RICS Surveys Guide: What Are The Levels, Features & Costs?

Wednesday 26th June | 10 minute read

RICS Surveys

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is a globally recognised professional body dedicated to enforcing the highest international standards in property and construction. But what are RICS surveys? What are the options, features, and benefits?

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has been a well-established name in property and construction for over 150 years, offering surveys that range from simple condition reports to in-depth building surveys. A RICS survey provides key insights into a property's condition (and value), helping you make informed decisions and avoid unexpected costs. 

Whether you're a buyer, seller, investor, or property manager, understanding RICS surveys can ensure you're making the right decision.


What are the RICS Surveys, and what do they include?

RICS surveys serve as a thorough property health assessment, inspecting the condition and structure of a property. 

The type of house survey you'll require depends on the age and condition of the property you're buying. You can opt for three levels of surveys: the Building Survey (Level 3 or 'Full Structural' survey), the HomeBuyer Survey (Level 2), or the Condition Survey (Level 1). Here they are in more detail. 

RICS Level 1 Home Survey

Also known as the “Condition Report,” this survey outlines a property's condition, identifies risks, and highlights urgent defects. It’s ideal for conventional or newer homes.

£250 - £800

RICS Level 2 Home Survey

Also known as the “Home Buyer Report,” this survey offers more detailed information and is suitable for properties in reasonable condition. The Level 2 survey has two options: survey only or survey and valuation.

£350 - £900

RICS Level 3 Home Survey

Also known as the 'Building Survey,' this is the most comprehensive option. It’s recommended for more extensive, older, or unique properties. It provides an in-depth analysis and detailed advice on repairs and maintenance.

£500 - £1,500

What is RICS?

RICS, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, is a global professional body accrediting land, property, construction, and infrastructure experts. RICS sets and regulates standards while providing impartial advice on various issues impacting businesses and consumers. 


What are the key differences between each RICS survey?

The following includes all the features of the RICS reports and what level consists of these features.

Service 

RICS Level 1 Survey

RICS Level 2 Survey

Level 2 (plus valuation)

RICS Level 3 Survey

Describes the property's construction and condition, noting potential issues and visible defects.

Included

Included

Included

Included

Identifies serious problems or issues needing urgent attention or further investigation.

Included

Included

Included

Included

Includes a standard visual inspection without removing secured panels, fittings, or covers.

Included

Included

Included

Included

Assists in determining if additional advice is necessary before committing to purchase.

 

Included

Included

Included

Advises on future maintenance needs and helps budget for repairs or restoration.

 

Included

Included

Included

This includes a thorough inspection of the roof space and drainage chambers.

 

Included

Included

Included

Provides a sum for reinstatement to prevent under- or over-insurance.

   

Included

 

Provides a market value-based valuation.

   

Included

 

Establishes property construction, materials used, and their future performance.

     

Included

Describes visible and potential hidden defects.

     

Included

Describes repair options, timelines, and consequences of inaction.

     

Included

A comprehensive visual inspection covering a wider range of issues, including detailed scrutiny of roof space, grounds, floors, and services.

     

Included

What is a RICS Level 1 Survey?

A RICS Level 1 Survey, previously known as a “Condition Survey,” is RICS's most basic form of survey. It provides a basic overview; no advice or valuation is included in this survey.

What is included in the RICS Level 1 survey?

The surveyor will visually inspect all accessible parts of the property, including the exterior and interior. This does not involve moving furniture or lifting carpets.

1. Condition rating. The survey uses a simple 'traffic light' system to rate the condition of various property elements.

Green Amber Red

No repair is currently needed.

Defects that need repairing or replacing are not considered ‘serious’ or ‘urgent’. Defects that are serious need to be repaired, replaced, or investigated urgently.

2. Information on the property. Basic information about the property, such as construction type, materials used, and age.

3. Summary of risks. An overview of risks to the building, grounds, and people.

4. General maintenance advice. Basic property maintenance guidance to prevent future issues.

5. Overall condition summary. A summary of the property's overall condition, highlighting any significant issues found.

RICS Level 1 Survey example

Here are the key features of a RICS Level 1 Condition report.

About the inspection and report

Explanation of the surveyor's inspection process and report. Description of the physical inspection and the report based on the inspection. Details on construction and general property condition, defects needing urgent attention, serious issues, and visual inspection limitations.

Summary of condition ratings

Overview of the condition ratings of the property's elements. Summary of urgent and non-urgent defects and elements with no current issues. Documents suggested for review.

About the property

Information about the property type, year built, extensions, conversions, construction, accommodation, and energy efficiency.

Outside the property

Details of external inspections, including limitations and the condition of chimney stacks, roof coverings, rainwater pipes, etc.

Inside the property

Details of internal inspections, including limitations, condition of the roof structure, ceilings, walls, etc.

Services

Visual inspection of services, including electricity, gas/oil, water, heating, water heating, drainage, and standard services. Safety warnings and recommendations for further investigation by specialists.

