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What is Involved in a Home Survey?

If you’ve arrived at this blog post, then chances are you are either curious or concerned about how intrusive a home survey can be and how long they can take.

It’s important to point out at this point that all surveys conducted by a RICS surveyor are non-intrusive unless there has been prior written acceptance from the seller for an intrusive survey to be undertaken.

During all types of inspection, the surveyor will need access to all areas of the property both inside and out. This includes any outbuildings, garages, lofts or basements and the home seller is obligated to provide the surveyor with this level of access. 

Although the above sheds more light on the kind of access needed for a home survey, how long a survey takes and what’s involved very much depends on which type you choose to undertake. So, to help you to get to grips with what takes place within each type of survey, we have unpacked each within this blog post. 

Types of home survey

In total, there a three main types of home survey carried out by a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) registered surveyor. 

RICS surveyors offer three 'levels' of survey: a Condition Report (level one), Homebuyer Report (level two), and Building Survey (level three).

What is a Condition Report home survey?

A condition report provides you with an overview of the property's condition using a traffic light rating system. It is often the cheapest and most basic type of home survey, as it will only identify urgent defects, risks and potential legal issues. Because it only highlights the urgent, underlying issues within a property, it is more suitable for new-build or homes that you are confident will be in very good condition. 

Here’s an example of how the traffic light system will look within the report:



The drawback of selecting this type of survey is that no advice, costs or job valuations are provided within this survey. 

You can expect a Condition Report to take between 1-2 hours to complete and 3-5 working days to produce, but this very much depends on the size of the property being surveyed. 

The cost of the report will depend on the type and purchase price of the property. 

What is a HomeBuyer Report?

The HomeBuyer Report is considered to be the ‘level two’ type of home survey. It goes into more detail than the Condition Report and so the survey itself often takes longer to complete (between 1.5 - 4 hours depending on the size of the property). 

The key difference between the two kinds of survey is that the HomeBuyer report will highlight surface-level issues (such as damp and subsidence) and also offer advice on repairs and maintenance. 

The report may include a market valuation and rebuild cost. This is the kind of information that allows you to go back to the seller with a revised (lowered) offer if necessary, in order to account for the cost of some of the work that you will inevitably have to carry out on the property. Even if this is not the case, the HomeBuyer Report will at the very least arm you with the information you need to confidently purchase a home, knowing more details about the issues the property could have that you may not have previously spotted. 

This type of survey is the most popular type of inspection that a buyer will choose. It is considered to be the standard choice for most properties that are in a reasonable condition. However, if you are buying an unusual or period property, or a renovation project that requires significant works to be carried out, then it is best to upgrade to a building survey.

What is a Building Survey? 

When it comes to RICS’ surveys, the Building Survey (also known as a ‘full structural’ survey), is the next level up from the HomeBuyer report.

For a typical home buyer, this would be the most in-depth survey that would be commonly taken out. Consequently, it is also often the most expensive type of home survey. However if you’re buying a property that’s more than 50 years old or almost certainly in need of repairs or renovation, then this is the most suitable survey to have carried out. 

One of the main differences between a Building Survey and a Home Buyers report is that it will cover a wider range of issues and not only aim to describe visible defects, but also potential problems caused by hidden defects. Because of this, people commonly make the mistake of thinking that the surveyor will be pulling up carpets and drilling through walls in order to find out more about the materials used in the construction of the property and to uncover those underlying issues. 

It’s important to reiterate that this is not the case and that even with the Building Survey, that it will be non-intrusive unless there has been prior written acceptance from the seller for an intrusive survey to be undertaken.

Because of the thorough nature of the investigations carried out, this type of survey can take up to a day to complete and you can also expect to receive your report within around five working days. 

Are you looking to get a quote for a homebuyer survey, then simply enter your postcode here to view quotes from up to five trusted surveyors.


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