Home Buyers Surveys.

Surveyor outside house illustration

From basic home condition reports to comprehensive building surveys, homebuyers can choose from a range of residential property surveys. This guide helps you decide which survey is right for you.

Home surveys, costs and do I need one?

When you buy a property, it's more than just an investment; it's the place you might call home for many years. However, appearances can be deceiving. Issues that are not immediately apparent, such as structural problems, dampness, or wiring issues, can turn your dream home into a costly nightmare. This is where a home survey comes in.

What is a home survey?

A home survey is a detailed examination of a property's condition, conducted by a qualified home surveyor. Getting a survey will give you complete peace of mind as well as crucial insights into the property you're considering.

Carried out by Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) accredited surveyors, home surveys offer an impartial and expert professional assessment of the property's condition. They help you understand what you're buying and can highlight potential problems before you commit to the purchase.

Surveys typically cover areas like:

  • Whether there are any major structural issues, such as subsidence or a leaking roof
  • The need for any major repairs or alterations
  • Assesses damp proofing, drainage and insulation (drains are not tested)
  • Damage to timber e.g. woodworm or rot
  • The condition of the insulation and drainage
  • The condition of the windows
  • The potential cost of repairs

What are the different types of surveys?

Property Valuation Report

When you buy or remortgage a property, your lender will carry out a mortgage valuation to evaluate the property’s overall condition, and to confirm that the property's value covers the loan amount.

There are occasions when you, as a potential purchaser or homeowner, might want to obtain an independent property valuation.

You might be thinking of bidding at auction? Perhaps you are buying out or selling your share of a property to a co-owner? Maybe you need a valuation for estate planning purposes.

Whatever the reason, a Property Valuation Report is an independent valuation of a property’s value, carried out by a RICS Chartered Surveyor.

The RICS Home Survey – Level 1

Previously called a ‘Condition Report’, the Level 1 Survey is a basic assessment of the overall condition of the property. As a basic check, it's most suitable for buyers of new-build and conventional (brick and tile construction) modern homes that appear to be in good condition.

The report will assess the general state of the property, identify major issues or urgent defects, but it won’t go into detail about every aspect of the property.

Level 1 surveys are not a popular choice with buyers, who usually prefer a more comprehensive Level 2 survey, which costs marginally more.

See sample RICS Level 1 Survey Report

RICS level 2 Homebuyers report

The Level 2 report, previously the 'RICS HomeBuyers Report', is a detailed survey for conventional properties in reasonable condition. It includes a thorough inspection of both interior and exterior, focusing on structural integrity, including the roof, walls, windows, and checks for dampness and rot. Concealed areas like lofts, basements, and cellars are inspected where accessible and safe.

This report details visible defects and issues impacting property value, providing repair and maintenance advice, and suggests further investigations for serious defects. It also highlights urgent risks to the property or its occupants. The findings are presented in a clear, easy-to-understand traffic light system, categorising the severity of each issue.

See sample RICS Level 2 Survey Report

Optional market valuation*

If required, a Level 2 survey can also include a market valuation, an insurance reinstatement figure, and a list of problems or issues that may affect the value of the property.

*Level 2 survey quotes obtained through Completely Moved include a free upgrade to include an independent valuation.

See sample RICS Level 2 Survey with Valuation Report

RICS level 3 Building Survey

The Level 3 Survey, equivalent to the former 'RICS Building Survey', is the most extensive survey available for residential properties. It is particularly suited for older, larger, or uniquely structured properties, as well as those in need of repair or renovation.

The survey is a comprehensive examination of both the interior and exterior, assessing the property's structural integrity, and in-depth checks of the roof, walls, floors, and foundations. Access permitting, the survey also investigates areas prone to concealed problems, including lofts, cellars and outbuildings.

The report will cover significant and minor defects, potential structural issues, issues needing immediate attention, as well as advice on repairs and possible costs. Insights into potential future problems and the implications of failing to address existing issues may also be included. The Level 3 Survey may include photographs and diagrams, giving a complete overview of the property's condition.

See sample RICS Level 3 Survey Report

Which RICS Home Survey is right for me?

