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Which Survey Should I Choose?
A Mortgage Valuation is not sufficient!
When buying your new home an independent survey is always recommended. You should not simply rely on the mortgage valuation, for several reasons:
- the mortgage valuer is instructed by the lender, and is working for them, not you
- the valuation may not be carried out by a RICS Surveyor, and may be cursory at best,
- the mortgage valuation is simply for the mortgage lender to check that if you default on your payments there will be enough residual value in the house for them to reposess and sell it, and recover the outstanding amount of the loan,
- to determine whether the property has defects that will require significant sums to rectify in the future
- or whether the purchase price is a fair open market price for the property
So, which survey do you need?
The RICS has 3 Levels of standardised survey type, categorising the minimum specification that each survey level covers.
- RICS Level 1 Condition Report
- RICS Level 2 HomeBuyer Report
- RICS Level 3 Building Survey also commonly known as a 'Full Survey' or 'Structural Survey'
(Details of what each of these survey levels cover are covered below)
The RICS sets a minimum standard for what is covered in the three levels of report. For consistency the RICS also recommends surveyors use the RICS standard report layout for Levels 1 and 2, and most surveyors will adhere to that. However, the report specifications provide scope for individual surveyors to customise, or even to create their own custom reports, provided they adhere to the overall scope and general format of the relevant RICS level.
This flexibility allows surveyors to adapt their methodology and presentation to suit local building conditions and materials. For example there can be significant differences between standard construction methods in urban brick built homes and stone built rural properties, and the RICS Levels are intended to create a consistent minimum level that can be applied to surveys for the different types of property across the country.
It should be noted that the RICS Survey levels set only a minimum specification for each survey type, and many surveyors will include additional information and photos to support their findings, and this is just one of the reasons that there can be quite a variation in survey fee.
This means that when comparing different surveyors' offerings you do need to check what exactly you will be getting for your money, whether the surveyor is sticking to one of the RICS standard surveys, or whether they are offering extra services and adding additional value. You would normally expect Level 1 and Level 2 surveys to more closely adhere to the standard RICS format, but Level 3 Building Surveys can have a lot more variation, as they are more in-depth, and are by definition aimed at older and more diverse properties.
You will also need to check if a valuation is included in the fee - a valuation is not included as standard in RICS Level 1 Condition Reports. RICS Level 2 HomeBuyer Reports are available with or without a valuation, RICS Level 3 Building Surveys do not usually include a valuation, and you will need to request this separately.
RICS Valuations are not surveys as such, but will generally involve a visual inspection of the condition of the property, together with desk research to determine the 'open market value' of the property in accordance with the RICS 'Red Book' guidance. RICS Valuations should only be prepared by an RICS Registered Valuer.
RICS Level 1 Condition Report
The RICS Level 1 Condition Report aims at providing a clear and concise overview of the condition of a property, without going into extensive detail. This report is the most basic of the RICS survey levels and is designed to complement the mortgage valuation. It does not include any advice or a valuation. The inspection of the property is less comprehensive than higher-level surveys, focusing on only the condition of the visible and accessible parts of the building, and the Identification of any major risks and urgent defects that are apparent at the time of the inspection.
It gives a simple "traffic light" rating system to highlight the condition of different parts of the property, where:
- Green (Condition Rating 1) indicates no repair is currently needed
- Amber (Condition Rating 2) suggests defects that need repairing or replacing but are not considered to be either serious or urgent.
- Red (Condition Rating 3) signifies serious defects that need urgent repair or replacement, or that need further investigation by a specialist.
This report is most suitable for new-build homes or conventional homes in a good condition, where the buyer simply wants a basic check that there are no significant problems. It is particularly useful for buyers who are confident about the general state of the property but require formal documentation to confirm there are no visible major issues.
The RICS Level 1 Condition Report is often chosen by buyers looking for a cost-effective way to gain assurance about the property they are considering purchasing, without the need for detailed advice on repairs or maintenance.
RICS Level 2 HomeBuyer Report
The RICS Level 2 HomeBuyer Survey is a more detailed survey than the RICS Level 1 Condition Report, and is designed to provide homebuyers with a more comprehensive assessment of the condition of a property. It is particularly suited to conventional properties in reasonable condition built in the last 150 years, and aims to give you an understanding of any issues that could affect your decision to buy and at what price.
It doesn’t detail every aspect of the property, and only focuses on urgent matters needing attention. It’s not usually suitable for properties that have been significantly altered, are in need of renovation, or if you’re planning major alterations, in which case you should consider a Level 3 Building Survey.
