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Explaining what a house survey is, why a house would fail a survey and what to do when you feel nervous about your house survey...

When you’re selling a house, it’s natural to feel worried about the different areas for things to go wrong – struggling to negotiate with buyers and slow conveyancers are just two problems to name.

But what do you do if there’s an issue on your house survey, leading to your buyer asking for you to pay out of your own pocket to fix the problems? Or even worse, pulling out of the sale altogether?!

It’s easy to see why sellers may feel nervous about house surveys…

We’re here to help by answering all your survey-related questions, including how to prepare your house for a surveyor and the many different things you can do if your house survey is bad!

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What is a house survey?

A house survey is an expert inspection of a property, allowing them to assess the quality level. A survey normally takes place once an offer has been accepted by the seller before the exchange of contracts can take place.

When a house survey takes place, it’s important that it’s taken out by a surveyor who is a member of one of the three following accrediting bodies:

  • RICS – Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

  • RPSA – Residential Property Surveyors Association

  • Sava

A house survey will take a different amount of time depending on the size of your property and also the level of the survey which has been chosen.

There are three different levels of survey; a condition report (level 1); a homebuyers’ report/home condition survey (level 2); and a building survey (level 3).

House survey – what do they look for?

Depending on what survey level the buyer has chosen, there will be different aspects of your property that will be looked at.

As a general rule, the higher the level of house survey, the more detailed and in-depth the survey will be.

Level 1 – Condition report:

A condition report is the most basic level of survey, meaning your property will be inspected in much less detail. The main purpose of a condition report is it’s meant to accompany your buyer’s house repayments valuation.

The survey provides traffic light indications as to the state of the different parts of the property. As you may expect, green means everything is good, orange means there’s some level of concern and red means repairs are needed.

The survey will also provide you with a summary of the areas of the property which requires work and any potential risks which could affect the property.

Level 2 – Homebuyers’ report:

As you would expect, this survey is more in-depth than the condition report, but still isn’t the most invasive survey.

This survey option will mean the general condition of your property is assessed, with any major faults which could affect the value of the property now and in the future being highlighted.

For this survey level, your buyer can pay extra to get a market valuation of your property accompanying the survey. This valuation will have an estimation of the cost if the property had to be rebuilt for insurance purposes and the value of the property currently on the open market.

Level 2 – Home condition survey:

The home condition survey will give a traffic-light style rating system for the property’s condition, accompanied by some drawings and photos. There will also be a debrief section at the end where the surveyor can answer any remaining questions from your buyer.

This level of survey is still fairly limited on what it offers to the buyer, but it will highlight any major issues and provides more in detail information.

Level 3 – Building survey:

A building survey, also known as a full structural survey, is the most in-depth survey your buyer can choose to use on your property. This report will detail a full assessment of the property’s condition, details of the construction materials and advice on the repairs needed.

During this survey, the surveyor will look under floorboards, behind walls, in the loft and above ceilings.

Your buyer will receive an extensive report at the end of the survey and will also be given advice on repairs, as well as estimated costs and timings.

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Nervous about house survey – why would a house fail a survey?

Despite popular belief, a house can’t actually fail a survey. Normally, if you hear someone refer to their house failing a survey, they’re more likely speaking about major issues showing up on the survey.

It’s understandable why you may be nervous about house surveys – after all, you don’t want the results of the house survey to put your buyer off, causing them to pull out of the sale or reduce their offer dramatically.

According to ‘Introducer Today’, the 2nd quarter of 2021 saw a fall-through rate of 39%, showing just how common it is for a sale to fall through, explaining why it’s normal to feel nervous about house survey.

To help you feel less nervous about house survey, we’re going to go through the common house survey problems, so you know what you likely should expect should your house survey show up issues:

  • Damp – Damp is one of the most common house survey problems, which is most common in older houses. When damp has been found in a house, it can range from something small, like one small area of the house, to being a more widespread issue, with evidence of damp throughout the property. It may be a good idea to chat to a damp specialist to organise a damp survey so they can have a deeper look into areas of concern and give you some advice on what to do. Getting some advice from an expert will help you to feel less nervous about a house survey

  • Structural movement – Whilst structural movement sounds as though it will be something pretty major, this isn’t always the case. On a minor scale, it may just be a case of monitoring the area to ensure you’re wise to any potential problems. On the flip side, major structural movement can result in walls and floors moving, which is going to be quite expensive to solve

  • Roof issues – Problems with your property’s roof is another one of the most common house survey problems which can differ in significance. Roof issues, however, can be a costly problem to resolve so it’s understandable why this thought may leave you a little nervous about house survey

  • Drainpipe issues – Drainpipe issues can cause a large number of problems within your property, such as a backlog of water causing a smell. This will be assessed in great detail in a survey level 2 or 3, so it may be worth getting this inspected before your buyer’s surveyor finds a major issue

  • Electrical problems – When there are electrical issues with a property, this can be something quite major and urgent, such as a whole property needing to be rewired. You will need to get in touch with an electrician to conduct an Electrical Installation Condition Report to find out what repairs need to be done and then it’s up to you to negotiate who pays (buyer or seller)

  • Japanese Knotweed – Japanese Knotweed, as well as other invasive plants, are very difficult to remove and can actually stop your buyer from being able to get house repayments. If you know of any invasive plants in your garden, it would be worth getting these removed. Although this will come out of your pocket, you will not be able to find a buyer if you don’t solve this problem, unless you manage to find a cash buyer

  • Asbestos – Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibre that is found in a lot of building materials but has life-threatening health issues. You will need to speak to an asbestos specialist if there are signs of it in your house, as this is another common house survey problem that could lead to your sale falling through

  • Insulation – It can be surprising how many homes show up on a survey as not correctly insulated. Whilst insulation is an easy fix, with insulation rolls being fairly cheap to buy, it’s still something that your buyer will likely ask you to fix, meaning money out of your pocket

  • Bug infestation – A bug infestation is as grim as it sounds! If it’s not caught early, this can lead to a major infestation around the whole house, making it harder to resolve the issue. If the infestation is from a ‘common’ bug, then paying for a simple treatment should do the job

Worried your house will show an issue?

