When buying a home, one of the most critical decisions you’ll make is choosing the right type of property survey – a decision that can greatly impact your future peace of mind and financial well-being. 

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) offers two key survey levels, Level 2 and Level 3, each offering different depths of analysis and catering to diverse property types. How do you choose between them? Which one is right for your potential home? 

In this blog, we’ll unravel these queries, demystifying the process and helping you understand how to make the best survey choice for your property purchase. 

Buckle up, and let’s dive into the world of RICS property surveys.

Understanding RICS Level 2 Survey

The Homebuyer Survey, also known as the RICS Homebuyer Report, is a professional surveying service designed to provide a detailed inspection of a property’s condition and advice to potential homebuyers about potential issues that may affect the value of the property. 

This survey offers a comprehensive report that provides a clear and straightforward overview of any significant problems affecting the property’s value and any ongoing costs associated with repairs.

Key Features and Benefits

  1. Comprehensive Overview: Provides a detailed inspection of the property, helping to identify any potential issues that could affect the value. It’s a beneficial tool for a potential homebuyer to make an informed decision about the purchase.
  2. Easy-to-Understand Ratings: The survey uses a straightforward traffic light system to rate the condition of the property. This simple, visual approach allows a prospective buyer to understand quickly and easily which areas may need attention.
  3. Identification of Potential Problems: The survey identifies major or urgent issues that might affect the property’s value, such as structural problems like subsidence or dampness. This helps the buyer negotiate a better price or request that the seller address these issues before purchase.
  4. Legal Considerations: It offers insights into legal issues that your advisers need to investigate further, potentially preventing future legal complications.
  5. Reinstatement Cost and Market Value: It gives an estimation of the property’s current market value and the cost to rebuild the property if it were destroyed, which can be useful for securing a mortgage and arranging building insurance.
  6. Advice for Future Maintenance: The survey often provides advice on repairs and ongoing maintenance, which can help the buyer plan for future costs.
  7. Independent and Unbiased: The report is carried out by a qualified RICS surveyor, ensuring it is independent, unbiased, and reliable.

Typical Areas Covered

Limitations and Exclusions 

  1. Hidden Issues: The survey is non-intrusive, meaning that the surveyor won’t look behind furniture, lift floor coverings, or drill holes to look for hidden problems. If there are suspicions of serious issues, a more comprehensive Level 3 Building Survey may be recommended.
  2. Services: While the surveyor will do a simple visual check of services (like heating or electrical systems), they won’t test them or inspect non-visible parts.
  3. Roof/Loft Spaces: The surveyor will inspect the loft to see if it is safe and easily accessible but won’t comment on parts not easily viewed.
  4. Environmental Issues: The survey doesn’t cover issues like noise, smells, rights to light, or considerations about the local area or any future developments.
  5. Specialist Reports: If there are signs of potential issues like dampness or subsidence, the surveyor may recommend a further specialist report. These additional reports aren’t part of the Level 2 Survey.
  6. Legal Matters: While the survey may identify potential legal issues for investigation, it doesn’t provide a full legal review.
  7. Cost of Repairs: The Level 2 survey doesn’t provide a detailed cost estimation for any necessary repair work. It’s the responsibility of the buyer to obtain quotes for any work needed.
  8. Non-residential Buildings: The survey is designed for residential properties, so it doesn’t cover commercial properties or non-traditional buildings.

Exploring RICS Level 3 Survey

The RICS Level 3 Building Survey is a comprehensive, in-depth inspection of a property’s structure and condition. 

It covers all accessible parts of the property, details defects, offers repair advice, and can provide an optional property valuation. Ideal for older, larger, or non-traditional properties or properties in poor condition.

Key Features and Benefits

Comprehensive Assessment Areas

  1. Structural Integrity: Examination of the foundation, walls, roof structure, floors, and other structural components.
  2. Interior and Exterior Condition: Detailed assessment of both interior and exterior elements, including plasterwork, joinery, finishes, windows, and doors.
  3. Roof Spaces and Under Floors: Thorough inspection of hidden areas like lofts, attics, and spaces under floors, as long as they are accessible.
  4. Plumbing, Electrical, and Heating Systems: Evaluation of these vital systems, though not necessarily detailed testing.
  5. Dampness, Drainage, and Insulation: Investigation of moisture issues, the efficiency of insulation, and the state of drainage systems.
  6. Grounds and Boundaries: Inspection of walls, fences, gates, driveways, and other outdoor features.
  7. Potential Hazards: Identification of possible risks, such as asbestos, radon gas, or other harmful materials.
  8. Special Considerations: The survey can be tailored to include specific concerns or areas of interest, such as environmental impact or energy efficiency.
  9. Optional Property Valuation: It can include an estimation of the property’s market value and a reinstatement cost for insurance purposes.

RICS Level 3 Survey: Advantages over Level 2 Survey

The RICS Level 3 Building Survey has several advantages over the Level 2 Homebuyer Survey:

When to Choose RICS Level 2 Survey

An RICS Level 2 Homebuyer Survey is suitable for relatively modern properties (less than 100 years old) which appear to be in reasonable condition. 

It’s ideal for conventional houses, flats, or bungalows, built from common building materials and having straightforward construction.

