Homebuyer Survey Or Building Survey – What's The Difference?


The 5 Things To Know When Choosing The Right Survey

By Camsure Home Surveys, October 18th, 2021, 6 min read

In this guide, we are going to look at the differences between an RICS Homebuyer Report and an RICS Building Survey and the 5 things you need to know to choose the right survey.

What's the Difference Between a Homebuyer Survey or Building Survey?

Both are carried out by an RICS surveyor and differ in the amount of detail and property type.

A full structural Building Survey (Level 3 RICS Survey) is a detailed evaluation of usually older and structurally complex properties.

A HomeBuyers Report (Level 2 RICS Survey) is not as comprehensive and is better for more modern properties with a conventional design.

Let's look at this in more detail.

What is an RICS HomeBuyer Report?

Performed by a qualified surveyor, this is usually done as a walk through where the surveyor inspects the property.

The main purpose of the report is to get an overview of the state of the property and determine a market valuation.

The minimum you can expect from a HomeBuyer Report is information on:

  • Any obvious structural problems or issues
  • A property valuation to the respective purchaser
  • An overview of the property by age, condition, and structure
  • Advice on repair and renewals
  • The rebuild cost for insurance purposes

To make sure your RICS HomeBuyer Survey meets the standards, RICS has provided an overview of what to expect from this type of report.

Check out the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors criteria.

In brief:
"The RICS HomeBuyer (Survey & Valuation) Service contains

  • An inspection of the property
  • A report based on the inspection
  • A valuation which is part of the report

The surveyor who provides the RICS HomeBuyer Service (Survey) aims to give you professional advice to help you to:

  • Make an informed decision on whether to go ahead with buying the property
  • Make an informed decision on what is a reasonable price to pay for the property
  • Consider any repairs or replacements the property needs; and
  • Consider what further advice you should take before committing to purchase the property."

What Happens During an RICS Homebuyer Survey?

Inside the Property

The RICS surveyor will look at what is visible and unobstructed as they inspect the property. So, they won't move furniture, unfasten fittings or look under carpets. They will check for damp and use meters and torches where appropriate to accessible areas.

Services to the Property

Again, the surveyor only checks what is visible and doesn't run tests on any utilities or the condition of the equipment.

Outside the Property

Only permanent buildings on the grounds of the property are inspected. They include walls, fences, outbuildings, etc.

or more detail on an RICS HomeBuyer Report Survey see our article on What Is A HomeBuyer Report?

What Is an RICS Building Survey?

Also known as a full structural survey, a Level 3 RICS Survey or a Red Book Survey, is one of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' most detailed property surveys. The focus here is on assessing the structural integrity of the property.

To make sure your RICS Building Survey meets the standards, RICS has provided an overview of what to expect from this type of report. Check out the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors criteria.

In brief, they set out the following criteria for the report:

"This Building Survey is produced by an RICS surveyor who has written this report for you to use. If you decide not to act on the advice in the report, you do this at your own risk.

The Building Survey aims to:

  • Help you make a reasoned and informed decision when purchasing the property, or when planning for repairs, maintenance or upgrading of the property
  • Provide detailed advice on condition
  • Describe the identifiable risk of potential or hidden defects
  • Where practicable and agreed, provide an estimate of costs for identified repairs
  • Make recommendations as to any further actions or advice which need to be obtained before committing to purchase."

What Happens During an RICS Building Survey?

The RICS surveyor will inspect and give a rating to each element of the survey. Recommendations will then be made based on that rating. If any part of the property can not be accessed, then the surveyor will advise that further investigation will need to be carried out.

Inside The Property

All structural elements are examined looking for damage, hazards, future issues, damp and rot and focus on areas such as:

  1. The integrity of fireplaces and chimneys
  2. The condition of the flooring and woodwork
  3. The state of the plumbing

Services to the Property

Utilities, drainage and services are examined if they are observable and are tested for "normal everyday use."

Outside the Property

The external condition of the property, the roof, environmental concerns and permanent buildings are inspected and reported on.

For more detail on an RICS Building Survey see our article on What Is An RICS Building Survey.

The 5 Main Differences Between an RICS Homebuyer Survey and an RICS Building Survey

  RICS Homebuyer Survey RICS Building Survey
1. Desktop and oral examination of the property carried out As appropriate. It will usually signpost to additional services for further investigation Yes
2. A market valuation provided As an extra As an extra
3. A full structural survey conducted with detailed advice No Yes
4. Level of advice on the condition of the property Moderate Extensive
5. Guaranteed through RICS Yes Yes

What Type Of Survey Do I Need For My Property?

Depending on the property type, your resources and ultimate goals, here are some factors to consider when choosing the right type of survey for your project.

RICS Homebuyer Survey RICS Building Survey
Good for conventionally built properties Structurally complex buildings
More modern buildings less than 100 years old Historic buildings
No major alterations Buildings that have been significantly altered
Properties in good repair Properties in a bad state of repair
No major renovations needed Properties where the client will carry out major renovations

See this RICS Guide for further information

How Do I Find an RICS Homebuyer Surveyor or an RICS Building Surveyor Near Me?

You can always find a surveyor by going to the RICS website and checking out their member's lists. Also, Camsure Surveys have local RICS surveyors across much of the UK with local knowledge in your area.

All of Camsure's chartered surveyors are RICS qualified and skilled in both types of surveys. You can find a surveyor near you easily by visiting Areas We Cover.


As you can see, whether you are buying, selling, re-mortgaging, insuring or involved in probate, getting a Homebuyer Survey or an RICS Building Surveyor is critical.

The main differences between the two will depend on your project and goals.

In a nutshell, for standard, well-maintained properties consider an RICS HomeBuyer Survey. For properties that are more complex or in poor condition, consider an RICS Building Survey.

If you have questions or would like some advice, please get in touch.

Useful Links

RICS - www.rics.org

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