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    What is a Building Survey (Level 3 Survey)?

    By The reallymoving Team Updated 24th May, 2024

    Reviewed by Em Smith

    A Building Survey (Level 3 Survey) is the most detailed home survey, but what does it include and is it right for you?

    What is a Building Survey (Level 3 Survey)?

    This guide covers everything you'll need to know about a Level 3 Survey, including:

    1. What is a Building Survey (Level 3 Survey)? 
    2. What's involved?
    3. What does it check?
    4. How much does a Building Survey cost?

    What is a Building Survey (Level 3 Survey)?

    Once known as a Structural Survey, or a Building Survey, 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 Level 3 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 cost of repair.

    Level 3 Surveys are conducted by Building 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. 

    Why do you need a survey?

    Surveys are important to ensure that you have the full picture of the property you are purchasing. They can identify problems that you may not be able to pick up on yourself.

    Knowing about any issues with a property can help you budget and will save you from any unexpected expenses that could arise later.

    Level 3 Surveys are needed 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 level 3 Survey will include:

    • A building inspection

    • A full survey report

    • A property valuation (only if specifically stated by the surveyor).

    What gets checked during a Building Survey?

    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 Level 3 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 Survey is approved by your mortgage lender, it can be used instead of a mortgage valuation.

    Aspects of a Level 3 Survey

    What you’ll learn from your 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.

    How long does it take?

    A Level 3 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 Level 3 Survey is more expensive than a Level 1 or 2 Survey, but getting one could save you thousands of pounds, or stop you from buying a property that has hidden problems.

    Who pays for the survey?

    The buyer of the property is typically the one responsible for organising and paying for the survey.

    The Level 3 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 average cost of a Level 3 Survey is around £500 to £750; the survey cost will depend on the property type, size, and location. To save you money on your survey, make sure to compare multiple surveyors.

    Read more about the typical cost of a survey.

    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.

    The comprehensive investigation that the Level 3 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 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.

    Building Survey (Level 3 Survey) FAQs

    Is it okay to buy a property without a survey?

    Although there is no legal obligation for you to get a survey on a property you are interested in, you could be taking a big risk if you do not. Especially with older properties, surveys can help identify any issues that could be costly in the future.

    Will a surveyor go in the loft?

    Yes, during a Building Survey surveyors will go in the loft and inspect any issues.

    Do surveyors check for damp?

    Surveyors will check for any signs of damp in a Building Survey and will identify problems such as mould growth caused by dampness. 

    Updated April 2024

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