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Types of house survey

Ashton Berkhauer
Written by  Ashton Berkhauer
Updated: 18 Mar 2024

What is a house survey?

A house survey is an essential component of the homebuying process, conducted by an independent surveyor from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). This independent assessment is designed to uncover any structural issues that could influence your decision to purchase the property. It's a thorough check-up of the home's health, and it can be a critical tool in your homebuying arsenal.

Surveyors are not just looking for cracks in the walls or a leaky roof; they provide a market valuation that lenders use to ensure the property's price is justified. This valuation is a key piece of information for both buyers and lenders, as it confirms the investment is sound.

The findings from a house survey can be quite revealing. They may uncover structural problems that require immediate attention, such as subsidence or roof damage. This knowledge allows you as the buyer to renegotiate the purchase price or, in some cases, decide to withdraw from the purchase altogether.

What types of house survey are there?

RICS offers three main levels of house surveys, each designed to cater to different needs and budgets. Understanding the scope of each will help you decide which one is right for your potential new home.

RICS Level 1

The most basic option is the RICS Level 1 survey, known as a Condition Report. This survey is limited to visual checks and does not include a market valuation or rebuild cost. It uses a simple traffic light system to indicate the condition of various parts of the property and is generally the least expensive option, costing between £300 and £900.

RICS Level 2

For those seeking more detail, the RICS Level 2 survey is an intermediate option. It provides a comprehensive visual inspection of the property, identifying any major structural issues. This survey also includes a valuation and rebuild cost, which is useful for mortgage lenders. The report uses a traffic light system to highlight the condition of different aspects of the property. The cost for a Level 2 survey ranges from £400 to £1,000.

RICS Level 3

The most in-depth survey offered by RICS is the Level 3 survey, also known as a building survey. This comprehensive assessment includes everything from a visual inspection to an insurance rebuild cost. It delves into the details of services and structural issues, such as damp and woodworm, making it particularly suitable for larger or older properties. The cost for a Level 3 survey falls between £600 and £1,200.

Additionally, there is the Valuation Report, which is not a structural survey but a valuation provided by the mortgage lender to confirm the property's worth.

How much does a house survey cost?

The cost of a house survey varies depending on the level of detail required:

  • Level 1: £300 - £600

  • Level 2: £400 - £1,000

  • Level 3: £630 - £1,500

Survey price figures from Home Owners' Alliance and RICS.

Which kind of house survey should I get?

The choice of survey largely depends on the type of property you're buying and your personal budget. A Level 1 survey might be tempting due to its lower cost, but it may not be thorough enough for your needs, as it lacks a valuation and could miss significant issues. You would also need to arrange for a separate valuation from your lender.

A Level 2 survey is often sufficient for modern homes that appear to be in good condition without any obvious structural defects. It provides a good balance of detail and cost.

For properties that are over 150 years old, have been significantly altered, or have unique features, a Level 3 survey is advisable. While more expensive, it offers a comprehensive look at the property's condition and can provide peace of mind by revealing any major issues. Remember, sellers are not obligated to disclose all problems, so the more information you have, the better.

What is the most common type of house survey?

The Level 2 RICS survey is the most commonly chosen option by homebuyers. It strikes a balance between providing enough detail to uncover potential issues and being cost-effective for the average buyer.

Do I need a house survey?

While house surveys are not a legal requirement, they are highly recommended. They can help you avoid nasty surprises and the financial burden of major repairs after you've moved in. Even if you're buying a new build, a survey can identify any issues that might not be immediately apparent.

In the end, a house survey is a small price to pay for the assurance that your new home is a wise investment. With the insights provided by a professional surveyor, you can proceed with your purchase with confidence, knowing that you're making an informed decision.

Embarking on the journey of buying a home is an exciting time, and a house survey is a crucial step in ensuring that your dream home doesn't turn into a financial nightmare. By choosing the right survey for your needs, you can look forward to making memories in your new home without the worry of unexpected repairs lurking around the corner.