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What Sort Of Survey Should I Have?

Property Saviour » Surveys » What Sort Of Survey Should I Have?

If you have accepted an offer on a property, you may be wondering if you need a house survey and, if so, which one.

This article looks at different types of house surveys, home survey costs, which kind of home survey is suitable for your property, where to find a reliable surveyor, and, most importantly, how to get the most out of your survey.

Table of Contents

What is a house survey?

A house survey is an inspection by experts of the condition of a property. Surveyors assess the property, identify any issues – from minor to significant structural problems – and indicate the necessary repairs or alterations, whether it’s a damp patch or a complete roof replacement.

The surveyor’s report also contains expert commentary on aspects of the property, such as the type of walls and glazing.

The home buyer is usually the one to organize a house survey once their offer is accepted by the seller. It is the buyer who arranges and pays for the survey.

Do I need to get a house survey?

You don’t have to get a survey done on the property you are buying. But a survey can help you avoid unexpected, expensive surprises, such as a rewiring job.

Moreover, it can give you peace of mind, confirming that hairline cracks, for instance, do not indicate the house is collapsing. With the high cost of buying a property, a few hundred pounds for an independent, expert surveyor to review it does seem like a smart investment.

With the survey data, it might be worth reconsidering whether to buy the property or use impartial information to renegotiate the price.

For example, if it needs £15,000 worth of roof repairs, it’s reasonable to ask for a reduction of £15,000. Alternatively, you could request the seller to address any issues before purchase.

If you’re wondering whether you should get a survey when buying a house, we strongly recommend it. This is especially true if:

  1. You have any particular concerns about the property;
  2. You’re unsure of the condition of the property;
  3. You’re looking to buy an old or an unusual property;
  4. The property has a thatched roof or is timber framed;
  5. It’s a listed building.
What Sort Of Survey Should I Have
The RICS Home Survey Level 3, formerly known as the RICS Building Survey, is the most comprehensive survey available from RICS.

Types of house survey 

There are various types of house surveys available. The one you choose will depend on the depth of the survey you want, your budget, and the age and condition of the property. To learn more about the different types of surveys, read on.

In 2021, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) released updated formats for home survey reports. So what was once known as Condition Report, HomeBuyer Report and Building Survey have been changed and updated. In 2023, these are the types of surveys available.

  • The RICS Home Survey Level 1 is the most basic and least expensive survey out there. It is suitable for residential properties made of common building materials that are in decent condition. It was formerly known as a Condition Report.

The Level 1 survey provides an easy-to-read ‘traffic light’ rating of the condition of different areas of the building, the services, and the grounds. It indicates any issues that need attention and the relative importance of these issues

The report also includes a summary of potential risks to the building, people, and grounds. However, it does not provide in-depth information, nor does it offer advice or a valuation.

  • RICS Home Survey – Level 2 is the mid-level survey that is a popular choice for people buying a conventional property in reasonable condition. It provides all of the elements of a RICS Home Survey Level 1, plus a check of the roof spaces and cellars. Additionally, it makes recommendations for further investigations when the property surveyor is uncertain.

The report advises on the budget for repairs and the ongoing maintenance required. This survey can be done with or without a valuation.

If you choose to include a valuation, it will provide you with the market value, insurance reinstatement figure, and a list of potential issues that may impact the property’s value.

RPSA Home Condition Survey

The Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) offers Home Condition Surveys as an equivalent to RICS’ Home Survey Level 2.

These surveys are produced in a consistent, consumer-friendly format and are regularly checked to guarantee their quality and consistency. Furthermore, they provide important information like broadband speed, damp assessment and boundary issues, which the conveyancer must take into account.

RICS Home Survey – Level 3

The RICS Home Survey Level 3, formerly known as the RICS Building Survey, is the most comprehensive survey available from RICS.

It is the best choice if you are purchasing a property that is over 50 years old, has an unusual design, is a listed building, or is in poor condition; or if you are planning renovations or have any doubts about the property. While these surveys are more expensive, they are very thorough.

The Level 3 survey includes everything you’d receive in a RICS Home Survey Level 2. It also explains any risk, visible defects and any concealed defects in areas that can’t be inspected. The survey outlines the scope of repair work required and the potential consequences of not carrying out the repairs.

Plus, you’ll get recommendations for the priority and estimated timeline of the necessary repairs.

RPSA Building Survey
RPSA building survey supplies information that goes beyond what is provided by the Home Condition survey.

RPSA Building Survey

The RPSA Building Survey is the most comprehensive, non-invasive survey available. It provides a full description of the property’s structure and any defects, as well as advice on how to rectify them and the potential consequences of not doing so.

House survey costs: What you need to know?

The cost of your survey will depend on the location, size and type of property. To get the best value, it’s wise to compare quotes from different surveyors.

