Building Survey Types – Which One When Buying a House?

Building survey types – which one when buying a house?

When it comes to buying a property, understanding its true condition is essential. This guide provides expert insight into the different RICS survey types available from our trusted network of qualified and experienced surveyors.

What type of survey do I need? How to choose from different types of house surveys.

Whether you’re a seasoned property professional or a first-time buyer, and whether you’re buying a home or selling a home, if you’re confused by house survey types, let us help! 

The essential guide for home buyers

That’s why our answer to the question, “what type of survey do I need?”, is always to ask us! A quick phone call or a message can be the most efficient way to find out which building survey types you need.

Ask one of our experts which property survey is right for you. 

“We're here to help you, so please pick up the phone. We can have a look at the property online to give you our honest view of the type of report that we think is best suited for that property.”

Joe Arnold 

This guide will give you our expert insight into the different RICS survey types that are available from our trusted network of qualified and experienced surveyors working across England and Wales. 

  1. What’s the difference between a lender’s valuation report and a RICS property survey?
  2. Buying, selling or staying at home? 
  3. Which property survey do I need? 
  4. What type of survey do I need for a flat?
  5. Explore survey types:
    • RICS HomeBuyer Report
    • RICS Building Survey (Structural Survey) 
    • RICS Condition Report
    • Snagging List Survey


“If you’re buying a new home, you’re about to spend a huge amount of money! So, it’s really important that you get the best advice. This will help to avoid what is already a major expense from becoming more expensive. Our job is to protect your investment, and to do that we stand by our commitment to being honest, expert and approachable.”

Joe Arnold 


To begin, let’s clear up one thing: your lenders valuation report is not a thorough property survey!  

What’s the difference between a lender’s valuation report and a RICS property survey?

There’s a whole world of difference! The main one is that a lender’s valuation report is for the lender – to protect their investment, not your home.

When considering a property purchase, understanding the different types of valuations and surveys available can be crucial.

A lender's valuation report and a property survey are both important parts of the home buying process. A lender's valuation report is primarily for the lender's benefit, assessing the property's market value to ensure it is sufficient security for the loan. 

In most cases, it is a brief inspection that focuses on major visible defects that might affect the property's value. 

Mortgage Valuations and Market Valuations are primarily focused on assessing the property's value for lending purposes and do not serve as detailed surveys.

In contrast, a property survey is a comprehensive examination of the property's condition, conducted for the buyer's benefit. It includes a detailed analysis of structural issues, potential problems, and necessary repairs, providing a thorough understanding of the property's overall condition and maintenance needs.

A Mortgage Valuation is used by lenders to ensure the property is sufficient collateral for a loan and is not intended to outline the buyer's liabilities. 

A Market Valuation provides a price estimate based on the property's condition and location but does not delve into the structural state of the property as a survey would.

The most reliable valuation you can obtain is a RICS Market Valuation – we can help with those too! 

Good to know! 

Unless the property is modern and within the first two years of its NHBC Certificate, we recommend you always commission a Condition Report, HomeBuyer Report and Valuation or Building Survey.

Buying, selling or staying at home? 

If you’re buying a home, you'll need either a Homebuyer Report (most popular and for common houses) or a Building Survey (full structural survey). 

If you’re selling, it’s worth noting that the market has changed. 

That’s why we created SellSmarter – the smart way to confidently sell your home faster.

A typical property sale can take more than 5 months. We can help you be exchange ready in just 4 weeks*.

Prepare for your property sale by asking us to do a RICS home survey. It will show you any problems that may delay your sale or cause price reductions later in the process – avoiding situations like this:

“We were 8 weeks into our purchase when we were told the Vendors didn’t have a Building Regulations Completion Certificate for their rear and side return extension. As there were no structural issues, the Vendors didn’t think it was an issue, so didn’t mention it to anyone.  Our mortgage lender won’t lend until this certificate is in place, and we are not happy with an indemnity policy either.” 

Find out how you can SellSmarter.

Staying at home?

