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What is a Building Survey?

Metta Stockman


A building survey, also known as a structural survey, assesses the condition of a property for sale. The level of survey depends on your budget, the property’s condition or age, and how much information you need before making a formal offer.


Do you need a building survey in Scotland?

In Scotland, properties for sale must have a Home Report, which acts as a building survey. A Home Report provides essential information about a property’s condition and market value and is a legal requirement for sellers before listing their property. A RICS-qualified surveyor typically conducts the Home Report, which includes:

  • A single survey assessing the property’s general condition
  • A generic mortgage valuation estimating market value
  • An energy survey (EPC) evaluating energy impact and utility costs
  • A property questionnaire completed by the seller addressing buyer concerns

As a buyer, you often don’t need an additional building survey since the Home Report usually covers all necessary details.


Why should you get a building survey?

Sometimes, a property requires extra assessment, or you might want more detailed information before buying. In such cases, a building survey is invaluable, especially for listed properties, older homes, unusual properties, or those needing renovation. If the initial Home Report raises concerns, a building survey can provide a more comprehensive evaluation.


Types of building surveys

You can choose between three main types of building surveys based on your needs:

  1. Mortgage Valuation Reports (Scheme 1 Survey): This survey assesses the property’s value and identifies obvious defects or structural issues. Buyers or mortgage lenders often request this when a property isn’t listed on the open market, like in private sales. However, it’s less thorough than a Home Report, and your lender might require more details.
  2. Home Buyer’s Report (Scheme 2 Survey): This more detailed survey includes a valuation and a closer investigation of property issues. However, it doesn’t cover close inspections of the roof or floors, potentially missing some structural problems.
  3. Full Structural Survey: The most comprehensive and expensive option, this survey thoroughly assesses the property’s condition and defects. Buyers usually request this for older or characterful properties, or those with listed status, before making an offer. The detailed report can be up to 20 pages long.


Costs of building surveys

  • Mortgage Valuation Report/Scheme 1 Survey: Starting around £200
  • Home Buyer’s Report/Scheme 2 Survey: Starting around £250
  • Full Structural Survey: Up to £1000, depending on property value, size, and condition


When should you get a building survey?

If you need more information than the Home Report provides, such as details on the property’s structure, roof, or floors, consider ordering a survey for peace of mind. Sometimes, a mortgage lender won’t accept the Home Report, requiring a separate survey. Order the survey before making an offer. In Scotland, once your offer is accepted, you’re legally bound to buy the property.

Alternatively, you can make an offer ‘subject to survey,’ allowing you to withdraw if the survey results are unsatisfactory. However, this might make your offer less attractive to sellers.


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