Grounds

Inspection of the grounds, including limitations, condition of the garage, permanent outbuildings, and other structures.

Issues for legal advisers

Legal issues identified during the inspection may require further investigation, including regulations, guarantees, and other matters.

Risks

Summary of defects and issues presenting risks to the building, grounds, or people, including structural movement, timber defects, dampness, flood risks, etc.

Surveyor’s declaration

Surveyor's credentials, company information, property address, client's name, and declaration of inspection and report preparation.

What to do now

Advice on further investigations, getting quotations for repairs, and who to contact for further investigations. 

Description of the RICS Home Survey - Level 1 service and terms of engagement

Description of the service, physical inspection process, equipment used, and limitations on the inspection.

Typical house diagram

Diagram of a typical house to illustrate various elements inspected in the survey.

What is the cost of the RICS Level 1 Survey?

A Level 1 survey costs between £250 and £800, but this varies depending on the property's value. Here, we break down the typical costs for properties of different values.

Property Value 

Average cost for Level 1 Survey (£)

Up to £100,000

£250 - £400

£100,001 to £200,000

£250 - £400

£200,001 to £300,000

£300 - £450

£300,001 to £400,000

£350 - £500

£400,001 to £500,000

£400 - £550

£500,001 to £600,000

£450 - £600

£600,001 to £700,000

£500 - £650

£700,001 to £800,000

£550 - £700

£800,001 to £900,000

£600 - £750

£900,001 to £1,000,000

£650 - £800

Based on average prices (2024), and may be subject to change. The data provided is based on general market trends and typical costs observed in the UK for RICS surveys. These figures are compiled from various sources, including industry reports, surveyor websites, and consumer feedback.


What is a RICS Level 2 Survey?

A RICS Level 2 Survey, previously known as a “HomeBuyer Report”, is a standard survey provided by RICS. It’s designed to give prospective homebuyers a detailed assessment of the condition of a property they intend to purchase.

The Level 2 survey, with a valuation, is typically used in buying, selling, probate, matrimonial and bridging loan processes. 

What is included in the RICS Level 2 Survey?

A Level 2 RICS survey is a physical inspection of the property, a detailed report based on the inspection findings, and a valuation incorporated within the report. 

The surveyor aims to provide professional advice to help you make informed decisions on purchasing the property, including considerations on repairs, pricing, and additional advice needed before committing. Any additional services beyond the standard terms require a separate agreement.

RICS Level 2 Survey example

Here are the key features of a RICS Level 2 Homebuyers report.

Identification and Status of the Valuer 

This will include who is completing the report and their level of experience. 

 

This section will also include who has checked and signed off on this report. 

Client 

The details of who the report is for.

Purpose of Valuation

This details why the valuation is taking place.

Property to be valued 

Details of the property, including.

  • Address 
  • Image
  • Tenure
  • Type and use of property (for example, a residential-detached house)
  • Description
  • Accommodation 
  • Gross internal floor area 
  • Site area

Definition of Value 

Explanation of the valuation basis is typically defined as the estimated amount the property would exchange between a willing buyer and seller.

Basis of Value 

For example, the comparable method - estimates the value of a house by comparing it to the sale prices of similar properties in comparable locations within a recent timeframe.

Valuation Date 

The date that the valuation takes place.

Assumptions and Extent of Investigations

List of general assumptions, such as the absence of hazardous materials, no contamination, and no structural defects.

Source of Information 

List data sources used in the valuation, such as property databases and local estate agents.

Restrictions on Publication

Statement regarding the use and distribution of the report, specifying that it is for the client and their legal representatives only.

Third-party liability

Liability Statement: Disclaimer regarding the report's reliance on third parties.

RICS Valuation Standards

Confirmation that the valuation and report comply with RICS Valuation – Global Standards.

Valuation Market Commentary

Commentary on the current property market conditions affecting the valuation.

Summary of Comparables

Details of similar properties used for comparison in the valuation process.

Summary of Key Inputs into the Valuation and Reasoning

Summary of the key factors and reasoning behind the valuation figure provided.

Reinstatement cost

Explanation of the reinstatement cost and its basis, including the estimated cost to rebuild the property.

Market uncertainty

Discussion of any uncertainties in the market that could impact the valuation.

Limitations on liability

Details of the limitations on liability concerning third parties and the scope of the valuation.

Validity period 

The period for which the valuation is considered valid.

Other information

Other helpful information includes the definitions of various valuation terms, such as investment value, fair value, and liquidation value.

Source: Based on an example of an RICS property valuation provided by Coseyhomes.

The report will then detail the name of the Valuer, the firm completing the report (if applicable) and the date of the report. 

What is the cost of the RICS Level 2 Survey?

A Level 2 RICS survey costs between £350 and £900, which varies depending on the property's value. Here, we break down the typical costs for properties of different values.

