DIY House Survey

Check Your Home Before Buying

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When it comes to buying a house you have to be very thorough, it is an expensive purchase after all! You are obviously best of getting a professional to give your house a survey if you have any concerns at all, but even before you get that far there are a number of things that you should look at. By giving the house your own 'do it yourself' home survey, you can spot potential problems earlier and make sure the professional surveyor is aware of any issues and so can pay them more attention.

The following points give you an idea of the things you should look out for when doing your own home survey. Note that it is by no means an exhaustive list, and is not meant to replace a professional survey.

Check the House Utilites

Check that all the taps work correctly, look under the sink for leaks and likewise check ceilings for signs of water damage. Also check that things such as gas cookers, boilers, lights etc are all in working order. Take a look at the fuse box, is it a modern fuse box with lots of flip switches, or does it have old chunky fuse wire in it? The older the electrics the more likely there is to be a problem.

If possible see if you can play with the central heating, check that radiators switch on and off and the thermostat works correctly

Survey the doors and windows

Make sure that all the doors and windows open and close properly. Any jammed doors should be noted as there is a possibility that this is a sign of subsistence (although there are of course many other reasons for a jammed door). Check that the woodwork is sound, that the glazing is good, and all locks are in good order.

Check the house flooring

Make a note of the type of flooring in each room, is it concrete, laminate flooring, timbers, stone etc? For wooden floors etc jump around a bit and see if things move a great deal. Ask about any laminate flooring, it can often swell up in winter if it has't be laid correctly.

Look for a damp course in the house

Modern houses will have a damp course around 2-3 bricks off the ground. You should be able to see a plastic looking sheet just poking out of the brick work, the best places to spot it are around the front and back door. Ask the vendor about the damp coursing and see if they have any warranties for it. If you cant see one then make a note of it and tell the professional home surveyor.

Survey the roof

It may sound daft, but take some binoculars with you. Have a look at the house roof tiles and see if any are missing, check around the chimney stacks to see if you can see cracks or problems with the any lead lining. Also try to get up into the loft, make a note of how much insulation there is (100mm+ is typical for decent insulation), take a look at the woodwork and make sure it looks sound. Note that the presence of wood worm holes is not necessarily a problem. It is most likely that the woodworm upped and left when the wood was first dried out. If you are concerned then place some masking tape over an area of the wood, date it, and then talk to a surveyor about it. If woodworm is present then more holes will develop in the masking tape as they munch through.


Take a look at the house guttering, if it is the newer PVC guttering look out for patches that have been bleached by the sun and gone brittle. If you are buying an older house then it may have the metal guttering, in which case take a good look at any rust spots, paying particular attention to any joins. A well maintained guttering system will be regularly cleared of leaves, so this will give an indication as to how well it has been looked after.

Survey the brick work

Examine the outer brick work very carefully. First of all look for cracks in the bricks themselves and then look for cracks in the mortar. When checking brickwork it is best to take a step back and look for long diagonal crack across the wall, they are often hard to spot and may have been covered up by having the mortar re-pointed. The presence of cracks is quite normal in a house of any age, however they should all be check over by a professional home surveyor in case there is any subsistence.

Survey the interior walls as well, paying particular attention to any areas which had cracking on the external walls. Internal cracks are even more common than external cracks and are usually caused by plaster board drying out etc etc.

Check the bottom and tops of the walls for signs of damp, mildew, ruffled wall paper etc, these could all point to potential structural problems. 

Your Own Home Survey

Hopefully this list will give you some pointers on what to look out for when doing your own survey. The idea is to get a good feel for the overall build quality of the house, not to provide you with an exhaustive survey. If you have any problems or concerns then make sure you note them down and get a professional home surveyor to take a look.

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"Very Useful, thanks"

Simon Clegg



"Very helpful. Being picky, houses suffer subsidence not subsistence!"


"thank you very much i am buying new house i well used these tips"


"Thanks for that information - it was good. I put together a check-list from it and asked the sellers if we could go and have a look at their house. They sent it to their solicitors, who refused. Do you think that is suspicious? I am reminded of the phrase: "Never buy a pig in a poke""

Keith Brewin

"Thanks for the tips on the checks to make when viewing a house. I would not have taken notice of many of the things on your check list."

Chris Keating

"this is the best advise ever as not ever bought a house before top tips and they all are right "


"Very useful information - thank you!"


"Thanks for the tips, they will prove very useful for some viewings which I am conducting in the new year. There are definitely some points there that I would have missed.I have also passed these onto colleagues who will also find them very useful "free as well". "


"Thanks for the informaion, it is very much appreciated, and I learned quite a bit. Sincerely"


"Useful information, thanks - but surely you mean subsidence above not subsistence?!?"


"Thank you very much. The information on this page is very useful and I will be using your tips on my next viewing."

S Allen