What Is A House Survey?

Houses are incredibly complicated things. Much more than just bricks and mortar, they incorporate thousands of different parts and take dozens of tradespeople hundreds of hours to put together. There’s a lot that can go wrong, and sometimes that isn’t obvious until a lot further down the line. On top of that, older houses accumulate a lot of wear and tear over the years. If you’re looking to buy a house, you’ve probably heard that you should have a house survey done – but why?

Isn’t a House Just a House?

Yes, and no. Generally speaking, most of the housing stock in the UK is fairly similar. Timber roof structures, masonry or timber walls, and either concrete or timber floors. While there are some exceptions, this has been the standard building approach for a very long time.

This style of building technology has stood the test of time for hundreds of years – you just have to look around and see how many buildings are still standing 100 or 200 years after being built. In fact, in Wales 26% of all housing stock is around 100 years old! But with all of that resilience, it’s easy to forget that houses do need some maintenance and TLC to keep them in good shape. After all, you’re leaving it outside to brave the elements 365 days a year – nothing could survive that without a little attention every now and then.

To give you an example, roofs can last around 20-30 years before they need any maintenance. They have great staying power, but eventually a tile will come loose or a leak will form. Even brick walls need the mortar to be renewed every 50 years or so, or they too could spring a leak or become unstable. If this kind of maintenance isn’t done it can cause some much bigger issues down the line, which is why house surveys are such an important part of the buying process.

What’s Involved in a Home Survey?

In general, a home survey can be broken down into 2 stages:

Your Home Survey Inspection: This will be done by a surveyor. Their job is to know a whole lot about buildings. Your surveyor will understand how buildings are built, how they should be maintained, and how to diagnose any faults when they come up.

Once you’ve done your 10–15-minute viewing, agreed to the sale and started the process, your surveyor will arrange to visit the property for a much longer period of time. They will usually spend several hours inspecting every visible inch of the property, looking for signs that something is wrong. This usually uncovers a few things that come as a surprise to the buyer, who might be shocked that the property they fell in love with has something wrong with it. But your surveyor will help you to love your property for all its imperfections (except those that need to be fixed).

Your Home Survey Report: Once the inspection has been done, your surveyor will write a detailed assessment and put it together in a report for the property. In this report they’ll explain how the property is built, what condition it’s in, if there is any remedial work needed, and how much it will cost to fix (costs in Level 3 surveys only).

Once you’ve read your report, our surveyors will office a phone call or meeting to go through it all. It’s easy to feel like your survey is very negative (after all it’s a report looking for faults), and your surveyor will be able to reassure you that the house isn’t about to fall down!


Why are House Surveys Important?

A house is probably the most expensive thing you will ever buy. And probably one of the most expensive to maintain as well. A good understanding of what the ongoing costs for the property will be is important, and without having an expert cast an eye over the property you won’t know if you’re buying your dream home or a money pit.

Bringing in an experienced surveyor will significantly reduce the risk of your purchase, and make sure you have a full understanding of the work that needs to be done. It also puts you in a strong position to renegotiate the asking price of the property, allowing you to effectively pass the repair bill back to the seller. Often, our surveys can help clients negotiate savings that far outweigh the cost of the surveyors’ reports. After all, if you’ve already maxed out on the purchase price, where will you find the money to deal with essential repairs once the house is yours? Forewarned is always fore-armed.

Who Does a House Survey?

You want an expert to do your house survey for you – no one else will do. It can be tempting to cut corners with cheaper options, but you will likely run into problems down the line. We always recommend you only use a chartered building surveyor who is regulated by the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors), because this means they’ll have gone through years of training in the construction of properties – so they know exactly what to look for and advise you on the condition of the property. You can find them online or through personal recommendations, though we would always advise you to read the Google reviews of any surveyor before you contact them (we have over 95 reviews on Google and Trustpilot, all 5 stars) to get a good feel for them.

Also, be wary of any surveyor suggested by the agent selling the property. Those agents often have a vested interest in the transaction, like a finders fee, which you will ultimately end up paying.

At Harrison Clarke, we’re experts in surveying both residential homes and commercial properties. We have a team of specialist chartered building surveyors who can support you through every step of the process, making your housebuying dreams a reality. If you’d like to know more about what we do and how we can help you, just get in touch by phone on 023 8155 0051, or email us at info@harrisonclarke.co.


We also have a range of videos talking through various aspects of the Party Wall process. You can access them via our website or our YouTube channel

At the time of writing, we have a total of 85 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.