Once you have had a proceedable offer accepted on a property, it's essential to get a professional survey done to find out about the condition of the building and make sure that it's worth the price you're paying.
You will have to pay for a mortgage valuation in order to secure a mortgage offer, but this should not be confused with a survey. The mortgage valuation merely confirms to the lender that the property is worth the money it's lending you - The valuer is only concerned with problems that might affect the security of the loan, not whether you have any structural problems that need fixing.
There are principally three levels of survey:
This covers structural safety and highlights problems, including damp, as well as anything that doesn't meet current building regulations. It takes two to four hours to complete, giving an independent and expert view on the property's condition.
Home condition survey:
This tells you about the condition of the property, whether there are potential problems you should investigate further and what the rebuild cost of the property is for insurance purposes.
This survey is for older properties and those of a non-standard construction (e.g. timber). It usually takes longer to complete, depending on the size of the property. A building survey gives a detailed report on the condition of the property and highlights issues that should be investigated further before going ahead with the purchase.