The following figures are a rough guide to what you may expect to pay based on the price of the property you are buying.

Level of report and property price (£)

£100,000-£249,000

£250,000-£349,000

£350,000-£499,000

£500,000-£1m

RICS Home Survey - Level 1

£500

£600

£700

£950

RICS Home Survey - Level 2/RPSA Home Condition Survey

£500-600

£600-700

£700-800

£1,000

RICS Home Survey - Level 3/RPSA Building Survey

£700-750

£800-900

£900-£1,100

£1,500

What Does a House Survey Include?

The table below explains what to expect from each survey and what your surveyor checks for. This will help you pick which type of survey you need when buying a house.

What’s Included?

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Allows buyers to be fully informed on the property’s condition.

Yes

Yes

Yes

Identifies problems that could help with price negotiations.

Yes

Yes

Yes

Provides a condition rating of the property.

Yes

Yes

Yes

Highlights issues needing urgent attention.

Yes

Yes

Yes

Provides advice for your legal advisers.

Yes

Yes

Yes

Provides professional advice from the surveyor.

Yes

Yes

Yes

Includes a report on construction and structural defects.

Yes

Yes

Includes a market valuation.

Yes

Suitable for any property type.

Yes

Yes

Informs mortgage lenders whether the property is suitable security

Yes

House surveys vs mortgage valuations

When you apply for a mortgage, the mortgage lender will carry out a valuation on the property to make sure it’s worth roughly what you’re planning to pay for it.

The mortgage valuation is sometimes called a valuation ‘survey’, but this can be misleading.

A mortgage valuation is nowhere near comprehensive enough to take the place of a proper house survey.

It sometimes won’t even involve anyone visiting the property in person.

So you should always arrange your independent survey after you’ve had an offer accepted, to make sure you’re not overpaying for your new home or about to buy a property with significant problems.

How to find a surveyor?

House surveyors come in all shapes and sizes, from small local firms to much larger companies. It’s important to make sure they’re registered with either RICS or RPSA before you hire them.

To find a RICS-accredited surveyor, visit www.ricsfirms.com, or to find an RPSA surveyor, email [email protected] or visit www.rpsa.org.uk/surveys.

Many home buyers also look for surveyors in local listings, through personal recommendations, or comparison websites. Sometimes, estate agents or mortgage lenders might suggest a surveyor too.

It’s wise to check their suggestion and do your research to make sure you’re getting the best deal as they may receive a commission for making the recommendation.

Get the Most Out of Your Survey

Make Sure You Do the Following:

  1. Read the Terms of Engagement the surveyor provides. This will inform you of what will and will not be included in the survey.
  2. Confirm when the surveyor will be carrying out the inspection and when you can expect the report.
  3. Ensure you have direct contact with the surveyor conducting the inspection, so you can ask any questions that may arise.
What sort of survey should I get?
The surveyor's report also contains expert commentary on aspects of the property, such as the type of walls and glazing.

What Sort Of Survey Should I Have?

The duration of a house survey depends on the type of survey you choose and the size of the property. A basic survey may take one hour, while a mid-range survey may take up to three hours.

A full structural survey can vary significantly depending on the type of property, with some taking an entire day.

For example:

  • A RICS Level 1 survey typically takes an hour to complete.
  • A RICS Level 2 survey (previously known as homebuyer surveys) can take up to four hours.
  • A RICS Level 3 survey – a full structural survey – can vary greatly in terms of how long it takes to complete, and it may take an entire day.

What do the different types of house survey include/exlude?

Let’s take a closer look at what you get in each type of house survey.

1. What's included in a Level 1 Survey (Condition Report)?

This is the most basic type of survey, providing an overview of the property’s overall condition without going into too much detail. It will highlight any significant risks, urgent defects and potential legal issues.

A Level 1 Survey is ideal for standard, modern properties and for homes that appear to be in good condition. It’s also suitable for relatively new builds.

What a Level 1 Property Survey covers
The duration of a house survey depends on the type of survey you choose and the size of the property

What a Level 1 Survey covers?

A Level 1 Survey includes:

Level 1 Survey includes inspecting the interior and exterior of the main building and all permanent outbuildings, along with the roof structure and other features that are visible from the access hatch.

Additionally, they inspect the visible parts of the gas, water and electricity services, and the condition of boundary walls, fences and areas of shared use.

A Level 1 Survey does not cover

Information about the efficiency or safety of electrical, gas or other energy sources, the efficiency of plumbing, heating or drainage installations, or whether they meet current regulations.

They also do not inspect the internal condition of any chimney, boiler or other flue, or check for contamination or other environmental dangers, such as asbestos.

However, if the surveyor suspects a problem, they will recommend further investigation.

