Need a Valuation or structural Survey?

The valuation report is the bare minimum requirement from most lenders. You won’t be granted a loan without one. The costs are usually included in your mortgage fees.

22 Join the Conversation...

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Hugh 1st August, 2010 @ 08:52

We paid for a survey (£360 Inc VAT) The number of items found was amazing. He even pointed out that the Artex on the ceiling (15'X 10')could contain Asbestos! We had a quote from a specialist company for over £2200+Vat and any "extras" and then £500 for a plasterer as they did not do plastering (stripping and disposal of asbestos only). Adding this to some other issues the surveyor raised we considered ourselves to have saved a lot and lost no sleep. We never instruct our solicitor to begin her work until we have read the survey otherwise you can incur legal expenses you could have avoided by waiting.

Hope this is useful.


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mandy 28th August, 2010 @ 06:45

you all should get a survey, i purchased what i thought was a good building off my own sister, it turns out it was full of dry rot over three floors and wood worm, it has cost me alot of money to rebuild three floors in this hotel, all this was hidden by false ceilings, if i had a proper survey in instead of trusting my sister, i would at least be a lot better off, i have learned my lesson, in stead of fixing leaking holes they put a bin liner in there, what stupidity, guess what she doenst want to speak to me, about it , am i surprised, £300,000 is a lot of money for anyone to payout get a full survey you never know!

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Jools 28th August, 2010 @ 10:33

Good advice guys but remember you only get what you pay for.

A basic survey will not 'delve deep' into the structure of your potential purchase. A full survey will be far more in depth but is still based on the subjective nature of the surveyor. I have found over the years that no two surveys are the same. What may seem important to one may not be listed by another so try to get some knowledge before hand.


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nnamdi 25th February, 2011 @ 17:06

please through more light on how to write valuation report.thanks

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Gerard 13th February, 2012 @ 09:09

When you pay £1000 plus for a full structural survey these guys have got to come back with a list as long as your arm to justify the cost. Nine times out of ten the things that are picked up are minimal to say the least. Unless they come back and report the house is falling down and need under pinning then ignore the rest.

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Elodie Blyth 2nd January, 2013 @ 12:27

Related to this topic, I would appreciate help. We had a basic valuation done when we bought our house in August. One question on the valuation was around signs of movement. The Surveyor ticked No against it and also estimated our house built circa 1930s. Our house is a victorian house built in 1904 and when we moved it, there were apparent signs of movements with several cracks that a Surveyor we later instructed confirmed (and should have been picked up as part of the basic valuation). We feel the valuation was not done right. We raised the complaint to the bank but they keep dropping the case telling us this was a basic valuation, so tough. Our point is that if a question is part of a valuation, it should be answered with the care it deserves under the good and services act and your comment is comforting. How can we make the bank take us seriously? We contacted the Ombunsman but it is not their area (we could claim £50!) and we called the RICS but they cannot help us as the bank engaged the surveror, not us. Help please. It's been 3 months and the house needs fixing!

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Robert 29th March, 2013 @ 12:10

I am in the process of buying a house and the mortgage lender have requested a full structural survey before they lend any money. If this shows that there needs structural work dong the the house I am potentially buying do I have to then pay for a further survey to prove that the work has been carried outer do they need some kind of report for this?
I am just concerned about the other costs which may be involved with this survey. I have approached the vendor and asked for his cooperation with this as well wi any potential problems which may arise.

I would appreciate any words of wisdom or comfort as I am a first time buyer and feeling a bit out of my depth!!

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Martin 27th July, 2013 @ 20:51

Drains Drains Drains !!!

If you never do anything else be sure to have a full CCTV Drain Survey carried out. We ignore drains here in the UK and most are in a poor condition.

Call in a NADC certified drainage contractor to survey the drains before you buy, drains can and often do cost thousands to repair.

Don't get caught out !


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Saz 23rd September, 2013 @ 11:57

Feeling so sad. Bought a lovely house that needs renovation just over two weeks ago. Got a friend who is a structural surveyor to do full structural survey. Got a specialist damp proofing company which also happens to specialise in timber treatment to have look to quote me re damp proofing. No mention of dry rot. Structural Surveyor said skirting boards rotten and need replacing but made no mention of dry rot. As soon as I completed I saw signs of fungae. Have now found out that the fungi is dry rot. Am getting specialist company back to give me a quote for dealing with dry rot and its aftermath. What do I do or can I do, if anything, about come back especially as I am dealing with a friend ?! I do understand that a house can have dry rot which is not visible. Conveyancing assistant says that solicitors do not ask questions of vendor re if house has a history of dry rot or if there are any signs of problems as standard. Am waiting for solicitor to call me when he gets back from holiday. Any other steps I should be taking? S

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Jon 15th April, 2014 @ 13:49

A recent Court of Appeal ruling about to be published in the matter of AMH -v- Bank of Scotland now means that the scheme one valuation made conditional by lenders is now obsolete. All purchasers should now get their own Home Buyer survey as the Bank valuation is not worth the paper it is written on and does not protect the buyer.

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JANET WELFORD 18th April, 2014 @ 12:58

i had a home survey when i purchased my home 3and half years ago. There were no faults with roof or damp. apparently. I have now two rooms with very bad mould growth. The roof needs a complete re fit. boards and tiles. i have a metal roof so its unusual. The boards under the tiles have warped and this has not happened in the time period i have had, tiles have movement on them on the front of the roof. the chimney has fallen apart and ihave been told needs taking off or a complete rebuild. how do i stand....also told in report that all down pipes were plastic they are in fact asbestos. can i claim

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Martin Beattie 26th May, 2014 @ 11:57

For Home Buyers Drain Surveys always use certified drainage surveyors: www.nadc.org.uk

National Association of Drainage Contractors

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jo s 23rd October, 2014 @ 20:47

Banks do NOT do full structural surveys - they do a homebuyer survey just to make sure the value you are paying is what they would get back should you not keep up with your mortgage payments. If your house is old or unusual you would be best to get a full structural survey as well!