If you’re not buying or selling but staying put, it can still be a good idea to get a condition report. 

Especially if you’re planning major work, want to remortgage, or know you need maintenance works but aren’t sure where to start.   

A survey of your home’s current condition will warn you of defects – and can help you avoid escalating repair and maintenance costs in the future. 

A Condition report or Home condition report (HCR) is generally suitable for smaller and newer properties and serves as a valuable “MOT” for homeowners looking to assess the general condition of their home.

You can book a condition report right here


Which property survey do I need? 

RICS certifies three different types of survey. These can only be conducted by RICS qualified surveyors such as those in our network across England and Wales. 

Reliable and cost effective, these reports carry the full weight of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) – the industry’s most respected authority on surveying.


What’s the benefit to you?

A RICS survey will tell you the actual condition of the property. That’s vital information that can be invaluable during price negotiations and will also help you avoid expensive surprises after you’ve moved in!

RICS Condition Report

RICS HomeBuyer Report

RICS Building Survey (Structural Survey) 

Snagging List Survey



Arnold & Baldwin: Optional extras

As industry experts, we’re always innovating and adding value wherever we can. In addition to our standard (superior!) survey packages, we can also help you to get greater peace of mind and protect your investment while also saving money.


Premium Drone Surveys

Our advanced drone technology, operated by our industry experts, is the fast and easy way to survey roofs and other hard-to-access areas. It also avoids the high 

costs and time implications of erecting scaffolding, so you save money too. 


Anti Fraud Pack

Property fraud does happen! Get an extra layer of protection and secure your property purchase confidently with our Anti-Fraud Pack. 



Ask us about the benefits of SlothMove - the change of address service that can save on average seven hours of your time - a whole day! It’s the most cost-effective way to update your address with everyone from the DVLA to HMRC, while also helping to protect your credit rating, avoid fines and reduce fraud risk.


What type of survey do I need for a flat?

A flat presents different challenges to other types of properties and so requires a slightly different approach to other property types. If you’re buying a flat and aren’t sure about what type of survey you need, just ask us! 

We take a bespoke approach to surveying flats and we can advise on the best survey, plus make any additional recommendations to protect your investment.  

In most cases, we recommend that you’ll need a survey for your new flat to :

Identify structural issues

We’ll aim to uncover hidden structural problems that can often not be immediately apparent. This might be issues with the building's foundation, walls, roof, and other critical components. Early identification can save you from costly repairs in the future.

Ensure compliance with regulations

A specialist survey ensures that the flat complies with local building regulations and standards that are crucial for your safety and legal peace of mind.

Assess the condition of communal areas

If your flat has shared areas such as hallways, staircases, garden or parking space, we can survey these areas too, giving you a comprehensive understanding of what you’re buying..

Verify boundaries and rights

A property survey can help verify the boundaries of the flat, ensuring there are no disputes with neighbours. It can also check any rights of way or access issues that might affect your use and enjoyment of the property.

Evaluating repairs and maintenance needs

Our survey will highlight any immediate repairs or ongoing maintenance needed - all essential to budgeting for potential expenses and negotiating the purchase price.

Understanding lease terms and obligations

If the flat is leasehold, our survey can provide insights into the lease terms, including any potential issues, such as ground rent or service charges. This helps you understand your obligations and the financial implications of owning the flat.

Enhance negotiation power

Armed with the information from a thorough survey, you can make better buying decisions and even negotiate a better price on your new flat! 


Property survey types


Condition Report

We recommend this report if you’re buying or selling a conventional house, flat or bungalow built from common building materials and in reasonable condition. 

It focuses purely on the condition of the property by giving you all of the following:

  • Clear ‘traffic light’ ratings of the condition of different parts of the building, services, garage and outbuildings, showing problems that require varying degrees of attention
  • A summary of the risks to the condition of the building
  • Other matters including guarantees, planning and building control issues for your legal advisers.

Our RICS Condition Report does not include a valuation, but we can provide this as an add on if needed. 

