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Homebuyer surveys explained

Homebuyer surveys - also known as a RICS Level 2 Survey or Homebuyer Report - are the most popular choice of survey buyers commission. We look at whether they’re worth the money, how they compare to other types of house survey and how to get one.

homebuyer surveys

What are Homebuyer Surveys?

RICS Homebuyer Surveys are a mid-level survey popular with most people buying a conventional property in a reasonable condition. They are less detailed – and less expensive – than RICS Building Surveys but more comprehensive than RICS Condition Reports.

RICS Homebuyer Surveys, now officially called RICS Home Survey Level 2, are carried out by Chartered Surveyors. They won’t detail every single aspect of the property but they can uncover problems that may affect the property’s value and require further investigation like subsidence and damp. And they will include all major parts of the property visible to the surveyor.

The report you receive will give advice on any repairs and on the amount of ongoing maintenance required in the future. But these surveys are ‘non-intrusive’ so the surveyor will only check what’s easily visible. They won’t, for example, lift up carpets.

The RICS Home Survey Level 2 can be purchased with or without a valuation. If you choose to have a valuation your report will include a market value, an insurance reinstatement figure and a list of problems that the property surveyor considers may affect the value of the property.

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Homebuyer Survey checklist: What’s included?

So, what’s included in RICS Homebuyer Surveys? They include:

  • A visual inspection of all major indoor features such as ceilings, walls, bathrooms as well as permanent outdoor buildings and features including roofing and gutters.
  • Any damp-proofing, drainage or insulation will be assessed, however drains are not tested
  • Windows will be checked including whether they are double glazed
  • The condition of the building’s timbers and checking for rot or woodworm
  • Walls will be tested for damp
  • Surveyors will also usually check the loft as it’s often the easiest place to spot problems like a leaky roof
  • Your report will contain background information on the property and the location
  • Urgent problems that require specialist attention will be detailed
  • Information on major faults that may affect the property’s value will be documented
  •  Plus a valuation, an estimate for the cost of rebuilding the property for insurance purposes, and a list of problems that the surveyor considers may affect the value of the property will also be included if you opt for a Homebuyer Survey ‘with valuation’

What are Homebuyer Survey condition ratings?

When describing the condition of the property, your Homebuyer Survey report will give ‘condition ratings’ for the main parts of the building, garage and some outside parts.

RICS defines these as:

  • Condition Rating 1: No repair currently needed.
  • Condition Rating 2: Defects that need repairing or replacing but are not considered to be serious or urgent.
  • Condition Rating 3: Defects that are serious and/or need to be repaired, replaced or investigated urgently.

Instantly find and compare quotes from local qualified surveyors using our find a surveyor tool

I’m concerned about problems with the property. Should I mention concerns to the surveyor?

Yes. If you have any particular concerns about the property you can highlight these to the surveyor before the inspection. And you can go with them when the survey is carried out and ask questions too.

What are the most common things you may want to investigate? These may include:

  • Central heating
  • Damp
  • Problems with the roof
  • Electrics
  • Structural problems; however this may require a structural engineer to carry out a structural inspection.

What are red flags on a house survey?

It’s common for issues to arise on surveys, particularly with older properties.

When you’re arranging your survey, you can typically agree with the surveyor in advance for them to provide the costing of any repairs as an extra service. So, if you’re concerned about any issues and your survey hasn’t been completed yet, you may consider requesting this.

The biggest concerns will be if any structural problems, roof problems and damp is highlighted.  These are either substantial or complex in nature and therefore costly to fix.

But, sometimes a number of less substantial issues can be flagged, which can be equally overwhelming. In order to get some perspective on these issues and be clear on the order of magnitude, we recommend speaking to your surveyor about the report findings.

A Homebuyer Survey will highlight any red flags and leave you with enough information to decide next steps. These might include:

  • Commissioning further specialist surveys, for example if damp or woodworm are identified
  • Finding out from the seller if any guarantees are still valid that could cover the problem highlighted by the survey
  • If the works are major or costs are unclear, then getting further quotes from a builder or tradesperson to determine how much it would cost to fix.
  • These quotes can then be used to try to renegotiate with the seller. Or you can ask the seller to fix these issues before you complete.

Ultimately, you may decide the number of red flags on the house survey mean you have to walk away from the purchase.

For more information read our guide What to do after a bad house survey report

How much does a Homebuyer Survey cost?

So how much does a Homebuyer Survey cost? This will vary depending on factors including the size and location of your home, but a RICS Home Survey Level 2 will typically cost between £400-£1000.

For more information, read our guide on how much house surveys cost.

How do I get a Homebuyer Survey quote?

How do you find the best surveyor at the best price? While it might be convenient to use the surveyor recommended by your bank, mortgage lender or estate agent, it could cost you more. So it’s a good idea to shop around to get quotes from local chartered surveyors.

To cut out the middleman use our helpful Find a Surveyor tool. This will find you qualified chartered surveyors in your local area who can carry out a survey for you, so you can shop around and compare quotes to find the right surveyor for you at the best price.

Get Survey Quotes

Get instant quotes from chartered surveyors in your area

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Homebuyer survey is it worth it?

Homebuyer surveys aren’t cheap which is why some people ask is it worth having one? Buying a home is expensive so it’s understandable that commissioning a survey may feel like yet another expense. However, a survey can help you avoid costly surprises further down the line like discovering a damp problem. Having a survey also offers peace of mind that the property is in good condition.

And considering the amount of money you are spending on the house, paying a few hundred pounds on getting an expert’s advice seems like a good investment.

If your survey uncovers any problems you can then either renegotiate the price, agree the seller fixes the problem before you move in or decide to reconsider your purchase. And if the seller won’t budge on price and you still want to buy, at least you can budget for any required repairs.

We would particularly recommend getting a survey when buying a house if:

  • You have specific concerns about any part of the property
  • You’re not sure the sort of condition the property is in
  • The property has a thatched roof or is timber framed
  • You’re buying an old or unusual property
  • It’s a listed building or in a Conservation Area

What are the other types of house survey?

A Homebuyer report, RICS Home Survey – Level 2 isn’t the only type of survey you can get. You can also get a RICS Home Survey – Level 1, also known as a Condition Report. And there is also a Building Survey, also known as a Full Structural Survey or RICS Home Survey – Level 3.

How do they compare? Well, a RICS Level 1 survey is the most basic and cheapest survey and it’s suitable if you’re buying a conventional property built from common building materials and in reasonable condition. It covers the basic condition of the property highlighting problems that may require attention and an assessment of the relative importance of the problems. However, it won’t go into much detail and there’s no advice or valuation.

Read our guide on the different types of house survey for a more detailed explanation.

Scottish Home Report

If you’re selling a property in Scotland, it’s a legal requirement to have a survey before you sell your property.

Can a mortgage valuation survey replace the need for a survey?

No. A mortgage valuation is a basic check carried out on behalf of your mortgage lender to make sure the property is worth the amount being paid for it. The mortgage lender does a valuation survey to make sure their loan is safe and could be recouped by selling the property if necessary. It is not a detailed survey into the condition of the property.

Instantly find and compare survey quotes from local chartered surveyors using our find a surveyor tool


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