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What is included in each survey?

The RICS offers three different levels of survey, each one more specialised or suited for a particular type of home. If you are buying a home, it will be helpful to know what each type of survey includes.

What is included in each survey?

When buying a home, an important step in the process is to get a survey of your chosen property to assess its condition and highlight any issues it may have before you decide to make a purchase.

The survey will be carried out by a surveyor acccredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), who offer three different levels of survey. As the levels increase, the cost of the service gets greater, however so does the content of the report and the feedback. If your surveyor identifies that the survey you've requested isn't fit for purpose, you may have to go through the process of finding a surveyor and requesting again. Therefore you should know the difference between each level of Survey.

Knowing which kind of survey you need for your property may seem difficult. However, using the RICS’ official Home Survey Standard, we’ve compiled a list of the key differences between each level of survey, based on the main areas of a property they will inspect.

Please note: this kind of survey is not used in Scotland; they instead utilize The Home Report.

Overview

Level 1: The level one survey report is the least expensive report. As the lowest level of report, it is the least detailed of the surveys, providing you with a brief summary of the condition of the property, with no advice on how to carry out repairs. This kind of survey is better suited to newer builds.

Level 2: A level two survey will assess in greater detail the condition of many aspects of a home, with the surveyor spending more time investigating the property and the everyday operation of its services. It will again not offer detailed advice on any repairs needed, but more issues may be highlighted. This level of survey is suitable for a range of properties, although it may not be comprehensive enough for older buildings, buildings that have been extensively altered, neglected properties, or properties built out of unconventional material. If you're not sure whether this level is right for your property, your surveyor will be able to advise you.

Level 3: The Level three survey is the most expensive and will provide the most comprehensive assessment of a property. As well as assessing accessible areas, a RICS surveyor will enter concealed areas of a property (if they are safe) to investigate their condition. They will also observe the normal operation of services within the property. Necessary repairs and future maintenance will be discussed along with the issues found. As the most detailed survey, this level is suitable for a property that is old, made of unconventional material (like thatch or timber), or has had significant building work done to it.

Windows

Level 1: A RICS surveyor will open and inspect one window on each floor, as long as heavy curtains and /or possessions do not restrict their access to it.

Level 2: A RICS surveyor will open and inspect one window on each floor, as long as heavy curtains and /or possessions do not restrict their access to it. If it is the case that there are multiple types of windows, they will assess one of each type, on each floor.

Level 3: A RICS surveyor will open and inspect all windows, if heavy curtains and /or possessions restrict their access to a window, they may move them.

In all levels, a RICS member can only open windows if they have permission to do so and they have access to keys if the windows lock. They must also inform you of any windows with restricted access.

Roof

Level 1: A RICS surveyor will inspect the roof as they can see it from the access hatch. They will not fully enter the roof or move possessions, insulation or secured panels.

Level 2: A RICS surveyor will enter the roof space to closely inspect it, noting areas that are vulnerable to damage and deterioration. They will not move possessions, insulation or secured panels.

Level 3: A RICS surveyor will enter the roof space to closely inspect it, noting areas that are vulnerable to damage and deterioration. They will move corners of insulation to inspect it and the ceiling underneath. Possessions and secured panels can be moved (with permission) for a more thorough inspection.

Within all levels, the roof space must be no more that three meters above the floor level, or it will not be inspected for the safety of the surveyor. If the roof has been thickly insulated with energy efficient insulation, it may restrict the scope of the survey as it may not be safe for the surveyor to move across it (this will be disclosed in the report).

Floors

Level 1: The RICS surveyor will inspect exposed areas of floor, but they will not lift carpets and floorboards or move furniture. They will not open any hatches to inspect below the floor. They will carry out the 'Heel Drop Test'* on the floors they inspect.

Level 2: As with a Level 1 survey, the RICS surveyor will inspect exposed areas of floor, but they will not lift carpets and floorboards or move furniture. They will open any available hatches to inspect below the floor, but they will never fully enter this area. They will carry out the ‘heel drop test’ on the floors they inspect.

Level 3: The RICS surveyor will inspect exposed areas of floor, they lift loose/unfitted carpets and floorboards or move furniture to gain access to more areas. They will open any available hatches to inspect below the floor, where possible they will fully enter this area to inspect it. They will carry out the ‘heel drop test’ on the floors they inspect as well as measuring the magnitude of any identified deflection/ slope.

*The ‘Heel Drop Test’ is essentially the surveyor stamping on the floor with their heel and assessing both their bodies reaction and the floors, to test how solid and stable it is.

Drainage

Level 1: A RICS surveyor will not lift covers to drains or tanks, this means they will likely have little to report back on drainage.

Level 2: A RICS surveyor will lift any accessible covers to drains or tanks to visually inspect them but will not observe them in use.

Level 3: A RICS surveyor will lift any accessible covers to drains or tanks to visually inspect them, they will try to observe them in use to assess how functional they are. This is obviously only doable in properties where the drainage system has not been drained or emptied.

At all levels, chambers will not be opened that are in communal areas of a flat i.e. stairwells. Also, if the surveyor can’t see appropriate evidence of good installation/maintenance of drainage within a property, they will likely suggest further specialised testing.

Grounds

Level 1: The RICS surveyor will walk around the grounds and perform a basic assessment of any external features that they have been asked to view. They will look at the inside and outside of outdoor structures, and where safe to do so they will use equipment such as ladders to view parts of the grounds they could not see from elsewhere.

Level 2: The RICS surveyor will walk around the grounds and perform a thorough inspection of any external features that they have been asked to view, noting down any limitations they found. They will look at the inside and outside of outdoor structures, and where safe to do so they will use equipment such as ladders to view parts of the grounds they could not see from elsewhere.

Level 3: The RICS surveyor will walk around the grounds and perform a thorough inspection of any external features that they have been asked to view. They will look at the inside and outside of outdoor structures, and where safe to do so they will use equipment such as ladders to view parts of the grounds they could not see from elsewhere. The surveyor will check for any issues that may be costly to resolve and report these to you, including a breakdown of the possible legal and insurance ramifications of such issues.
 

Making sure you know the difference between the different levels of RICS house survey can help you to effectively know which is right for your new property. Remember, your surveyor can't go ahead with a survey that doesn't match the property's needs/requirements. If you're still unsure what you need to request, asking a surveyor for more advice can be invaluable.

Remember, the level one is economic, yet less thorough, and is used for new builds. The level 2 is more detailed, yet still economic, but may not be available for older and more complicated properties. The level 3 offers the most in-depth assessment and advice and is effective for all property types, but is the most expensive.

 
 
 

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