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Types of House Surveys

Full Building Survey vs HomeBuyer Survey

Types of house surveys

RICS surveys are essentially property health checks. They are detailed inspections that check a property’s condition and structure. If you are buying a home, you can choose between 3 levels of survey: a Full Building Survey (also known as a Level 3, or ‘Full Structural’ survey) a HomeBuyer Survey (Level 2) or a Condition Survey (Level 1).

Knowing what a house survey is and when you need one can even save you money. Your report can be used to negotiate the price of the property and will help you decide whether to proceed with the purchase. These surveys can also be helpful if you are selling, so that you are aware of any issues. This could help prevent difficult negotiations or a sale falling through at the last minute.

If you are a homeowner and have concerns about particular aspects of its structure or condition, a Specific Defect Survey will provide insight. You will also receive advice on remedial measures and associated costs.

If your home is covered by a shared equity scheme such as Help to Buy, or if you are looking to use a Right to Buy scheme, you will need an RICS Valuation. This will give you an independent assessment of your property’s value.

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In a Nutshell:

A Level 3 Full Building Survey will provide a comprehensive assessment of the structure and condition of the property. It also includes estimated costs of any repairs that are required. The detail provided in this type of survey will give you a thorough understanding of what you are buying. Industry guidelines recommend Full Building Surveys if your property is old, run-down, a large or luxury property, or has unusual features. This type of survey is also recommended if you plan to do any significant work to the property.

A Level 2 HomeBuyer survey provides a visual inspection of areas that are reasonably accessible. The survey looks for serious problems that are readily evident, but does not go into detail on the structural integrity of the property. If your property is fairly new, conventionally built and appears to be in good condition, then guidelines recommend a HomeBuyer survey.

Level 1 Condition reports are also available from some surveying firms. These provide a brief assessment of the property’s condition to give you an overview of its current state. These are very concise and so are really only suited to modern properties that appear to be in good condition.

The person purchasing the property normally organises the building survey; they decide what type of survey to go for and how to act on the survey findings. Our guide on who organises a survey has more information on each step of the process.

The choice is yours. But for the peace of mind that comes with knowing your property inside out, we advise that you have a Full Building Survey, whatever your property type.

Level 3: Full Building Survey

Bespoke report tailored to you and your property. The surveyor can look into any particular issues you raise in detail.

Detailed advice on both visible defects and potential hidden problems.

Covers all accessible areas, including cellars, attics, under carpets and behind furniture.

Checks performance of services such as heating and drainage.

Covers both major issues and wear and tear defects. Discusses the implications of these faults.
Examines structural integrity, property build and construction materials in detail.
Includes comments on repairs that have already been made and building works that have been carried out.

Discusses repair options for defects, including timescales, cause of defects and scope, timescale and cost of remedial work.
Discusses future maintenance of the property, and the scope and costs of maintenance. Identifies areas that might need particularly frequent or costly maintenance.

Reinstatement costs and market valuation included upon request.

Level 2: HomeBuyer Survey

Set report format utilising a pre-determined template.

Only visible defects are described.

Covers easily accessible areas.

Services are only checked visually.

Covers only serious issues and those that affect property value.

Briefly notes repairs and maintenance that might be required but does not discuss options in detail. Costs are not provided.

Includes reinstatement costs and market valuation upon request.

How are building surveys and HomeBuyer surveys carried out?

The RICS (our governing body) sets out standards that all surveyors should stick to. Here are some of their examples of the differences between level 2 and 3 surveys:


Level 3, Building Survey:

Possessions and curtains will be moved where feasible to carry out detailed inspections.

The surveyor will try and open all windows where possible.



Level 2, HomeBuyer Survey: 

Heavy curtains and occupier possessions will not be repositioned to inspect windows.

One window of each type present at the property is opened on each side of the property.



Level 3, Building Survey:

The surveyor will go into the roof space, visually inspect it and, where possible, will lift corners of insulation to assess the insulation itself and the ceiling below.

A small number of objects will be repositioned to allow a more thorough inspection.



Level 2, HomeBuyer Survey: 

The surveyor will go into the attic space and visually inspect it.

Possessions will not be repositioned.



Level 3, Building Survey:

Loose carpets and other floor coverings will be lifted to inspect floors.
The extent of any slopes and deflections will be measured.
If possible, the surveyor will carry out a detailed inspection of the underfloor area, by either entering the under-floor area or by using cameras or mirrors.



Level 2, HomeBuyer Survey: 

Only exposed floors are inspected.

Does not include lifting carpets or floor coverings, or moving furniture.

Where floors have unfixed access hatches/panels or floorboards, the surveyor will look under the flooring.

Our Survey Reports

Our surveys and reports are some of the most detailed in the industry. We go beyond simply describing the property condition; we are unique in that our surveys include comprehensive technical and structural advice. Our observations and assessments are explained thoroughly in straightforward language with photos throughout.

Don’t just take our word for it, download our example reports:


Our friendly and helpful team are happy to talk you through your options. You can contact them on: and 0333 200 7198