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Matthew W 2nd February, 2015 @ 18:14

I am in the process of buying an old mill cottage and just had a "building Survey" completed .. although the house is over 400 years old there was nothing within the survey that surprised me!! rising Damp.. Woodworm..ect ect.. we were well aware of what our home would cost to repair... however it was reported back there had been roof structure work done back in 2002 .. at the time the cottage had had structural survey completed and over 20k worth of work was completed..roof spread was the problem.. my survey has reported that there is no evidence of any further spread..but bad damp and woodworm... apart from now having quotes for the above would you recommend i have another structural survey completed?. Thanks in Advance...

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David C 9th September, 2015 @ 13:57

I am in the process of selling my house. The prospective buyers asked for a full structural survey which they received.

Based on a comment that stated that a fireplace had been removed on the ground floor which affected the structural integrity. He based this on the fact that there was a fireplace upstairs and assumed there would have been one below. As a result they have dropped their asking price by £10,000!

It now transpires that his assumption was incorrect as I have checked my neighbours' houses and can confirm that there never was a fireplace there.

What can I do in this circumstance. If his information is incorrect can I claim damages against him. The buyers will not increase their offer as the seed of doubt has been sown.

Thanks for any input!

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cardifflandlord 9th September, 2015 @ 16:09

@ David.

How long have you owned the property and did the surveyor pick up this issue when you bought it?

If the house is joined to another property ie terraced or semi or whatever there should have been a 'party wall survey' undertaken before works began to establish a baseline for the existing condition so that IF any damage was caused after the removal of the chimney then this could be directly attributed to it.

If you believe the surveyor has made a massive mistake then you will have to go to the RICS or the issuing body for his/her particular qualifications and make an official complaint.

Hope this helps
If structural works have been carried out then the local authority building control officers should have been involved so you could start there to see if any works have been undertaken without your knowledge.

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julie 8th December, 2015 @ 09:00

I am purchasing a bungalow ......garage roof is badly leaking in ...any steps you would advise ....will this come up in the survey

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Ralph Jordinson 26th January, 2016 @ 16:55

I am wondering whether or not to pursue a case against RBOS in relation to the valuation I had completed, bought a 1930s "flipped" house for £104 which looked immaculate turned out to need over £20k worth of works including asbestos roof tiles, leaking roofs x 3 two of which were flat, lead water supply, unvented boiler, no earth wires in electrics, condensation issues, mould growth, wet rot in loft, main trimmers in loft cut to allow for wiring, rising damp, shot glazing leaking taps, only thing my survey mentioned was "flat roofs are prone to leaks"
The full escapade resulted in me having a nervous breakdown and anxiety issues, I am not in a lot of debt.

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Simon Pambin 27th January, 2016 @ 13:42

Ralph, what level of survey did you pay for? If it was just the basic valuation then you don't really have a case: a basic valuation is very superficial and is primarily for the benefit of the mortgage lender to confirm that there is sufficient equity in the property to cover the mortgage in the event of repossession. As you say, the property looked immaculate and, on a basic valuation, that's all the surveyor would have seen. Even a homebuyers survey wouldn't have picked up most of the problems you list.

If it was a full structural survey then you have a case, but it would be against the surveyor, not the mortgage lender.

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Ralph 27th January, 2016 @ 14:09

Thank you, hey ho life gives us lemons I suppose sometimes, I will instead put my energy into warning others to the pitfalls of not getting fully independent structural surveys

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Clare 17th June, 2016 @ 07:37

Does anyone have experience of Asbestos.
We had a homebuyers report which suggested asbestos within an old warm air heating system. Also within facia board.
Who should pay for a further asbestos report and if necessary the safe removal, the seller or buyer?
We were prepared to replaced the heating but not for the scary word asbestos.
Should we reduce our offer?
Any advice welcome.

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Sigrid Light 27th February, 2018 @ 13:32

Don't think an independent full structural Survey or as it is now known, a Buildings Survey, is worth the extra cost!!!! Because it's not!

Because I had a Homebuyers Survey done for my Lender. & I also paid for a separate independent 'full structural Survey' which is now known as a "Buildings Survey".

I specifically wrote to my independent Surveyor prior to him carrying out a Survey, & instructed him 'in writing' to investigate a bad smell or a toilet smell in the downstairs Toilet.

The 1930's house that I have bought has suffered from 'historical movement' (due to Bomb damage from the war). & My Surveyor did not report to me on several exterior cracks to the front & side elevations. Nor, did he inspect the condition of the exterior drain, which is cracked & is leaking into the foundations. (As he says there were a couple of broken bits of pottery slightly covering the exterior drain).
Nor did he recommend that I get in Experts to investigate these cracks & any possible movement, etc.

(He also missed 3 windows upstairs that wouldn't open - due to the exterior Pebbledash obstructing them; + Also, he simply 'flushed the toilet' & took a photo of the Toilet, & THAT was his check - even though I had specifically instructed him 'in writing' to investigate a bad smell or a toilet smell in the downstairs Toilet; + He also missed a broken Chimney Pot; The front door didn't close properly; only 1 Electrical point in a brand new Kitchen-Breakfast Room extension; flimsy & weak Garden Fence; etc. etc.).

What come back do I have on suing my Surveyor?

(& In my opinion, I don't think he did a very thorough job!!! & If I had known about all these issues = I wouldn't have bought the house! As I didn't want a house with maintenance issues or problems).

















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