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How to choose a good surveyor when buying a property

9 February 2024


Property Expert

When buying a property, you’ll need a surveyor to conduct a survey on your home before the purchase is complete to identify any potential issues with the condition of the home.  

The property survey is an important part of the homebuying process, so choosing the right surveyor is key. In this post, Hilary Grayson, Director of Surveying Services at Sava, explains the importance of a good surveyor when buying a property and covers the questions you may have about the process… 

Choosing the right surveyor means finding someone you can trust to act in your best interests with the appropriate qualifications and who can clearly communicate the condition of the building, its risk points, and possible costs to rectify any issues. Appointing this expert can be the most important decision within your transaction but finding the right one can be difficult and time-consuming because the process isn’t as straightforward as it sounds.    

What type of survey do you need? 

There are different types of survey depending on the age and the condition of the property you’re buying.  

The level 1 survey is a basic report of visible defects and urgent issues and risks. It can be appropriate for new-build homes, and homes up to around 20 years old in good condition. 

Generally speaking, a level 2 survey, formerly known as the RICS Homebuyer Report, is considered to be appropriate for homes up to 20 years old. However, there won’t be an inspection into contamination or other environmental hazards, such as asbestos. If the surveyor spots a problem, they’ll recommend further investigation. While the surveyor will review the most recent Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), they won’t issue a new one.   

A level 3 survey is a full and comprehensive review of the property’s structure and condition. It can include estimates of repair costs and is recommended for homes older than 50 years, large or unusual properties, and those in poor condition.  

Of course, it’s not always as clean cut as this suggests. Your surveyor should advise you on which level of survey is most appropriate for your property. 

What’s the cost? 

The cost depends on the property’s location and value. For a level 1 survey, it’ll be a few hundred pounds. For a level 3 survey it could be upwards of £1,000, depending on the property. 

Is a survey necessary? 

Yes! Regardless of the property type you’re hoping to buy, you should hire a surveyor to assess its condition. I’ve seen potential homebuyers walk away from purchases at the 11th hour after learning a loft conversion had a structural defect which would have had huge cost implications. This was something the buyer couldn’t have spotted without a professional. It’s best to commission the survey as early as possible to minimise disruption within the transaction process and knock-on implications to those in your housing chain. If the surveyor identifies you need £20,000 in roof repairs, you may be able to negotiate the same amount from the cost of the house.    

Confusing terminology  

There’s often confusion around what a survey includes. Sometimes mortgage brokers refer to a survey when they actually mean a mortgage valuation, which is not the same and you will still need a qualified surveyor to assess the condition of the property.   

Communication is crucial 

As a homebuyer, you need a clear understanding of any issues the property has, to be confident that your concerns are investigated properly and that you can discuss these easily with your surveyor. Maybe it’s an old property that has undergone extensive alterations, so understanding the implications of this can be vital. If you’re unhappy with the surveyor’s communication from the outset, then they’re not for you.   

Location is key 

My advice is to always choose a surveyor within the geographical area of the property you’re purchasing. I know of a certain estate that is notorious for substance claims but the houses are relatively new so local knowledge is key.    

Do I need a RICS surveyor? 

No. The most important factor of all is to appoint a qualified and competent surveyor who is familiar with the area in which you hope to buy. Whilst many surveyors choose to become members of professional bodies such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE), many also choose not to but are highly-skilled surveyors with thriving careers. All surveyors must have a professional qualification to be able to practice, which can include a diploma or a degree.  

What happens during a survey?  

Surveyors, acting on behalf of a homebuyer, visit a property to assess the risk points, to communicate any existing or potential issues and to point out the possible costs involved to fix them. If instructed by the buyer and not the owner, the surveyor cannot start lifting floorboards or conducting invasive inspections so they need to interpret what’s likely to be a problem in areas they cannot see. However, they should be able to observe issues such as a springy floor and suggest the reasons why this may be occurring or recommend further investigation.      

How to find a good surveyor 

Recommendation and/or website reviews are the best places to start.   

Sava strives to make buildings better by providing education, technology and professional services to building owners, surveyors and the wider property industry. 

Content provided by is for information purposes only. Independent and professional advice should be taken before buying, selling, letting or renting property, or buying financial products.