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Carol Bryson MNAEA, Managing Director of JP Harll

Unless you are a Surveyor, a Builder or other Property Professional I would always recommend having a Survey of any property you intend buying.


If you are obtaining a mortgage on the property, the Mortgage Lender will have a Valuation carried out on their own behalf. This gives them a Valuation figure for their own lending purposes but not a Condition Report.


You should therefore have a Survey carried out for yourself, so that you understand what condition the property is in and to prevent any unwelcome surprises.


If you are not having a Mortgage on the property then I would recommend you obtain a Survey with a Valuation element attached to it.


Obtain a couple of quotes from different Surveyors, just like you would an Estate Agent or Solicitor as costs vary.  Ensure that they are qualified and members of either, The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or The Residential Property Surveyors Association.  Use a Surveyor local to the address of the property you want surveying as they will have local knowledge and experience of what is ‘normal’ for the area and local house prices.


Let’s have a look at the different Surveys available.  In 2021 RICS changed the names and formats of their Surveys.  What was, called a Condition Report is now a RICS Home Survey Level 1.  What was, called a Homebuyer Report is now a RICS Home Survey Level 2.  What was, called a Building Survey or Full Structural Report is now, called a RICS Home Survey Level 3.  The RPSA carries out a Home Condition Report that is the equivalent to a RICS Home Survey Level 2.


RICS Home Survey Level 1


The Level 1 Survey is the cheapest and provides a very basic overview of the condition of a property.   This survey is for clients looking for a professional and objective report on the condition of the property at an economic price. It includes a visual inspection that is less extensive than other survey levels. It is only suitable for conventionally built, modern properties in a satisfactory condition.  It does not provide any detailed guidance on condition, repairs required, ongoing maintenance or a Valuation.  No tests of the building fabric or services are undertaken.   


RICS Home Survey Level 2


The Level 2 Survey is a more in-depth survey than Level 1 and provides clients with an intermediate level of survey including a more extensive visual inspection of the building, its services, and grounds. This level of service suits a broader range of conventionally built properties.  A Home Survey Level two report does include some advice on repairs, though not detailed, and/or ongoing maintenance. Level 2 Surveys come with the option of including a Valuation or not.  No testing of the building fabric or services are undertaken. 


When determining the condition of a property, the Surveyor assesses the main parts of the building, the garage and some outside areas and provide them with a ‘Traffic Light’ and number system to help grade the urgency of maintenance that is needed.  They are divided into Red - elements that require urgent attention, Amber - elements that require attention, but are not serious or urgent and Green - elements with no current issues.


RICS Home Survey Level 3

The level 3 survey is a more expensive option.  Thorough and more detailed than the other surveys, the Surveyor will look at matters such as the materials used for each part of the building, defects and remedial options as well as issues related to the future maintenance of the property. It also details general recommendations in relation to priority, potential timescales for required work and an idea of potential costs.

You might choose to have one of these surveys if you are buying an older property, one you have concerns about or, if you are wanting to make alterations to the structure.

Although services are not tested, they are observed in normal operation. This level of service is for clients who are looking for a professional opinion based on a detailed assessment of the property.

It will include everything you would get in a RICS Home Survey Level 2, plus it will describe the identifiable risk and causes of potential or hidden defects in areas not inspected. It will outline the likely scope of any appropriate remedial work and explain the likely consequences of non-repair. Plus you’ll get recommendations in respect of the priority and likely timescale for necessary repairs.

RPSA Home Condition Survey


The RPSA Home Condition Survey is the equivalent of the RICS Home Survey Level 2.


RPSA Building Survey

The RPSA Building Survey is the highest level of non-invasive survey from RPSA. You get everything in the Home Condition survey plus a more comprehensive description of the properties construction and defects.   There will also be explanations of how to go about rectifying the defects and the consequences of not rectifying them.

RPSA Buy to Let Survey


The Buy to Let Survey is the only survey of its type, designed for a traditional property that is, or will be, let to tenants. A unique product that helps Landlords protect their investment while safeguarding the safety of the home for tenants.  It has all the benefits of the Home Condition Survey plus consideration of health and safety matters that are likely to have an impact on tenants occupying the property.

RPSA New-Build Snagging Survey

Is the only survey of its type and a must for new-build properties.  It Identifies ‘snags’ in the finishing quality of a build.  It is designed to help avoid conflict between the buyer and the developer by impartially identifying incomplete or cosmetically unacceptable works.

Make sure you fully understand which Survey you are paying for, what it includes and just as importantly what it does not include.  Ask when obtaining quotes so that you can understand when comparing.  To be honest, I never come across anyone wanting a Level 1 Survey.  A Level 2 doesn’t cost much more and you get so much more information for your money.  If you are getting a Level 2 Survey you want it including the Valuation for the comfort of knowing you aren’t paying too much  and you want to know it will still be standing in another 25 years or so when you might have just finished paying for it. 

Personally if I was paying £10k for a property - I’d be willing to pay 10% to protect the other £9k!