The Ultimate Guide To Home Surveys

Introduction: What is a home survey?

A home survey is an assessment, which provides information about the condition of a property. A house survey is not the same as a property valuation. A valuation is an estimate of the current market value of the property. A survey highlights potential issues related to the condition of the building. It is incredibly beneficial to invest in a building survey if you are purchasing property. There are different types of home surveys available. In this guide, we’ll explore the differences between house surveys to help you decide which option is best for you.

Home surveys: What are my options?

There are three main types of home surveys provided by chartered surveyors. These include:

  • Level 1: a basic overview of the condition of the property
  • Level 2: a more detailed assessment that highlights defects and provides advice about repairs
  • Level 3: a comprehensive report, which covers defects, home maintenance and repairs and advice related to remedial work

Level 1

A Level 1 home survey is an overview based on a visual inspection of the property. With this option, you can access information about the general condition of the house or flat and view ratings via a traffic light system. Red and amber flag up issues that need attention. This survey provides a summary of the building and provides general information about repairs that may be required and their importance in terms of the level of work needed.

Level 2

A Level 2 survey is more detailed and expansive than the Level 1 survey. The assessment covers the main elements of the building, its grounds and the services at the property. No testing of services is included in the Level 2 survey. Concealed spaces are inspected and the report will contain information about repairs and maintenance issues and their relevance. A Level 2 survey will help you to determine how urgently you need to make repairs and the potential implications if you don’t take swift action, for example. You can also add a valuation to a Level 2 survey.

Level 3

A Level 3 survey is the most comprehensive report available. This assessment contains a more detailed inspection of the building and its grounds in addition to observing services in action. The report offers information about the structure of the building, the materials used and the potential issues and defects buyers will have to deal with if they choose to proceed with the acquisition. The report should also offer an insight into potential risks posed by areas that cannot be accessed, advice about repairs and time frames and explanations or ideas related to the likely causes of defects.

What is included in home surveys?

The scope of a home survey varies according to which option you choose. Level 3 surveys are much more comprehensive than Level 1 reports. Here are some of the most significant factors to consider when choosing a survey:

  • Roof

A surveyor will inspect the roof from the hatch in a Level 1 survey. For a Level 2 survey, they will access the roof space and walk around if possible. For a Level 3 survey, the surveyor will move possessions with permission and inspect insulation and materials to provide more information about the condition of the roof and highlight issues and defects.

  • Windows

For Level 1 and 2 surveys, an RICS surveyor will open and inspect one window on each floor. For a Level 3 survey, the surveyor will inspect and open every window.

  • Flooring

For a Level 1 survey, the surveyor will visually inspect the floors and test the stability via the heel drop test (this involves using the heel of the foot to stamp on the floor). For a Level 2 survey, the process is the same but the surveyor will also lift any hatches to assess the floor beneath. For a Level 3 survey, the surveyor will move furniture and lift exposed or loose flooring to inspect the area closely. They will also note down signs of sloping or deterioration.

  • External areas

A Level 1 survey includes a basic visual inspection of the grounds. A Level 2 survey provides more detail through a thorough inspection, which may involve using ladders to assess areas that are not visible from the ground. The Level 3 survey is the same as the Level 2 survey, but the surveyor will flag any issues that could cost money to repair or resolve.

  • Drainage

It is unlikely that a Level 1 report will contain any information about drainage. Level 2 surveys include a visual assessment of drains, while Level 3 surveys may include information about draining processes if the surveyor was able to observe and assess functionality.

Which house survey is best for me?

Level 2 home surveys are the most common type of building survey. Level 1 surveys may be suitable for small properties that are relatively new and in good condition, but Level 2 surveys are recommended for most buyers. This type of building survey is suitable for conventional homes, which have been constructed using common materials. Level 3 surveys are best for buyers looking to purchase old properties and those who are interested in taking on building work and projects, such as homes that need renovating or restoring. If you are unsure about which survey is best for you, contact an RICS surveyor and ask for recommendations based on your requirements.


Home surveys provide information about the condition of a building. If you are thinking about making an offer, or you have found your dream home and you want to proceed with the acquisition, it’s hugely beneficial to pay for a house survey. Surveys can flag up issues that may not be visible during a viewing, they can provide reassurance for buyers and they can help you to avoid encountering unexpected costs further down the line. There are three types of surveys available. If you are buying an old house or a property that needs a lot of work, it’s wise to invest in a Level 3 survey, which is the most comprehensive type of report.