The good news is if your house shows up one, or a few, of the common house survey problems there is always a fix.

Any fix is going to come at a cost, so you will need to decide with your buyer who is going to pay. A buyer may try to renegotiate on price should there be some house survey issues, or in some cases, they may pull out of the sale altogether.

Nervous about house survey – how do I prepare my house for a surveyor?

No seller is obliged to do anything to their property before a surveyor comes to inspect, but if you’re nervous about house survey, then you’re likely to want to get your house looking as best as possible.

If your house is having a level 1 survey, then it may be a good idea to have a tidy round. Houses always look better when they’re tidy and a level 1 survey isn’t very intrusive, so by tidying up you’ll probably be able to smooth over any problems.

Of course, if you’re having a level 2 or 3 survey, tidying round isn’t going to hide any serious issues. You could, however, smooth over any cracks in the walls or ceilings, scrub mould off tiles, if you have any, and also fix leaking pipes and taps.

Outside of your house, it’s also a good idea to prepare your garden as, depending on the survey chosen by your buyer, the surveyor may look at the plants and trees, to ensure there are no signs of Japanese Knotweed.

What do I do if my house survey is bad?

As a seller, you’re in a difficult position as you want the house sale to go through, but you’re also not likely to want to renegotiate on price or use money from your own pocket to fix the issues.

Even if you’re able to find yourself a new buyer, you will still run into the same issues, if you haven’t made the necessary repairs.

So, where do you go from here? What do you do if your buyer is pulling out of the sale, or is trying to drastically reduce the price?

The good news is you have other options to find yourself a new buyer ASAP…

Part exchange

Part exchange is a scheme where you trade in your current property as part payment towards the value of a new build property. Essentially, you will only pay the difference between the cost of your current house and the cost of the new build.

This option allows you to bypass estate agents and their fees, as well as being able to avoid the open market. You’re also able to avoid the chance of getting into a complicated chain, with a part exchange scheme giving you a chain free sale.

However, part exchange will not help if you’re feeling nervous about house survey as your house will be subject to a full detailed survey before the developer is happy to allow you to take part in their part exchange scheme.

Also, part exchange isn’t a guaranteed sale, with the developer able to change their mind and pull out of the sale at any point.

Part exchange is only suitable for you if you’re wanting to get a new build property, so if this doesn’t sound like you, then one of the other methods may be a better idea…


Auction is another option if you’re nervous about house surveys and so want to avoid them.

At auction, you’re met by a lot of buyers who are looking to buy a property fast and will be ready to exchange when a deal is struck on the day. There’s minimal work for you, as the auctioneer will take control of negotiations and advertising.

All you will need to do is be open to host an open day for potential buyers to view your property prior to the auction.

Although at auction, surveys are unlikely, it doesn’t mean they won’t happen. Potential buyers would have to get a survey before the auction day, so they can bid on your property with peace of mind.

However, due to the nature of the fast sale, a lot of the buyers at auction will be looking to get your property for a discounted price. You will also have to pay auctioneer’s fees, room hire, marketing costs, as well as legal fees, leaving you with a lot lower amount than you may have hoped for.

Auction is also not a guaranteed sale – if your reserve price isn’t met then your property will not be sold.

Cash house buyer

A final option for you if you’re feeling nervous about house survey and want to avoid them completely is to use a cash house buying company. These companies act as a cash buyer would on the open market, meaning they have the funds readily available to buy your property and they will be a chain-free buyer.

Cash buyers are able to complete in a quicker timescale and there’s less paperwork involved, with a lot of cash house buying companies just asking you for a signature, meaning minimal effort for you.

Although most cash house buying companies specialise in quick sales, you will also have the option to choose the timescale yourself.

The sale is also a guaranteed sale, unlike through other options where the sale can fall through at any point.

If this option sounds like the right choice for you, then let us be your cash buyer!

Here at The Property Buying Company, we’re a cash buyer of houses buying any property in any location and condition. We can complete in a fast timescale of your choice, and we cover all your fees – even the legal ones!

We only require one quick viewing to check our cash offer is accurate, no scary surveys here, and we’re a guaranteed buyer, meaning once you’ve accepted our cash offer, that’s the guaranteed amount you will get in FULL in your bank!

You can choose the timescale to suit you, but our average completion time is between 2-3 weeks, although we have been known to do 7 days before…

We’re also a member of the National Association of Property Buyers and The Property Ombudsman and we’re rated excellent on Trustpilot, with over 1000 reviews, meaning you can feel you’re in safe hands.

Forget feeling nervous about a house survey and give us a call or fill in our online form for a no-obligation cash offer, which we could have in your bank as soon as next week…

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Alexandra Ventress

Alexandra is a Content Producer who enjoys writing articles, finding out about the property market, keeping you up to date with the latest trends.