Decoding Your Survey Report

Home Survey

Decoding Your Survey - Are you unsure what type of survey you need or perhaps you’ve received your survey report and it has raised some concerns but you are unsure of your next step? Here is your essential guide to what’s what with surveys.


There are a number of options when it comes to surveying your new home. Mortgage companies insist a property has at least a property valuation, which will give the lender an idea of the value of the property, if required its reinstatement value (What it would cost to build from scratch), and let the lender know if there are any serious structural defects which may compromise their chances of the mortgage being repaid.


For a period home however, the majority of buyers will want to look at the property in a little more detail to ensure there are no unexpected issues which could cause your dream home to become a money pit. We would always try to encourage customers to go to a RICS Chartered Surveyor which will ensure their survey is of a set quality and trusted standard. RICS surveyors will offer 3 levels of Survey, for a period home we would usually recommend a Level 3 survey.



Whichever level of survey you choose, you will be provided with a report packed full of information about your property purchase and the condition of the various elements of the property in the form of a traffic light system, with Condition 3 being red (Elements requiring urgent attention) and Condition 1 being green (Elements with no issues).


Any survey can look scary to the uninitiated and when it comes to period homes this can be even more so, where old construction techniques, which perhaps don’t meet the latest building regulations, along with the passage of time can lead to a scary looking report with many Red/Condition 3 elements to digest in what should be an exciting time. If you have received a report with multiple potential issues however, this needn’t be the end of your dream of owning a period home packed with character. Indeed, whilst surveyors go to some length to ensure their report is written in plain English and provide context where this is not possible, phrases like “subsidence”, “asbestos”, “damp” and “woodboring beetle” (That’s woodworm to you and me) can cause stress and whilst being important issues, should be thoroughly investigated before any decision is made to withdraw or continue with your proposed purchase.


I’ve lost count of the number of times buyers have advised me that they would be pulling out because their survey says the property needs rewiring and a new boiler, only for it to transpire the surveyor only commented they should get a NICEIC electrician and Gas Safe engineer to check these independently, as they are not certified to check them themselves.


Remember, a surveyor will mention a risk of any potential issues in their report, however small, so I would always recommend having a conversation with your surveyor after you’ve received the report to discuss any concerns you may have. It may be that they have felt the need to mention something in the report to meet the RICS criteria whereas in reality, the risk of a problem is so minimal they are happy to reassure you verbally. Or perhaps an element of the construction doesn’t meet current building regulations, which will cause a red/condition 3 marker but the surveyor may take the view that just because it is an old building method, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is unsafe. Afterall, you wouldn’t expect a Victorian terrace or a Tudor farmhouse to be up to the latest building regulations.


Alternatively, speak to an estate agent. Estate agents work for the seller so to avoid a conflict of interest, take independent advice from the agent who sold your home, or just a friendly local agent who may be happy to help. We’re always happy to discuss and advise on any issues or potential issues based upon similar situations we’ve seen before.


Where a problem or potential problem cannot be resolved to your satisfaction after a chat with your surveyor, your estate agent or from your own research, you may want to consult with experts or tradespersons to get more information. Most estate agents and surveyors will have a list of go to specialist assessors such as a damp & timber specialist, asbestos surveyor or structural engineers. Or perhaps you know or have been recommended a builder who may be happy to have a look at the potential issue and give their opinion on.


Whatever your concern, agents and surveyors will have seen it many times before so please feel free to utilise our hard earnt knowledge!