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First Time Buyer's Guide to Pre-Purchase Surveys

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

Most people only ever buy 2-3 houses in their lifetime. By your second or third time, you might get to know the process a little better and be more confident in the different steps involved and service providers you need. But for first time buyers, trying to navigate the process can be overwhelming.

After all, you're dealing with an incredibly complex process, hearing works and phrases you've never encountered before, learning everything that is involved while still trying to live your day to day life.

We can't fix the whole process, but for getting your head around surveys, we put together this page to answer the most common questions!

What is a pre-purchase survey?

A survey involves a surveyor visiting the property you are considering buying and performing an inspection. They will then produce a written report with their findings.

The surveyor will be looking at the condition of the structure, in addition to the general condition throughout the property. The written report will then give you a list of all the issues found with the structure or issues caused by wear and tear or poor maintenance of the property.

The survey will also answer some questions for your solicitor related to planning/exemption requirements and the boundary.

The purpose of a survey is to give you a professional opinion on the overall condition of the property so that you can make an informed decision on whether or not to proceed with the purchase.

When should I book a survey for a house or apartment I am considering buying?

You should book a survey when you go sale agreed and when you have spoken with your solicitor.

Sale Agreed so that if any serious issues show up you can still pull out as contracts have not been signed.

Speak with your solicitor first incase they have any questions related to any planning or exemption requirements for the solicitor, or if there are any potential boundary issues they want checked

Do I have to get a survey complete?

No! There are no legal requirements, which forces you to get a survey. In some cases, a bank will request a structural survey to be complete before the allow drawdown. This is usually for older properties, but there are some other cases where they will ask

Why do I hear so many different names for a survey?

Pre-Purchase surveys go by many names. House Survey, Property Survey, Building Survey, Structural Survey, Engineer's Report, Architect's Report and a few more!

The reason there are so many different names is because there are several different professions who are suited to conduct pre-purchase residential surveys. But whoever conducts your survey or whatever name it goes by, they should all be up to a minimum standard of an SCSI Type 2 report.

Who can conduct a pre-purchase survey?

There are several different professions who may be suitable to conduct a pre-purchase residential survey. The most important knowledge the need to possess is related the ability assess the structural integrity of a building, any defects associated with wear and tear or poor maintenance. They would also both be familiar with various building and planning regulations among other skills.

The most common roles/professions who contain this knowledge in Ireland include Building Surveyors, Engineers, Architects and Architectural Technologists. In addition to the knowledge, you should also ensure the surveyor is experienced in carrying out residential surveys AND carries appropriate PI Insurance.

Anyone of these can call themselves "surveyors" for the purpose of conducting pre-purchase surveys. However, the title "Building Surveyor" is a protected title in Ireland and anyone using this title must be on the SCSI register.

Who Pays for a Survey?

In Ireland, the buyer pays for a surveyor to conduct a survey. As the seller is not required to disclose any known issues before selling, the onus fall on the buyer to do their due diligence before signing contracts as once contracts are signed, you are committed to the purchase.

What can I do if the surveyor finds issues? Can I renegotiate?

The short answer here is yes. Until you sign contracts you can change your bid. However the vendor does not accept the new offer.

Generally, we'd only recommend attempting to renegotiate if the surveyor finds costly issues which were not disclosed by the vendor or agent. When buying a second hand property, there will be dozens of minor issues. This is part and parcel with houses which have been lived in! Even the most well maintained and cared for properties will have issues.

If the surveyor does identify any serious and costly issues, you have 4 options:

1: Attempt to renegotiate a price to account for the cost of repair.

2: Request the seller to fix the issues.

3: Continue with the purchase as is.

4: Pull out of the sale.

For 1&2, the vendor does not have to accept and may simply decide to not sell to you if you push the issue

How long does a survey take?

This depends on the size and condition of the property, but it can take between 1-2 hours on average to conduct the inspection at the property and then another 1-2 hours to complete the written report. Depending on the property, solicitor requests etc. There may be some additional prep work or follow up too.

It should be noted that surveyors charge by job, not by hour.

The total turnaround time from booking to receiving your written report will vary from company to company, however maintain an average turnaround time of under 5 working days.

Does the surveyor check the roof?

Yes. The surveyor will view the external roof from ground level and view the inside of the structure from the attic.

Does the surveyor conduct a planning search?

No. Your solicitor is normally responsible for arranging/requesting a planning search of the property and surrounding area. The surveyor will advise if any changes to the property (extensions, conversions, porches etc.) require a certificate of planning or exemption.

Who should I share my survey with?

Solicitor - Yes. As soon as you receive survey.

Bank/Broker - No. Only if they request one for drawdown

Estate Agent - No. Only if you are using survey findings to renegotiate

Does the surveyor check for Pyrite or Mica?

A survey is not a conclusive test for Pyrite in the foundation backfill or Mica in the blocks as that requries sampling and lab tests. However, a surveyor will be looking out for signs of structural damage that is caused by the presence of Pyrite or Mica and will flag this in the report.


Every single property and purchase is different and so if you have any questions which are not covered above, feel free to ask us by emailing and we'll get back to you!

If you are sale agreed and ready to book your survey, just go to and click on "Get Survey Now"


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