This guide covers everything you'll need to know about a Building Survey, including:
- What is a Building Survey (Level 3 Survey)?
- What's involved?
- What does it check?
- How much does a Building Survey cost?
What is a Building Survey (Level 3 Survey)?
Previously known as a Structural Survey, a Building Survey (otherwise known as the Level 3 RICS Survey) is an in-depth inspection of a property. It is the most comprehensive of the surveys available for residential properties and will provide a detailed evaluation of a property’s condition.
The Building Survey report will describe the condition of each element of the house and identify the property’s defects, their apparent cause, the urgency of repair, maintenance options and may also include an approximate costs of repair.
Building Surveys are conducted by Chartered Surveyors. It's important to check that the surveyor you select is regulated by RICS, as they set the guidance for surveyors and this will ensure that the advice you are getting is independent, expert advice from appropriately trained professionals.
Building Surveys are suitable for all properties, but they are particularly appropriate for:
Listed Buildings – a building that is on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Older Properties – recommended for properties over 50 years old
Buildings constructed in an unusual way, regardless of age
Buildings that you intend to renovate or change
Buildings that have already been renovated or significantly altered
What is involved?
A full Building Survey will include:
The survey will inspect all visible and accessible parts of a building, including roofs, walls, floors, windows and doors, chimneys, cellars, garages and outbuildings. Surveyors have a legal responsibility to discover and inform of any major problems with a property, so during the building inspection surveyors will actively search for potential problems and building defects.
This includes looking into cupboards and manholes, and an inspection of the services but it does not, however, investigate enclosed or concealed parts of a building, such as sealed roof spaces.
You can request that certain areas are included to cover particular concerns that you may have about the property. In contrast to the HomeBuyer Report (Level 2 Survey), there is no specific format for the Building Survey report, so the surveyor is able modify a Building Survey to your needs.
If you wish to have a property valuation included in your survey you will need to tell the surveyor. However, if the surveyor you use for the Building Survey is approved by your mortgage lender, it can be used instead of a mortgage valuation.
Aspects of a Building Survey
Here is a list of the aspects that are included in a Building Survey:
Most important and more insignificant defects and what they could mean
Results of tests for damp in the walls
Alterations to supporting walls
Renovations that have occurred without necessary planning permission
Presence of hazardous materials (e.g. asbestos)
Evidence of subsidence
Damage to masonry and roof
Damage to timbers
Large trees close to the property.
Woodworm, dry rot and other damage to timbers
The conditions of existing damp proofing, insulation and advice on non-tested drainage
Information on the materials used to build the property and any relevant technical information
Recommendations for further investigations on the property
The report, however, will not go into detail about things like heating or electrical equipment, but often your surveyor will be able to arrange for an expert to assess these areas for you, if requested.
A Building Survey can take up to a day to complete and the final report can take up to 2 weeks to receive. Different surveyors will be able to tell you how long it takes to turn around a report, and if time is a concern, let them know.
The report will summarise what was found during the survey and make recommendations if further specialist surveys are required. Being the most in-depth, a Building Survey (Level 3 Survey) is more expensive than a HomeBuyer Report (Level 2 Survey), but getting one could save you thousands of pounds, or stop you from buying a property that has hidden problems.
You can make sure you get a good deal on a Building Survey by comparing costs from local surveyors. The price varies on the price and size of the property, as it will take longer to assess a large house than a small flat.
The Building Survey Report
When the survey has been completed, your surveyor will produce a final report which will reveal whether the inspection has discovered any major and minor defects. The report will identify and describe the problems and their cause, provide recommendations for further investigation and an indication of repair costs, and state what could happen if the problem is not remedied.
Cost of a Building Survey
The cost of a Building Survey will vary from £500 to £1,300; the survey cost will depend on the property type, size and location. To save you money on your survey, compare fees by filling in our simple and quick form and receive up to four instant quotes from our RICS regulated Chartered Surveyors.
If you’re not sure which survey is right for you – talk to a RICS surveyor as they can give you independent advice on which survey would be the most suitable for you and your property.
If you are buying a property it is vital to employ the expert knowledge of a surveyor before completion, to ensure that you are receiving independent advice on the true condition of your potential property. The comprehensive investigation that the Building Survey involves may uncover a structural problem with the property that would otherwise go unnoticed until you have moved in, so make sure that you get a house survey to prevent any unwanted, and costly, surprises.
If you're looking to get an idea of all your moving costs be sure to check out our Moving Cost Calculator.
Updated February 2020