How long does a house survey take?

Last updated: May 2024 | 3 min read

The importance of property surveys cannot be overestimated when finalising the house you want to purchase. In this article, we list the factors that affect the time required for completing the surveys and how long it takes to receive the results.

Curious about the duration of the survey process as you start preparing to purchase a house? Keep reading to learn about the timelines involved.

What is a house survey?

House surveys involve a professional assessment of a property's condition. Conducted by a qualified surveyor, they examine various aspects like the building's structure, safety, and potential issues.

Homebuyers often commission these surveys after their offer on a property is accepted.

The survey provides a detailed look at the property, highlighting any concerns or defects that might impact the buyer's decision or necessitate future repairs.

Learn in detail about the types and costs of surveys in 2024.

Why are house surveys necessary?

House surveys are indispensable for buyers to understand the condition of the property they intend to purchase. By identifying structural issues, defects, or necessary repairs early, house surveys can save buyers from unexpected future costs.

They also provide a bargaining chip in price negotiations, based on the property's actual condition. For the seller, a house survey can increase a buyer's confidence in the property's value, potentially speeding up the sale process.

This checklist of a house survey will prove highly beneficial for you. Also see who organises the survey.

Duration of different types of surveys

Basic condition report

A basic condition report, known as a Condition Report, usually takes the shortest time – often just a few hours.

This type of survey provides an overview of the property's condition, highlighting any urgent defects or potential legal issues.

It's ideal for new-builds or almost new properties.

Buyers often opt for this when they require a simple and swift overview without in-depth analysis.

Homebuyer's survey

Homebuyers survey, formally known as the RICS Homebuyer Report, takes between two and four hours to complete. The duration depends on factors such as the property's size and condition.

You, as a buyer, might find this type of survey particularly useful for newer properties or those in a reasonably good state of repair.

The surveyor assesses the property's general condition and identifies any major faults accessible on the surface.

Unlike some more comprehensive surveys, they do not look under floorboards or behind furniture.

Full structural survey

Full structural surveys, or building surveys, are the most comprehensive. They generally take longer than Homebuyer's surveys – often spanning a few days.

This type of survey goes deeper into the property's structure and condition, suitable for older properties or those constructed with unconventional materials.

Full structural surveys examine all accessible parts of the property and can identify potential issues hidden from the surface view, such as structural damage or problems with the roof.

Building survey

Building surveys, distinct from full structural surveys, are more detailed than a basic condition report but less extensive than a full structural survey.

They typically require several hours to a day, varying depending on the property's size and complexity.

Building surveys focus on the property's major and minor defects, providing buyers with a clear understanding of the building's condition, which is particularly useful when dealing with special architectural features or extensions.

Specialised surveys for unique properties

Properties such as listed buildings or those with unusual architectural features may need specialised surveys.

These can vary significantly in duration, often taking longer than standard surveys.

The specific nature of the property, such as its historical significance, architectural complexity, or use of non-standard construction materials, demands a more meticulous examination.

In such cases, surveyors tailor their approach to address these unique characteristics, ensuring a thorough inspection.

When will you get the results?

You will be anxiously waiting for your property survey results to come back. The results often arrive within a week after the surveyor's visit, however, this time period can vary depending on the size and type of property, as well as the detail required in the report.

A standard homebuyer's survey takes less time to report back compared to a full structural survey, especially if the property is large or a listed building.

Dealing directly with your surveyor can sometimes expedite the process, ensuring you receive your report swiftly.

Factors influencing how long a survey takes

Property's size and age

Property size significantly affects how long a house survey takes. Larger properties, with more rooms and features, demand more time for a thorough evaluation.

This isn't just about square footage; complexity plays a part too. Older properties can add time as well.

Their historical aspects demand a more detailed examination. Age-related quirks, such as period features or prior renovations, often require a closer look to assess their condition accurately.

Location and accessibility effects

Location impacts the survey's duration. A property situated in a remote area or one that's challenging to access might extend the time needed for a surveyor to complete their work.

In urban settings, ease of access usually means surveys can be completed more swiftly.

However, properties within congested areas might present logistical challenges, lengthening the process.

The surveyor's workload and schedule

The individual surveyor's schedule and workload influence the timing. During peak periods in the property market, surveyors may have packed schedules, leading to longer waiting times before they can conduct your survey.

The efficiency and experience of the surveyor also play a role. Seasoned professionals might complete surveys quicker, thanks to their honed skills and familiarity with common property issues.

Booking a house survey

Choosing the right surveyor

Selecting a suitable surveyor is very important. Begin by seeking recommendations from your estate agent or conveyancer, but also consider browsing comparison websites for options.

Credentials, experience in surveying properties similar to yours, and pricing are key factors. Remember, the surveyor’s expertise can provide invaluable insight into your future home’s condition.

Best time to schedule your survey

Timing your survey strategically matters. Ideally, book it soon after your offer is accepted. This positions you to make informed decisions about the property early in the buying process.

Timing also depends on the type of survey. A basic survey or mortgage valuation survey might take less time to arrange compared to a more comprehensive survey.

How early should you book a survey in the buying process?

You're a serious buyer, so book your survey early. The moment your offer on a property is accepted, consider contacting surveyors.

Early booking not only secures a slot but also means you’ll receive the results of the survey sooner.

These results can help negotiate a better price and make decisions about the property, especially if you're in a chain or have tight timelines for moving.

What happens on the day of the survey?

Preparation starts before the surveyor arrives. You, the homeowner or buyer, can facilitate a smooth survey by ensuring easy access to all areas of the property.

This includes unlocking gates, clearing any obstacles to entry points, and possibly moving furniture for better access to walls and floors.

Estate agents often coordinate with occupants to prepare the property, especially if it's currently occupied or furnished.

Examination of structural integrity

The surveyor's primary focus is on the property's structural integrity. They scrutinise walls, floors, ceilings, and roofs for signs of damage or wear.

The examination extends to checking the condition of external structures like garages and sheds. This evaluation helps identify any immediate repairs or maintenance issues that might impact the property's value or safety.

Checking for compliance with building regulations

Surveyors also verify that the property adheres to current building regulations. They inspect electrical systems, plumbing, insulation, and other installations to ensure everything is up to code.

This is particularly important for older properties or those that have undergone significant alterations.

Compliance with regulations can significantly influence the market valuation and future plans involving the property.

How can you interpret and use your report effectively?

Identify major problems and costly repairs

Your house survey report will identify any significant issues with the property. The report provides details on the condition of the house, highlighting urgent repairs or long-term problems.

It's important to pay close attention to any areas flagged as ‘urgent’ or ‘major’. These often indicate issues that can be costly to repair, such as structural problems, roof repairs, or damp issues.

Make an informed decision based on the results

Armed with your house survey results, you're in a stronger position to make informed decisions. If the report uncovers any serious defects, you might choose to renegotiate the sale price with the estate agent or seller.

Sometimes, it might even lead to withdrawing your offer, particularly if the required repairs are extensive and expensive.

It's wise to discuss the house survey cost and findings with your mortgage lender or legal advisor, as they can provide practical guidance on how to proceed.

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