Suitable Situations and Property Types

  1. Conventional Properties: Ideal for properties constructed in a common and traditional manner, such as with stone or brick walls and slate or tile roofs.
  2. Modern and Newer Buildings: Properties that are less than 100 years old generally have fewer structural issues.
  3. Apparent Good Condition: Suitable for properties that appear in reasonable condition without any visible major problems or complex issues.
  4. Standard-Sized Properties: The survey is often used for smaller to medium-sized properties like flats, bungalows, or family homes.
  5. Quick Purchase Process: If you’re under time pressure to complete your property purchase, a Level 2 survey can provide a quicker overview of the property’s condition.

How to Decide if Level 2 is Sufficient

When to Opt for RICS Level 3 Survey

Get an RICS Level 3 Building Survey if the property is over 100 years old, larger than average, built with unconventional materials, or if it’s in apparent poor condition. 

It’s also suitable if you plan to carry out major renovations or extensions after the purchase.

Complex Properties and Renovation Plans

  1. Complex Properties: This survey is apt for properties built with unconventional materials or non-traditional construction methods. It’s also suitable for larger or older properties (over 100 years old), where more structural issues may be present.
  2. Poor Condition: Properties in apparent disrepair or poor condition are better assessed with a Level 3 Survey, as it provides a comprehensive analysis of structural and maintenance issues.
  3. Major Renovations or Extensions: If you plan significant structural changes, renovations, or extensions, the Level 3 Survey gives detailed insights into the property’s structure that can inform your plans.
  4. Listed Buildings: For listed buildings or properties in conservation areas, a Level 3 Survey can help uncover any potential legal or maintenance issues.

Importance for Older and Listed Buildings

Identifying Hidden Issues with Level 3 Survey

  1. Concealed Defects: The comprehensive nature of a Level 3 Survey can identify issues that aren’t immediately visible, such as dampness, timber decay, or problems with insulation.
  2. Structural Concerns: Potential structural problems, like subsidence or roof instability, can be detected. These issues could be costly to repair, so it’s essential to uncover them before completing a purchase.
  3. Service Systems: The survey covers heating, water, and electrical systems. Although not as in-depth as a specialist inspection, it can flag potential issues with these essential systems.

Making the Right Choice: Considerations and Tips

Consider the property’s age, size, condition, and construction type. If it’s relatively modern, in good condition, and conventionally built, a Level 2 Survey may suffice. 

For older, larger, or unconventional properties or those in poor condition, opt for a Level 3 Survey. Always consult with a property expert.

Homebuyer’s Requirements and Expectations

Consulting with Surveyors

  1. Define Your Needs: Start by understanding your specific needs and expectations. Consider factors like the property’s age, type, condition, and any renovation plans you have.
  2. Find a Qualified Surveyor: Look for a surveyor who is registered with a recognized body such as the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors). This ensures they adhere to professional standards.
  3. Discuss Your Concerns: Share any specific concerns you have about the property with the surveyor. This can guide their focus during the survey.
  4. Understand the Scope: Ask the surveyor to clarify what their survey will cover and what it won’t. This helps set your expectations and ensures you understand the limits of the survey.
  5. Ask for Advice: Seek the surveyor’s advice on which level of survey suits your situation best. With their professional experience, they can offer valuable insights.
  6. Clarify Costs: Make sure you understand the costs involved before commissioning the survey. Costs can vary based on the property and the level of survey chosen.

Importance of the Property’s Condition

Wrapping Up

Understanding the differences between RICS Level 2 and Level 3 Surveys is crucial when buying a property. A Level 2 Homebuyer Survey, being less comprehensive, is typically suitable for newer, conventionally built properties in reasonable condition. 

On the other hand, a Level 3 Building Survey offers a detailed analysis that’s better suited for older, larger, or unconventional properties or those in poor condition. 

Each survey type serves its purpose, depending on the property and the buyer’s specific needs, aiming to provide the buyer with an overall understanding of the property. 

Consulting with a qualified surveyor can help you make the right choice based on your individual circumstances, ensuring you make a well-informed investment.


What’s the main difference between a Level 2 and Level 3 Survey?

The main difference between the two surveys lies in the depth of the investigation. A Level 2 Survey provides a general overview of the property’s condition, highlighting any significant issues that might affect its value. On the other hand, a Level 3 Survey offers a detailed, comprehensive assessment of the property’s structure and condition, identifying any hidden issues and providing advice on maintenance and repairs.

How do I decide if a Level 2 Survey provides enough information or if I should opt for a Level 3 Survey?

This decision typically depends on the property’s age, size, apparent condition, and construction type. A Level 2 Survey may suffice for relatively modern, smaller, conventionally built properties in good condition. However, if the property is older, larger, built with unconventional materials, or in apparent poor condition, a more detailed Level 3 Survey is recommended. Consulting with a surveyor can provide personalized advice.

Are Level 2 and Level 3 Surveys worth the cost?

Both Level 2 and Level 3 Surveys provide valuable insights about the property, which can help prevent costly surprises in the future. They can also provide leverage in negotiating the property’s price if significant issues are identified. While a Level 3 Survey is more costly than a Level 2, it provides a more detailed analysis and could be a worthwhile investment for older or more complex properties. Always consider your individual circumstances and the specific property when deciding on the type of survey.

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