I saw a flat (in London), made an offer and received a counter-offer. I wonder what should be my next step and I get two types of advice. As far as I understand, the most standard practice is to first agree on the price, make an "offer subject to survey" and once it is accepted order a survey. But I also get an alternative advice to first order a survey and only then make my counter-counter offer.

Is it OK (common) to order a survey before getting the offer accepted? The flat is empty now, so it should be possible to order a survey, I guess. Also, how many days does it take to complete a full (structural) survey? The flat is quite typical, first (top) floor of a maisonette, about 50 years old.

What I want, is to minimise the price that I pay (obviously), but also I don't want to annoy the seller too much by slowing down the process.

3 Answers 3


Do not order the survey before your offer has been accepted.

You can do some research now to identify recommended structural surveyors, ring them up and ask them for typical prices etc etc, but don't actually book or pay for a survey until your offer has been accepted.

You can reasonably expect that you will end up offering on multiple properties before one has been accepted, and you would not want to have to fork out for a survey on each of them - it is likely to cost a small number of hundreds of pounds at a minimum.

Note that when I say "your offer has been accepted" I mean a verbal acceptance. You need to have had the survey done before it comes to signing on the dotted line (exchanging contracts). The survey, conveyancing and any local authority searches etc are done in the time between verbal acceptance and the actual exchange of contracts.

Also do understand that the verbal acceptance of your offer doesn't actually mean anything legally and the seller is still free to pull out (or to make it so that you have no other choice to pull out), but at least the verbal acceptance means you know you have a reasonable chance of being able to make the deal assuming both of you are operating in good faith. On one occasion I threw away thousands of pounds on survey, legal fees and searches on a house where the seller turned out not to be operating in good faith, and after accepting my offer he dragged his feet for so long (almost a year) that I ended up pulling out as we could not agree a date to exchange. That was very frustrating (and I drive past his house every day, he's still living there 15 years later and clearly had/has no intention of moving).

  • 4
    +1; it may also be worth pointing out that there is no need to make an "offer subject to survey" because as you say, the agreement at this stage is not binding anyway. Just make a standard unconditional offer and then do the survey. Also, to be clear, it is not the fact that the offer is verbal that makes it non-binding, it is because contracts for the sale of land have specific formalities. OP can make their initial offer in writing or verbally; it makes no difference provided that there is no signed agreement.
    – JBentley
    Commented Oct 19, 2021 at 11:01
  • The other thing I should have said is that the house doesn’t have to be empty for you to have a survey done. The current residents should let the surveyor have access.
    – Vicky
    Commented Oct 19, 2021 at 20:07

Don’t pay for a survey, or anything else such as searches, until you’ve made an offer and had it accepted. That offer and acceptance aren’t actually binding on you or the vendor, and you can always revise the offer or withdraw it completely once you have seen the survey result.


Is it OK (common) to order a survey before getting the offer accepted?

This is extremely uncommon. Depending on how popular the property is they may have received several offers in 1 day. They'll obviously have to reject all but one offer, usually the highest.

It's a waste of time and money do survey before you know your offer has been accepted.

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