Homebuyer Report or Building Survey from SAM Conveyancing
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Homebuyer Report or Building Survey

8 min read
Choosing between a Homebuyer Report or Building Survey can be confusing for home buyers; especially when choosing the wrong survey can mean you don't get the right level of detail to flag all the defects with your new home. 

The names of the surveys can equally cause confusion, for example a Building Survey is called a Level 3 Building Survey but is also known as a full structural survey.

The Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors (RICS), who regulate member surveyors, look to clarify the differences between the HomeBuyer Report or Building Survey and states:

Level 2 HomeBuyer Report
Level 3 Building Survey
"This level of service is for clients who are seeking a professional opinion at an economic price. It is, therefore, necessarily less comprehensive than a survey level three service. 

The focus is on assessing the general condition of the main elements of a property. The inspection is not exhaustive, and no tests are undertaken. 

Concealed areas normally opened or used by the occupiers are inspected if it is safe to do so (typical examples include roof spaces and cellar areas). 

There is, therefore, a risk that certain defects may not be found that would have been uncovered if a more substantial inspection had been undertaken"
"This level of service is for clients who are seeking a professional opinion based on a detailed assessment of the property. 

Therefore, the inspection is more extensive than for levels one and two and the surveyor will spend a considerably longer time at the property."

Source: RICS professional guidance, UK Surveys of residential property 3rd edition, May 2016 reissue

Why not choose the top level survey for any property?
You may think that it is simpler to always book a Building Survey and leave no stone unturned. 

However, we explain below why there are many properties that don't need the level of detail found in this survey and as such the more affordable HomeBuyers Survey is better suited. 

The cost difference between the two surveys can be considerable so you shouldn't pay more in the hope of finding out more, when the fact is there is no further detail to provide.

On this occasion, paying more won't get you any extra information or uncover additional defects if your property doesn't warrant a Building Survey.

HomeBuyers Report vs Building Survey

Which property type suits which survey?

Properties that suit
a Homebuyer Report
Properties that suit
a Building Survey
Commonly called a Full Structural Survey or a Full Building Survey
This level of survey suits a wide range of conventionally built properties such as bungalows, flats or houses, although the age and type will depend on the knowledge and experience of the surveyor. 

It can be purchased with or without a current market valuation and a reinstatement value.

The HomeBuyer Report won't suit:

  • complex buildings, for example those that have been extensively extended and altered
  • unique or older historic properties – although survey level two services may be appropriate for some older buildings, the decision will depend on the surveyor’s proven competence and the nature of the building itself.

    For example, a survey level two report on homes with traditional timber frames or those built much before 1850 is likely to be inconclusive and be of little use to the client
  • properties in poor condition; or
  • those where the client is planning to carry out extensive repair and refurbishment work.

This level of survey suits any residential property in any condition depending on the competence and experience of the practitioner. 

It does not include a current market valuation and a reinstatement value, however the surveyor may provide this for an additional fee.

Considering the detail in the report it is most likely undertaken on:

  • large properties;
  • older properties built Edwardian or older or rundown;
  • unique or altered buildings such as a cottages or thatched roofs; or
  • if you are planning major works.

It's won't suit a standard construction house, flat or bungalow.
home buyers survey example
Building Survey Example

Frequently Asked Questions

A Full Structural Survey is another term for the Level 3 Building Survey so it is still only a choice between the Building Survey/Full Structural Survey or HomeBuyers Report - the full structural isn't another level of RICS survey.

The difference between the HomeBuyer Report and Building Survey is considerable because of the level of further investigation required within the Level 3 Building Survey. The table below shows this:

What is included in the survey and what are its main focal points?
Level 2: HomeBuyer Report
Level 3: Building Survey
Describes the construction and condition of the property on the date of the inspection
Green Tick for HomeBuyers report or Building Survey
Green Tick
Aims to identify and problems that need urgent attention or are serious
Green Tick
Green Tick
Aims to identify things that need to be investigated further to prevent serious damage
Green Tick
Green Tick
Aims to tell you about problems that may be dangerous
Green Tick
Green Tick
Aims to show up potential issues and defects, before any transaction takes place
Green Tick
Green Tick
Includes the standard visual inspection during which secured panels, electrical fittings, inspection chamber covers and other similar features are not removed
Green Tick
Green Tick
Aims to help you decide whether you need extra advice before committing to purchase
Green Tick
Green Tick
Aims to enable you to budget for any repairs or restoration
Green Tick
Green Tick
Aims to advise you on the amount of ongoing maintenance required in the future
Green Tick
Green Tick
An enhanced service that includes all the features of the standard inspection plus a more extensive roof space and underground drainage inspection
Green Tick
Green Tick
Provides a reinstatement cost to help you avoid under- or over-insurance
Green Tick
Provides market valuation
Green Tick
Aims to establish how the property is built, what materials are used and how these will perform in the future
Green Tick
Aims to describe visible defects, plus exposing potential problems posed by hidden defects
Green Tick
Aims to outline the repair options and give you a repair timeline, whilst explaining the consequences of not acting
Green Tick
A longer and more detailed visual inspection of a wider range of issues including a more thorough consideration of the roof space, grounds, floors and services
Green Tick
What do they cost?
Whether you choose a HomeBuyer Report or Building Survey the surveyor will look for all of the following defects. There are a number of defects that a survey aims to identify as potential risks so that you are made aware of these when proceeding with your purchase. 

The defects may even require further investigatory work with another specialist surveyor. 
Homebuyers Report or Building Survey
The Building Survey report in comparison is bespoke in format for each individual property although it always contains a section on legal information, which is directed particularly at conveyancing solicitors.

The inspection is particularly looking for serious property defects including subsidence, damp, dry and wet rot and any visible sign of infestations. 

If the surveyor is unable to view any parts of the property they’ll make a note of this in their report which is why it is important the estate agent and the seller give access to all areas in the property.

In a home buyers survey the surveyor won’t provide cost estimates for making repairs to the property for any of the defects noted. 

If you would like to get the costs for repairing defects included in your survey, call us on 0333 344 3234.
Getting confused when trying to choose a HomeBuyer Report or Building Survey may not feel like too much of an issue, however this is what can happen if you get it wrong:

Choose a Building Survey instead of a HomeBuyer Report

There is little risk however the main downside is that you have probably spent £200-£300 more for your survey and won't get any additional information about your property.

You will also miss out on getting the surveyors opinion on the market valuation or a reinstatement value because these are not included as standard within the Level 3 Building Survey.

Choose a HomeBuyer Report instead of a Building Survey

This is the greatest risk and one many home buyers make. The HomeBuyer Report is cheaper and at a time where every penny counts, the pull of getting a cheaper survey is too hard to ignore. 

The risk is that a defect that would have been reported within a Building Survey isn't reported or isn't reported in as much depth.

This is why RICS state in their Terms for this service "There is, therefore, a risk that certain defects may not be found that would have been uncovered if a more substantial inspection had been undertaken".

A good surveyor should raise this with their client prior to the survey being undertaken and discuss changing the scope of work to a Building Survey.

If you are struggling choosing between a Homebuyer Report or Building Survey then give us a call and we'll review your property on Rightmove or Zoopla and then tell you which survey your property needs and why. Call us now on 0333 344 3234 (local call charges).

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