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HomeBuyer Report or Building Survey - How to choose for your property

10 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 and Building Survey and states:

Level 2 RICS HomeBuyer Report
Level 3 RICS 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

You may think that it is simpler to always instruct a Building Survey and leave no stone unturned, however we explain below why there are many properties that simply do not need the level of detail found in the Building 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 prove.

If you need any help choosing between a Homebuyer Report or Building Survey then call our survey specialists on 0333 344 3234.

HomeBuyers Report vs Building Survey

Level 2 RICS HomeBuyers Report
Level 3 RICS Building Survey
Commonly called a 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. This level of service is unlikely to 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.

HomeBuyers Report Example
Building Survey Example

Property Defects Covered

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. These are some of the main defects your survey will identify if they spot visual signs:

HomeBuyers Survey - Subsidence

Subsidence Inspection

The surveyor will look for signs of subsidence within the property paying special attention to signs of cracking internally and to the external walls. As a rule, if you can fit a 50p into a crack in a wall, it could be a sign of subsidence. Our surveyors will flag in their reports if they feel you need to instruct a structural engineer to review a crack further. Read more about Subsidence.
HomeBuyers Survey - Rising Damp

Damp Testing

There are numerous reasons why a property can be affected by damp. The Surveyor will take samples in the property using a damp meter and assess the condition of the property to provide a report on whether they feel the property is affected by damp. Further investigations maybe suggested including getting a damp and timber specialist. Read more about damp testing and repairs.
HomeBuyers Survey - Infestations

Identify Infestations

Woodworm, mice, rats and ants are infestations that your don't want in your home. Your surveyor will look for visible signs of mouse droppings, damage to floor boards (when visible) and damage to wiring, carpets or skirting boards.Read more about infestations
HomeBuyers Survey - Asbestos


Before its use was banned, asbestos was a commonly used building material, particularly as part of cement products, floor tiles and roofing shingles. Asbestos was used for its durability and resistance to heat and is commonly found in artex ceilings, garage roofing and chimney stacks. Your surveyor will confirm if they suspect any materials in the property have asbestos and if so, suggest getting an asbestos surveyor to intrusively taking samples of the asbestos to confirm the type. Read more about asbestos

If you're buying a home which shows the signs of damp, or any other defects then you MUST get a home buyers survey, whether a HomeBuyers Report or a Building Survey. The costs for making good or repairing some of these defects can run into thousands of pounds; however, If identified within a survey you can get quotes for fixing it and either share the costs with the seller, or, in worst case examples, choose not to proceed.

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
HomeBuyers Survey - Included
HomeBuyers Survey - Included
Aims to identify and problems that need urgent attention or are serious
HomeBuyers Survey - Included
HomeBuyers Survey - Included
Aims to identify things that need to be investigated further to prevent serious damage
Building Survey - Included
Building Survey - Included
Aims to tell you about problems that may be dangerous
Aims to show up potential issues and defects, before any transaction takes place
Includes the standard visual inspection during which secured panels, electrical fittings, inspection chamber covers and other similar features are not removed
Aims to help you decide whether you need extra advice before committing to purchase
Aims to enable you to budget for any repairs or restoration
Aims to advise you on the amount of ongoing maintenance required in the future
An enhanced service that includes all the features of the standard inspection plus a more extensive roof space and underground drainage inspection
Provides a reinstatement cost to help you avoid under- or over-insurance
Provides market valuation
Aims to establish how the property is built, what materials are used and how these will perform in the future
Aims to describe visible defects, plus exposing potential problems posed by hidden defects
Aims to outline the repair options and give you a repair timeline, whilst explaining the consequences of not acting
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

What is the cost of a Home Buyer Survey?

Sections of the Building Survey
What is inspected?
A. Introduction to the report
Declaration that the HomeBuyer Survey is conducted by a RICS surveyor
B. About the inspection
Details of the property
C. Overall opinion and summary of the condition ratings
General overview of the property
D. About the property
Details number of rooms, age, type
E. Outside the property
Chimney stack, roof covering, rainwater pipes & gutters, main walls, windows, outside doors, conservatory & porches, other joinery & finishes
F. Inside the property
Roof structure, ceilings, walls & partitions, floors, fireplaces, chimney breasts & flues, built-in fittings (kitchens but not appliances), woodwork, bathroom fittings.
G. Services
Electricity, gas/oil, water, heating, water heating, drainage, common services. It is important to note that the surveyor is not a qualified electrician or plumber and as such cannot test the gas or electrics. They can however turn appliances, hot water, lights and hob on and comment on any issues, if any.
H. Grounds (including shared areas for flats)
Limitations (reasons why they couldn’t be inspected), garage
I. Issues for your legal advisers
Regulation, guarantees If the surveyor sees the property has been extended then it'll be this section where they inform you of this.
J. Risks
Risks to building, risks to grounds, risks to people
K. Energy Efficiency
Review of energy efficiency of property
L. Surveyor’s declaration
Information about RICS Building Surveyor
What to do now
Standard information
Description of the Level 2 RICS HomeBuyers Report Service
Standard information
Typical house diagram
Standard information
RICS Surveyor
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.

HomeBuyer Report or Building Survey - What if I choose the wrong one?

Choose a Building Survey instead of a HomeBuyer Report
The issue is you spent more money on getting a survey where there is no extra information contained within the report and the Building Survey doesn't come with a market valuation or a reinstatement value.

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 issue arises after you move in and find a defect that would have been reported in more detail within the Building Survey.

This is the risk taken by the home buyer and is why RICS state "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".

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