A standard Level 2 HomeBuyers Report includes details of:
- The general condition of the property
- Any major faults in accessible parts of the building that may affect the value
- Any urgent problems that might need inspecting by a specialist before you sign a contract
- Results of tests for damp in the walls
- Damage to timbers – including woodworm or rot
- The condition of any damp-proofing, insulation and drainage (though drains aren’t tested)
- The estimated cost of rebuilding the property for insurance purposes
As with the RICS Level 1 Report, the Level 2 HomeBuyer Report uses a simple "traffic light" system to rate the condition of various parts of the property, with:
- Green (Condition Rating 1) indicating no repair is currently needed.
- Amber (Condition Rating 2) suggesting defects that need repairing or replacing but are not considered to be either serious or urgent.
- Red (Condition Rating 3) highlighting serious defects that need urgent repair or replacement, or that need further investigation by a specialist.
It focuses on identifying significant problems that could affect the property's value, including structural movement, dampness, rot, and woodworm, and will highlight any defects that require urgent attention or are serious enough to affect the property's safety.
Unlike the Level 1 Condition Report, it will provide advice on repairs and maintenance, giving you a clearer understanding of what actions you may need to take after purchase.
A Level 2 HomeBuyer report should provide the cost of rebuilding the property for insurance purposes. Optionally the RICS Level 2 HomeBuyer Survey may include a market valuation. You can choose whether to have a valuation included or not when you search. Market valuations by a RICS Valuer involve more work, so are usually more expensive. As not all RICS surveyors are accredited RICS valuers you may get a different selection of surveyors from your search.
RICS Level 3 Building Survey
The RICS Level 3 Building Survey, often referred to as a 'Full Survey' or a 'Structural Survey', is the most comprehensive of the 'standard' RICS home surveys. Although suitable for all properties, it's highly recommended for older or unusual properties, or ones that have either been significantly modified in the past, or that you intend to modify. It goes into more depth than the other RICS survey levels such as the Level 1 Condition Report or Level 2 HomeBuyer survey.
A Level 3 Building Survey is generally less standardised, and is often tailored to suit the specifics of the property and the local building conditions and materials. Although a Building Survey should meet the minimum Level 3 RICS standards, the content, format and scope of the report may vary considerably between surveyors. So when choosing your surveyor we recommend discussing your requirements to make sure the report covers any particular aspects you may have concerns about.
In general, a RICS Level 3 Building Survey examines all accessible parts of the property - and you can ask to have specific areas included, so it addresses any particular concerns you have about the building. It is a survey which can be tailored to your needs, agreed between you and your surveyor.
The RICS Level 3 Building Survey is the most comprehensive and detailed of the standard RICS property surveys, designed to provide an in-depth analysis of a property's condition, including its structure, construction, and fabric. This survey is particularly recommended for:
- Listed buildings
- Older properties
- Buildings constructed in an unusual way, however old they are
- Properties you plan to renovate or alter in any way
- Properties that have had extensive alterations in the past
Typically a Level 3 Building Survey provides a thorough examination of the property's visible and accessible features, offering an in-depth analysis of the condition and construction of the building. It looks for a wide range of issues, including structural problems, dampness, decay, insulation, and potential hazards. The survey highlights any defects and offers advice on repairs and maintenance.
The report includes detailed technical information on the construction of the property and the materials used, which is particularly useful for older or unique properties. Unlike the simpler traffic light system used in the RICS Level 1 and 2 surveys, the Level 3 Building Survey provides a more detailed understanding of each issue's severity and implications.
Additionally a RICS Level 3 Building Survey should include guidance on repair options, including suggestions for dealing with any identified issues and an indication of the relative costs and priorities, also advice on future maintenance to help you plan for ongoing upkeep and potential costs.
No Market Valuation
A Building Survey doesn’t usually include a valuation, but your surveyor may be able to provide this separately if you need one. Any valuation has to be prepared by a RICS Registered Valuer, and there will be an additional charge.
General limitations on surveys
It is worth stressing that all standard survey types are 'non-destructive' - in other words they won't cover areas that cannot be easily accessed; surveyors aren't usually able to raise carpets or flooring, check under insulation in roof-spaces, or remove contents of cupboards to gain access for example.
Access may also be limited by the current home owner. If you have concerns about any specific aspect of the property where access might be restricted, it's worth speaking to your surveyor about the options available, including the possibility of improving access arrangements.
Surveyors will generally not be able to advise on remedial work in many specialist areas, such as plumbing, damp-proofing, heating, gas or electrical installations, as these are regulated professions where only licenced or registered professionals are allowed to work. Their report may highlight observable problems, but will not offer specific recommendations other than to recommend gaining the appropriate specialist advice.
How Our Site Works
How it Works
Our RICS Surveyors cover the whole of the UK. All of the surveyors or firms listed on our site are RICS Registered and Regulated - either AssocRICS, MRICS, FRICS, or RICS Regulated Firms, so you can be sure that your survey will be carried out to the highest professional standards.
Getting an estimate for a standard home survey is as simple as 1, 2, 3...