Get in touch to find out more – and to get a detailed breakdown in our RICS Condition Report Service leaflet.

Book your Condition Report today

RICS HomeBuyer Report

You should choose this report if you would like more extensive information whilst buying or selling a conventional house, flat or bungalow, built from common building materials and in reasonable condition. 

“The HomeBuyer report is designed for your traditional 1930s semi-detached houses or your detached 1960s properties, something which is in relatively good order and doesn't need to have too much work undertaken. Within this report we look at the main walls, the roof, the chimneys, we look at the guttering, we look at the plot, the drive and check the drains internally. We go into the lofts and get covered in cobwebs! We check the damp, woodwork, look at the electrics, heating system, kitchens, bathrooms, ceilings and the walls. We also check whether anything has been altered structurally, so that your solicitor (who won't go to the property!) can also then raise questions for you.”

Joe Arnold

It costs more than the Condition Report but includes:

  • All of the features in the Condition Report plus a more extensive inspection;
  • The surveyor’s professional opinion on the ‘Market Value’ of the property; (optional extra)
  • An insurance reinstatement figure for the property; (optional extra)
  • A list of problems that the surveyor considers may affect the value of the property;
  • Advice on repairs and ongoing maintenance;
  • Issues that need to be investigated to prevent serious damage or dangerous conditions;
  • Legal issues that need to be addressed before completing your conveyancing; and
  • Information on location, local environment and the recorded energy efficiency (where available).

Need more detail? Ask us for your copy of ‘Description of the RICS HomeBuyer Service’ leaflet.

Book Your Homebuyer Report Today


RICS Building Survey (Structural Survey) 

You might know this as a structural survey. These days, it’s better known as a building survey and it’s a good choice for large, older or run-down properties, a building that is unusual or altered, or if you’re planning major works. 

It costs more than the other RICS reports but it’s also good value for money because it gives detailed information about the structure and fabric of the property. 

“Our Building Survey is designed for properties that are unique. So, let's say a barn conversion, or an oast house, or perhaps a property which is in pretty poor condition and needs everything doing. We can take drainage experts with us, we can take roofing contractors with us, we can look at the potential to extend. This is the bespoke, tailor-made report for that style of property.”

Joe Arnold

Our RICS Building Survey includes:

  • A thorough inspection and detailed report on a wider range of issues
  • A description of visible defects and potential problems caused by hidden flaws
  • An outline of repair options and the likely consequences of inactivity 
  • Advice for your legal advisers and details of serious risks and dangerous conditions.
  • A building survey does not include a valuation but your surveyor can provide this as an add-on service.

Book Your Building Survey Today


Snagging List Survey

Buying a new build is a dream! You get to put your own stamp on a home from scratch. But the key is to make sure it’s up to scratch first!

Snagging List Surveys are designed for new build properties. Our qualified surveyors prepare a photographic schedule of items which have not been completed satisfactorily. 

You can then confidently submit our report to the developer so they can conclude any remaining items prior to completion.

As an additional service this report can include a valuation of the finished property.  

Book Your Snagging List Survey Today


What people are saying about Arnold & Baldwin

“My experience with Arnold and Baldwin was excellent! They arranged a survey very quickly, which was extremely thorough and addressed additional concerns that I had mentioned. They emailed me the survey the same day, and a hard copy arrived the next day. They also spoke to me twice about various issues the survey had identified—problems I had not been previously aware of—and they provided advice on how to handle these situations. It was money well spent for an excellent service. I would highly recommend them; they are very professional and I would definitely use their services again.”

Ann McEntire


"The team was very helpful in explaining the services beforehand and outlining the available options. It took a total of 13 days from appointing Arnold & Baldwin to receive my Level 3 Buildings Report. They also price-matched a lower quote. I would definitely use their services again and highly recommend them."

Danny Jackson


We’re not just Surveyors! We’re property professionals. 

So, we provide a wide range of professional services for all kinds of property-related issues.

You can find all of our services here.  


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