The following table sets out the key differences:

  RICS Level 1 Survey
(Previously called a Condition Report)
RICS Level 2 Survey*
(Previously called a Homebuyer’s Report)
RICS Level 3 Survey
(Previously called a Structural or Building Survey)
Completed by a RICS Chartered Surveyor with expert local knowledge
Describe the construction and condition of the property on the date of the inspection
Identify serious problems or those needing immediate attention
Identify potential problems needing further investigation
Identify potentially dangerous problems
Help you decide whether to proceed, reconsider or renegotiate on the purchase
Suitable for standard property types constructed of standard construction (brick and tile) and built after 1900
Help you budget for necessary and potential repairs  
Advise you on future and ongoing maintenance requirements  
Includes observations that could impact the legal title investigation carried out by your solicitor during the conveyancing process  
Suitable for properties built pre-1900 and/or of non-standard construction (e.g. thatch roof) or heavily modified or extended properties, or properties needing modernisation    
Advise you on construction methods and materials used, and how these will perform in the future    
Reveal and advise on hidden defects (access and safety permitting)    
Advise on repair options, urgency of problem, potential costs and timelines    
Comments on energy efficiency    
Appropriate for all properties regardless of age, type of construction, and state of repair    
Exhaustive in-depth survey on construction, issues and defects    
Traffic light condition ratings in an easy-to-understand format    
Independent property valuation  
(Included FREE)
Building reinstatement (rebuilding) costs for insurance purposes    

Which survey should I choose if I'm buying a flat?

If you are buying a modern, purpose-built flat, you should choose a Level 2 Home Survey. If you're considering a converted flat, or a flat within a period property, a Level 3 Survey is advisable.


Do I have to have a survey?

A property survey is not compulsory.

However, considering that buying a house is, for most people, the largest financial transaction of their life, failing to get the property inspected is ill-advised.

With the spiralling cost of buying a home, a survey may seem like an avoidable expense. However, if you buy a home and subsequently discover major problems, you could be thousands of pounds out of pocket.

Survey results can reassure you that the property is worth what you are paying for it. If issues arise or repairs are required, you can then go back to the vendor and negotiate the price, or stipulate any work you would like done on the property before you proceed.

How long does a home survey take?

The duration of a home survey will vary, depending on the type of survey, the size and condition of the property, and the type of survey you choose.

For a typical 4-bed home, a:

  • Valuation can usually be completed in 1-2 hours.
  • Level 2 surveys are more detailed and can take longer - sometimes up to half a day. The exact time will vary depending on the property's size and condition.
  • Level 3 surveys can usually be completed in half a day, but may take longer for larger, older, or more complex properties.

How long will it take to get my survey?

Our partners have multiple surveyors covering all areas in the UK. Many homebuyers need a fast turnaround and surveyor appointments are often available within a few days. Once the survey has been completed, you will receive the report within 3-5 days.  If you need a faster turnaround, please contact us and we will try and meet your deadline.

Which areas of the UK do you cover?

We cover all areas of the UK. Whether  the property is located in the middle of a city or a remote rural area, our panel of RICS accredited surveyors are available nationwide

Do I need a survey to sell a house?

No, although a survey is highly recommended, you are not legally required to get a survey when buying a property in England, Wales or Northern Ireland . In Scotland, however, a home survey is a legal requirement before a property can be put on the market.

Do I have to be there to meet the surveyor?

No, as a buyer, you do not need to be present when the surveyor conducts the home survey. Surveyors will contact the seller ort agent to obtain access to the property.

If you would like to attend the survey to ask questions and get immediate insights, please let us know when booking the survey.

Do l  still need a survey if I've had a mortgage valuation  survey?

Yes, it's still advisable to have a RICS home survey even if you've had a mortgage valuation survey.

A mortgage valuation survey is primarily for your mortgage lender's benefit, to ensure the property is worth approximately the loan amount. It's not a detailed inspection of the property's condition and it will not reveal potential structural issues, or other problems that might require expensive repairs.

Do I need a survey on a new-build home?

Yes, it's advisable to have a survey on a new-build home to identify snags and construction defects that might be overlooked. A survey will help ensure that the building work has been completed to the requisite standard and in accordance with planning and building regulations.  Choosing an independent surveyor who is not tied to the lender, however, may offer a more impartial assessment. You may not, for example, want your survey results to be disclosed to the lender as it could affect the terms of your mortgage.

Should I use my mortgage lender's recommended surveyor?

Your lender may offer to upgrade your mortgage valuation to a RICS Level 2 or 3 survey, which may seem like a cost-effective option.  

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