Do I really need a survey when buying a new home?

Worryingly, a 2019 study by the mortgage broker, John Charcol, found that as many as eight out of 10 people buying a new home did so without commissioning a survey, while our own research at Harrison Clarke (leading chartered surveyors in the Hampshire area) found that the typical property has defects which will, on average, cost in the region of £17,500 to fully address. 

The most commonly reported reason for why people choose not to commission a survey is that the mortgage lender’s surveyor has been to the property. 

Other reasons include the buyer thinking that, during the legal process, the vendor’s information will uncover defects, and many people also have the view that moving home is simply too expensive already and not paying for a survey is a good way to save money. 

However, this financial decision could turn out to be a false economy. Let’s look at why this could be the case.

My mortgage lender’s surveyor said the property is okay

When the mortgage lender sends a surveyor to the property, they are sent with a limited task sheet and can spend as little as 15 minutes on site. 

In contrast, when you commission a building survey, the building surveyor will typically be on site for between two and three hours, inspecting every aspect of the building in detail.

This provides an opportunity for your building surveyor to highlight the array of defects a property typically presents, allowing you to plan remedial works or renegotiate the purchase price. 

In the worst case scenario, you may even want to withdraw from the transaction altogether. 

The purpose of the lender’s survey is to confirm that the surveyor believes that the property is worth the agreed sale price. 

This is very different to preparing a detailed condition survey of the property, which would be a HomeBuyer Report (Level 2 Survey) or a Level 3 Building Survey, depending on the type of property. 

Some lenders don’t even request that their valuation surveyor looks in the roof space, which is a common area for expensive defects to arise. 

Also, growing numbers of property sale transactions proceed with only automated or desktop surveys or valuations, meaning that sometimes a surveyor will not even have visited the property. 


The vendor will tell my solicitor what is wrong

As part of the buying process, vendors are required to answer a detailed questionnaire relating to the property. 

However, we find that many vendors are unaware of issues with their own property. 

Another scenario is that there is a minority of unscrupulous vendors who will claim to be oblivious to defects in their own property. They may get away with this if you don’t have a survey done, as not all defects on a property are immediately visible to the untrained eye. 

A building survey will highlight areas of the property which need maintenance in the near future, or where potentially unsafe installations have been made. 

One example of this would be where a chimney needs to be repointed as it is causing dampness, costing perhaps £1,500-£2,000 to rectify. Another example would be where an electrical distribution board is past the end of its life and needs to be upgraded for safety reasons – this could cost around £1,000. 

Such often overlooked issues, amongst others, will normally only be uncovered when commissioning a Level 2 or Level 3 report. 


I can’t afford a survey – buying property is SO expensive!

One unavoidable feature of buying a property is that the process is costly. On top of the price of your new home, you need to pay for a conveyancing solicitor, probably an estate agent and maybe a mortgage broker. You even need to pay your local authority for property searches. Then, there are moving costs and any furniture, carpets, curtains etc that you might need.

It is understandable that buyers are looking to reduce costs wherever they can, but saving money by not getting a survey could be far most costly in the long run.

To come back to the point we made at the beginning of this article, we reviewed the costs proposed to address defects – across all our building surveys from a single year – and to put right all the defects on an average property would cost £17,500. 

Whilst some of these costs could be deferred, and some defects like minor dampness or doors not closing properly could be lived with, a timely survey gives you the opportunity to renegotiate the purchase price of your property, which could help to put money back in your pocket to address these repairs. 

Building work is expensive and it is not unusual for a building survey to pay for itself many times over when used as a tool to renegotiate the purchase price. 


Of course you would say that – you’re a building surveyor!

Yes, there may be a certain amount of bias to what we are saying as this is our business, and many people buy properties without surveys and do not suffer major consequences. 

On the other hand, we often hear from clients who have purchased a property without a survey and have had to foot the bill for major remedial works, ranging from fixing dampness to dealing with collapsed drains and subsidence. 

With individual defects often costing far more than the price of a survey to rectify, it is easy to see how a high quality building survey can in fact save you £1,000s when you are buying a property, by giving you that price negotiation leverage.

Properties are very complex, made up of 1000s of different components. 

When making the biggest purchase of your life, do you really want to take the risk of learning about potentially extremely costly major defects when it’s too late and you cannot transfer the cost of dealing with these defects to another party? 

How Harrison Clarke can help

If you would like to commission a condition survey on a property you plan to purchase, our expert team is here to guide you through the process, first helping you to decide if a HomeBuyer Report (Level 2 Survey) or a Level 3 Building Survey is right for you and your property. 

Working with us gives you the peace of mind that your interests will be protected and your new home has no secrets.

For further guidance and useful tips and information on the range of surveying services we provide, you can read our blogs and watch our videos. These are available on our website and our YouTube channel


How you can contact Harrison Clarke

Call our friendly, expert and highly qualified surveyors on 023 8155 0051, or email us at We would welcome the opportunity to help with any queries or needs you may have.

At the time of writing, we have a total of 76 reviews across Trustpilot and Google. We are proud to say that they are all 5 star ratings across the board.

Discover something you would like to know more about?

Tim Clarke, Director at Harrison Clarke chartered surveyors.

About the author

Tim Clarke,


Tim set up Harrison Clarke Chartered Surveyors in July 2017 following a series of public and private sector surveying roles, having previously worked for the University of Cambridge, Rund Partnership, Goadsby, and CBRE. 

Tim has degrees in building surveying, construction project management, and business administration.