2. What's in a Level 2 Survey (HomeBuyer Report)?

A Level 2 Survey used to be referred to as a HomeBuyer Report. It is more detailed than a Level 1 Survey, but not as in-depth as a Level 3 Survey.

This type of survey is suitable for most modern and conventional homes that are in reasonable condition and less than 50 years old. 

What's in a Level 2 Property Survey
Level 3 Surveys tend to be more expensive than other types of surveys. But it could save you thousands of pounds if any hidden problems are discovered.

What a Level 2 Survey covers

A Level 2 Survey includes:

  • Background information on the property and location
  • Information on the cost of re-building the property for insurance purposes
  • An inspection of the visible parts of the services, such as gas, water and electricity
  • The condition of boundary walls, fences and areas of shared use
  • Damp-proofing, including damp tests of the walls
  • Drainage (although drains are not tested)
  • An assessment of the building’s timbers, checking for woodworm or rot
  • Details of any urgent problems or defects that need fixing before a contract is signed or which may affect the property’s value

The cost of repairs and maintenance of any urgent defects.

A Level 2 Survey does not cover:

  • An inspection into contamination or other environmental dangers, such as the use of asbestos (although the surveyor may recommend further investigation if they suspect a problem)

An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), but the surveyor will review the most recent certificate from the appropriate central registry.

3. What's in a Level 3 Survey (Building or Structural Survey)?

A Level 3 Survey is also commonly known as a Building Survey or a Structural Survey. It is the most thorough type of survey for residential houses. It is an extensive inspection of the property.

A Level 3 Survey can be done on any type of property. However, they are particularly suitable for large or unique homes and properties that are over 50 years old.

Level 3 Surveys tend to be more expensive than other types of surveys. But it could save you thousands of pounds if any hidden problems are discovered.

What a Level 3 Property Survey covers
If you're unsure which type of survey is right for you, it's a good idea to consult a RICS surveyor. They can provide independent advice on which one would be best for you.

What a Level 3 Survey covers?

A Level 3 Survey includes:

A Level 3 Survey provides detailed advice on the condition of the property; an outline of any potential risks or hidden defects; a breakdown of how urgently the home needs repairs and approximate costs; and a thorough inspection of all visible and accessible parts of a building, such as roofs, walls, floors, windows and doors, chimneys, cellars, garages and outbuildings.

You can also ask your surveyor to look into certain aspects of the property if you have any concerns. Additionally, you can request a property valuation as part of the survey, or use it as a substitute for a mortgage valuation if your mortgage lender approves it.

A Level 3 Survey does not cover

Is the ability to open up the fabric of the building with the occupier or owner’s consent, or is there a risk of causing damage or injury?

If you’re unsure which type of survey is right for you, it’s a good idea to consult a RICS surveyor. They can provide independent advice on which one would be best for you.

When will I get my house survey report?

This depends on your surveyor and the complexity of the report. They’ll let you know how long it will take to provide the report. Generally, it shouldn’t take longer than five days (for a level one or two survey) or 10 days (for a level three survey).

When will I get my house survey report
If the property is already built, try to book a snagging survey before exchanging contracts.

Do you need a survey on a new build property?

For newly built properties, it’s advisable to get a professional snagging survey. This will help to detect any defects or issues that can be corrected before moving in.

These can range from minor problems like a door not fitting properly with the carpet to bigger structural issues.  These surveys cost between £300-£600.

If the surveyor identifies issues, then the seller is expected to fix them, or you can renegotiate the purchase price.

Is a Mortgage Valuation a Survey?

A mortgage valuation is not a survey – it’s a quick look at a property to figure out its worth. Your mortgage lender needs this to make sure the property has enough security for the loan. The lender will use a company they trust and you’ll have to pay for it.

The cost of a mortgage valuation depends on the size of the property – usually around £350.

Sometimes lenders offer free valuations as part of a mortgage deal, but it’s best to compare the interest rate – a lower rate will save you more money in the long run, even if you pay for the valuation.

Are homebuyer surveys a legal requirement?

When you’ve been accepted for a house offer, the best time to complete a homebuyer survey is immediately. This shows the seller you’re a serious buyer, speeding up the buying process.

Are homebuyer surveys a legal requirement
If the survey discovers big issues, you can either negotiate a lower price or decide not to go ahead with the purchase.

New-build snagging surveys

If you’re buying a new-build home, you don’t have to get a full house survey. But you may want to consider a snagging survey. This type of survey identifies any cosmetic issues such as uneven plaster, crooked tiles or sticking windows.

Depending on the size of the property, a snagging survey will cost around £300-£600. Some surveyors may provide a more detailed report that looks into structural or construction problems, though this will be more expensive.

You can provide the snagging report to your builder before you move in, allowing you to get any issues sorted as quickly as possible.

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