Background information and advice from The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Choosing Between Surveys

Why do I need my own survey?

The best way to reach an informed decision on such an important investment as a home is to have a professional survey and valuation of the property which interests you. Before you decide to go ahead and commit yourself legally, you can minimise the risks by asking a chartered surveyor to answer the following questions for you:

  • Are there any serious or urgent defects or specific risks with the property?
  • If so, what do I need to do about them?

Arranging your own survey is the simple, cost effective way to avoid unpleasant – and perhaps expensive – surprises after moving in. In some cases, the surveyor’s report may enable you to renegotiate the price of the property.

Do I still need my own survey if I already have a Mortgage Valuation report?

Even if you are seeking a mortgage and, as a result, may be paying for a Mortgage Valuation report, we still recommend that you arrange a survey by your own surveyor. Both the Consumers’ Association ‘Which’ magazine and the Council of Mortgage Lenders give this advice.

The reason for this is that the Mortgage Valuation report is prepared for the lender – not for you, the borrower. It answers only the lender’s questions about whether the property offers suitable security for your loan. You cannot rely on it to answer the questions that concern your personal interests or to give you details of the condition of the property. Also, some lenders do not provide a copy of their mortgage valuation report.

Did you know?

More and more banks, building societies and other mortgage lenders are not even instructing a valuation inspection so no one is checking the property you are buying.

What choice of surveys do I have?

RICS surveyors offer two forms of survey that are specifically designed to help homebuyers:

A Building Survey Level 3

(Formerly called a structural survey)

A Building Survey is suitable for all residential properties and provides full details of their construction and condition. You are likely to need this type of survey if, for example, the property is unusually built or run-down, if the property has been significantly altered or extended; or if a major conversion or renovation is planned.

Building surveys are usually tailored to the client’s individual requirements. The report includes detailed technical information on construction and materials as well as details of the whole range of defects, major and minor.


The RICS Home Survey an inspection and a report, and these are all explained in the ‘Description of the Home Survey’ the surveyor will give you. The RICS Home Survey is a standard format, and is different to a Building Survey in three main ways.

  • It is designed for particular types of home. These are houses, bungalows and flats that:
    • are of traditional type and construction; and
    • - are apparently in reasonable condition.
  • It identifies what the surveyor considers to be the most important issues. By applying condition ratings to elements of the building, the services and any garages and permanent outbuildings, the surveyor will tell you whether defects are serious or urgent.
  • It also includes the surveyor’s opinion of the insurance reinstatement cost (which you will need for insurance purposes). It focuses on matters that, in the surveyor’s opinion, may affect the value of the property if they are not dealt with.

The report also includes other valuable information.

What else should I know about the HOME SURVEY Service?

The service – the inspection and the report - are all explained in detail in the description of the HOME SURVEY Service, but the highlights are:

  • This is an economy package. Because of the practical limits on the type of property and on the scope of its coverage, the RICS Home Survey is priced mid-range – more expensive than a Mortgage Valuation, but cheaper than a Building Survey.
  • The surveyor’s main objective in providing the Service is to help you:
    • Make a reasoned and informed decision on whether or not to go ahead with buying the property;
    • Be clear what decisions and actions should be taken before contracts are exchanged.
    • Take account of any repairs or replacements the property needs.

The surveyor also gives his professional opinion on the particular features of the property which affect its present value and may affect its future resale.

  • The concise report covers the inside and outside of the building, the services and the site. It focuses on the defects and other problems which, in the judgment of the surveyor are urgent or significant, but it also covers:
    • The general condition and particular features of the property.
    • Condition ratings for elements of the structure of the building, the services and any garages and permanent outbuildings.
    • Particular points which should be referred to your legal advisers.
    • Specific risks associated with the property.
    • Other relevant considerations concerning, for example, safety, the location, the local environment and insurance.

Matters which are judged to be not urgent or not significant are in general not included in the report, but the surveyor will mention matters judged to be both helpful and constructive.

  • Where the client has a particular concern – perhaps whether the property is suitable for a disabled person the surveyor will keep this in mind during the inspection. Or, a specific addition to the Service – perhaps to the standard inspection – may be agreed between client and surveyor.

    Where necessary, the surveyor may also be able to provide some extra service which is outside the scope of the standard package - perhaps providing a schedule of minor defects (for later discussion with a contractor).
  • Where the client should take some action before deciding to proceed with the purchase, this is signalled clearly in the text of the report and included in the summary of action and other key considerations.

The main features of the RICS Home Survey Service are compared below with those of a Building Survey.

RICS Survey Level 2 Building Condition Survey (formally structural survey)
Type of Property Traditional houses, flats, bungalows etc…. in apparently reasonable condition. Any residential or other property, in any condition.
Type of Service A shorter, less detailed report in s standard format. A detailed report that is tailored to suit your needs.
Aims of service To help you:
  1. make a reasoned and informed decision on whether to go ahead with buying the property;
  2. take account of any repairs or replacements the property needs and;
  3. consider what other advice you need to take before exchanging contracts.
To give you:
  1. a detailed assessment of construction and condition of property; and
  2. technical advice on any problems and work needed to put them right.
Special features Provides condition ratings for elements of the building, services and garages and permanent outbuildings Provides full details of the property’s construction, materials, uses, defects and need for future maintenance.
Form of report Compact, fixed RICS format In the surveyor’s own format and usually longer, more detailed and technical than the RICS Home Survey report
Christopher White Associates
Northgate House, Plough Road, Great Bentley, Colchester, Essex, CO7 8LG
Tel : 01206 256483
Email : [email protected]