1. Enter your property details
2. Enter your contact details, and
3. Press Search - what could be simpler?
You will receive estimates for your survey from up to five RICS Surveyors operating in your postcode. These estimates and the surveyor details will be displayed on screen, and also emailed to you for you to follow up. Your details will also be sent to the listed surveyors so they can contact you to discuss your requirements in more detail.
If you need something other than a standard survey for a home purchase, then simply click on one of the 'Survey Types' options from the main menu to find a relevant surveyor.
I didn't get 5 results/estimates, why is that?
The maximum number of estimates you will receive is 5, and in most urban areas, for the common survey types, you will receive a full complement. But in some areas the actual number may be fewer, depending upon the number of surveyors offering the specific service you require, as:
a) not all surveyors will offer all survey types in their chosen territories, and
b) some areas, particularly more rural areas, simply have fewer surveyors covering them!
Do quoted fees include VAT?
Yes, fees include VAT where applicable. But note not all surveyors are VAT registered, particularly independent surveyors or smaller practices who's prices will be shown without VAT.
Are your surveyors all local to my postcode?
Results will list surveying firms of a mixture of sizes and locations. Some are independent practitioners, and others may be larger firms covering wider areas. Smaller firms and independent surveyors tend to be highly localised - they don't like to waste hours 'on the road' travelling between surveys!
Larger regional or semi-national firms with main offices that are located out of your immediate locality usually employ surveyors local to the postcodes they appear in for the same reason, so you can expect that the surveyor carrying out your survey for any firm appearing in your search results will have a good knowledge of your local area. Just because the main office of a surveying firm is distant from your location does not mean the actual surveyor carrying out your survey is not local!
If you are in any doubt as to the local knowledge of the surveyors returned, we'd recommend you simply ask about their experience of your locality before you choose.
Why do you ask for the postcode and address of the property?
We need your postcode to find local surveyors actively operating in the area. The full address helps surveyors answer any questions you may have based on the specific property, and its location, for which you require the survey.
Why do you ask for my contact details?
We need these to email your estimates to you, and so the surveyors can contact you to discuss your exact requirements. If you choose to withold your contact information (by entering dummy information for example) you will still be able to view your search results on screen, but they will not be emailed to you. If you prefer to be emailed but not called, simply enter 'please don't call me' or a series of zeros in the telephone number field.
Can I withhold my contact details?
You can if you wish, but if you choose to withold your contact information (by entering dummy information for example) we will not be able to email your estimates to you, although you will still be able to view your search results on screen. If you want to receive confirmation of your estimates by email but prefer not to be called, simply enter 'please don't call me' or a series of zeros in the telephone number field.
What do you do with my details?
Details of your survey estimate and the contact details you provide are are stored in our database, and sent to the surveyors shown in results so they can respond to you. They are prohibited from using your data for any other purpose.
Is your site secure?
Our website uses a Secure Socket Layer (commonly called an SSL certificate) to encrypt all data being transmitted between your browser and our webserver using the https protocol to ensure that no personal information can be intercepted. Click on the padlock in your browser address bar for details of our SSL certificate.
Are all your surveyors RICS surveyors?
Yes. All the surveyors or firms listed on our site are RICS accredited - either AssocRICS, MRICS, FRICS, or RICS Regulated Firms. Results may also return estimates for companies such as Your Survey, that provide a centralised 'outsourced' marketing, booking and administration service for individual RICS regulated surveyors.
Why is there a difference between quotes from different surveyors for the same type of survey?
Most surveyors base their fees on the amount of time taken to carry out the property inspection and prepare their final report.
They will generally include an allowance for covering their travel time and mileage to and from the property, and time to answer any follow up questions.
Although Level 1 and Level 2 surveys (RICS Condition Report and RICS HomeBuyer Report) have to meet the RICS standard minimum scope, there can be variations to that. For example, some surveyors may include more detailed photos and additional information. Although the minimum RICS specification should be met, the survey may include 'extras' that add to the cost. This variation can be more marked for Level 3 surveys (Building Surveys), where reports may be more in-depth and more customised.
Many surveyors will provide sample reports, and it is worth requesting a copy of these to compare before giving your instruction to proceed to check you are comparing 'like-with-like'.
Another factor to consider is VAT. The fees quoted on our site include VAT where applicable. However, not all surveyors are VAT registered, particularly independent surveyors with smaller practices, and that will be reflected in their quoted fee.
Are the quotes on your site binding?
No. The fees quoted on our site are estimates based on a conventional property of standard construction, so should be correct for 'normal' urban properties.
However, if properties are older, or have been modified, for example through the addition of extensions, garages, conservatories, or loft rooms etc, then there might be extra costs involved. This would particularly apply to properties that have additional outbuildings or annexes. You should always check that the surveyor is aware of these, or any specific concerns you want addressed, in order to obtain a confirmed quotation.