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What Do Surveyors Look At In A House?

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If you own a property or are considering buying one, the expertise and services of a RICS Chartered Surveyor can be extremely beneficial.

But what do surveyors look for, and how can they help you?

Having a survey done is a regular part of purchasing a home. Buyers use the survey results to decide whether they will buy the property or try to negotiate the price.

In this article, you will learn more about what a surveyor does, what their report will and won’t contain, and get answers to frequently asked questions about house surveys.

Table of Contents

What does a surveyor do?

Surveyors are highly skilled experts who can value and provide advice on the condition of a home. In the UK, surveyors must be members of one of the two accredited bodies: The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or The Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA).

There are various types of surveyors, but when you are selling your house, it will be a residential surveyor who carries out the survey. They use equipment such as humidity meters, ladders and torches to carry out an on-site inspection of your property inside and outside.

Surveyors combine their discoveries with desk research and other details to evaluate the overall condition of the house you are selling.

What Do Surveyors Look For During A House Survey
Having a survey done is a regular part of purchasing a home. Buyers use the survey results to decide whether they will buy the property or try to negotiate the price.

What do surveyors check and include in their reports?

Exactly what a surveyor includes in their report depends on the type of survey the buyer has requested. RICS property surveyors offer three different levels of survey, with the Homebuyer survey (known as RCIS Home Survey – Level 2) being the most frequently used.

The most basic option is a Condition Report (RCIS Home Survey – Level 1).

Meanwhile, a full Structural or Building Survey (RCIS Home Survey – Level 3) is the most comprehensive. It’s worth noting that RPSA refers to these levels differently.

The surveyor’s access to the property affects the report, too. Surveyors must be un-intrusive, so they can only check what they can access. They cannot see behind walls or floors, so in some cases, they will predict issues based on what they can see.

If the owner is present, the surveyor can ask questions to gain more context or information about anything they find.

What's Included in a surveyor's report?

The survey report will provide key information about your property, such as: 

  1. Its type, year of build,
  2. Any extensions/conversions,
  3. Number of rooms,
  4. EPC rating,
  5. Environmental impact rating,
  6. The presence of mains water, gas, electricity and drainage.
  7. It will also include details about the local environment and grounds.


The surveyor will inspect the outside of your home from: 

  1. Ground level, looking at chimney stacks,
  2. Roof coverings,
  3. Rainwater pipes,
  4. Gutters,
  5. Walls,
  6. Windows,
  7. External doors,
  8. Joinery and finishes.
  9. If you have a porch or conservatory, these will be checked too, with individual condition ratings provided in the report.
  10. The surveyor will also test a random sample of windows, but won’t open each one.


Inside, the surveyor will examine: 

  • The roof structure,
  • Ceilings,
  • Walls,
  • Floors (if visible),
  • Fireplaces
  • Chimney breasts,
  • Built-in fittings,
  • Woodwork (such as staircase and joinery), and bathroom fittings.
  • Again, condition ratings will be included in the report. Note that the surveyor won’t lift up any floorboards, even on a building survey.


The surveyor may suggest further investigation if they suspect the presence of any dangerous materials, such as:

  • Electricity, gas/oil, water, heating, drainage without specialised testing. 

A review of the grounds

During their survey, surveyors will evaluate the ground conditions and observe the following elements: boundary walls, fences, footpaths, decking areas, permanent outbuildings and any common areas (e.g. if your property is a flat with shared spaces).

What should I ask my surveyor to check
The survey report will include any potential legal issues the surveyor has identified during their inspection.

An overview of potential legal issues

The survey report will include any potential legal issues the surveyor has identified during their inspection. It is then the responsibility of the buyer to bring these matters to the attention of their conveyancer or solicitor before they exchange contracts if they choose to do so.

Common examples may include building regulations, planning permission for extensions, and warranties for windows and doors.

A summary of potential risks

Surveyors will flag the main risks they detect in your property or grounds. The level of detail in the report depends on which survey you choose.

  • Home Survey – Level 1 will list the risks and nothing else.
  • Home Survey – Level 2 will explain the nature of the issues and how to reduce the risk.
  • Home Survey – Level 3 will be more definite and provide solutions to the problem.

The most important thing is that surveyors will identify potential risks.

What doesn’t a surveyor include in their survey?

Surveyors won’t check if services like electricity and gas are working correctly since they’re not qualified to do so.

They won’t look for things that are out of the scope of the survey report or chosen level or items that they can’t access.

Depending on the survey level, the surveyor may suggest further investigation, such as by a structural engineer’s report if a property has suffered from subsidence or an asbestos report.

What’s the difference between a survey and a mortgage valuation
The valuation does not provide any detailed information about the condition of the property and sometimes does not even involve an in-person visit.

What’s the difference between a survey and a mortgage valuation?

A mortgage lender will perform a mortgage valuation to ensure that the property is worth the money the buyer is looking to borrow. This is their way of ensuring that lending the money to buy the property is a good investment.

The valuation does not provide any detailed information about the condition of the property and sometimes does not even involve an in-person visit.

Likewise, a house survey does not always come with a property valuation. However, if the buyer requests one in advance, a surveyor can usually include it. The survey will include an assessment of the condition of the property by the surveyor.

Whose responsibility is it to arrange a survey?

In England and Wales, it is the responsibility of the buyer to arrange and cover the cost of a property survey, should they wish to have one. 

If you are selling a house in England or Wales and want to pre-empt any potential issues that a buyer’s survey may find, you can arrange a survey yourself.

How much do surveys cost?

The cost of surveys can vary depending on the type of survey report, the property’s size and where it’s located. Prices can start at around £250 and go up to £1,500.

How long does a survey take
A full structural survey, on the other hand, may take three to eight hours. The surveyor's report may take up to eight working days to be returned.

How long does a survey take?

The length of the surveyor’s visit to your home will depend on the kind of survey the buyer has requested. Generally, a homebuyer survey takes one to four hours to complete.

A full structural survey, on the other hand, may take three to eight hours. The surveyor’s report may take up to eight working days to be returned.

Do surveyors look in cupboards?

Surveyors must check if your house is structurally sound. However, the building survey should not be invasive. They may open your cupboard under the stairs, but they should not go through your kitchen cupboards or wardrobes.

How do you prepare for a house survey?

To make the surveyor’s job simpler and faster, declutter the areas they need to look at, such as utilities, windows, and under the stairs. Have only one or two people in the house during the survey to avoid distractions.

Clean the house and repair any minor issues to guarantee the report is as favourable as it can be.

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