Property Value 

Average cost for Level 2 Survey (£) 

Up to £100,000

£350 - £450

£100,001 to £200,000

£400 - £500 

£200,001 to £300,000

£450 - £550

£300,001 to £400,000

£500 - £600

£400,001 to £500,000

£550 - £650

£500,001 to £600,000

£600 - £700

£600,001 to £700,000

£650 - £750

£700,001 to £800,000

£700 - £800

£800,001 to £900,000

£750 - £850

£900,001 to £1,000,000

£800 - £900

The data provided is based on average prices (2024) and is subject to change. It is based on general market trends and typical costs observed in the UK for RICS surveys. These figures are compiled from various sources, including industry reports, surveyor websites, and consumer feedback.


What is a RICS Level 3 Survey?

A RICS Level 3 Survey, previously known as a Structural or “Building Survey”, offers a comprehensive inspection of residential properties. It provides a detailed assessment of the property's condition, identifying defects, their causes, the urgency of repairs, maintenance options, and approximate costs where feasible.

Conducted by RICS-regulated Building Surveyors, this survey ensures expert, independent advice. It is crucial for Listed Buildings, properties over 50 years old, or those with unique construction or renovation plans.

What is included in the RICS Level 3 Survey?

The survey covers all visible and accessible parts of the property, including roofs, walls, floors, windows, doors, chimneys, and outbuildings. Surveyors must report major issues but do not inspect enclosed or concealed areas.

Unlike RICS Level 2 Reports, the Level 3 Survey report format can be customised. It typically excludes valuations unless requested but can serve as a mortgage valuation if the surveyor is approved by the lender.

The report highlights significant defects such as subsidence, damp issues, structural alterations, and hazardous materials like asbestos. It also recommends further specialist investigations if necessary. However, it only details heating or electrical systems if specifically requested, although arrangements can be made for additional assessments.

A Level 3 Survey typically takes up to a day to complete, with the final report delivered within two weeks. While more expensive than Level 1 or 2 surveys, opting for a Level 3 Survey can save significant costs by uncovering hidden problems or preventing a poor property investment.

RICS Level 3 Survey and RICS Level 1, what are the differences?

The Level 3 Survey's report format is flexible, allowing for customisation based on client needs and specific property concerns. It's more expensive and takes longer than a Level 1 Survey; it’s essential for older properties, Listed Buildings, or properties with unconventional construction that may require extensive renovations or alterations.

Aspect

Condition Survey

Building Survey

Purpose

Overview of the property’s condition

Provide a detailed analysis of the property’s condition

Level of Detail

Basic overview

Comprehensive overview

Inspection Depth

Surface-level inspection

Thorough inspection, including structural elements

Cost

£290 - £380

£630 - £1,200

Surveyor Qualification

RICS Chartered Surveyor

RICS Chartered Surveyor

What is the cost of the RICS Level 3 Survey?

A Level 3 survey costs between £500 and £1,500, but this varies depending on the property's value. Here, we break down the typical costs for properties of different values.

Property Value 

Average cost for Level 3 Survey (£)

Up to £100,000

£500 - £600

£100,001 to £200,000

£550 - £650

£200,001 to £300,000

£600 - £700

£300,001 to £400,000

£650 - £750 

£400,001 to £500,000

£700 - £800

£500,001 to £600,000

£750 - £850

£600,001 to £700,000

£800 - £900

£700,001 to £800,000

£850 - £950

£800,001 to £900,000

£900 - £1,000

£900,001 to £1,000,000

£950 - £1,050

The data provided is based on average prices (2024) and is subject to change. It is based on general market trends and typical costs observed in the UK for RICS surveys. These figures are compiled from various sources, including industry reports, surveyor websites, and consumer feedback.


What are the benefits of using a RICS survey?

Using a RICS survey offers four key benefits when purchasing or owning a property.

  1. Expert evaluation. RICS surveys are conducted by qualified and regulated surveyors who adhere to RICS standards. They provide expert, impartial advice on the condition of the property.
  2. Comprehensive inspection. Depending on the level chosen (e.g., Level 1, Level 2, Level 3), RICS surveys offer varying degrees of inspection depth. The more comprehensive Level 3 Survey covers all accessible parts of the property, identifying structural issues and potential defects.
  3. Identification of issues. Surveys help uncover hidden problems that may not be visible during a casual viewing. This includes structural defects, damp issues, subsidence, and other potential issues that could impact the property's value or safety.
  4. Legal compliance. Some lenders may require an RICS survey to assess the property's value and condition for mortgage purposes. This ensures compliance with lending criteria.

 Where can you find a RICS valuer or surveyor?

You can visit the official RICS website and use their search tool to locate professionals in your area. Here’s how.

  1. Visit RICS Firms Search. Go to RICS Firms Search.
  2. Add your location. Type in the location (e.g., city or postcode) where you need the service. For instance, enter "Bournemouth" in the location input box if you're in Bournemouth.
  3. Search results. Click the ‘Search’ button to view a list of RICS-regulated firms and surveyors in your area.
  4. Contact details. Each listing includes contact details, firm information, and their services, helping you choose the right professional for your needs.

Final thoughts

Surveys conducted by qualified and regulated chartered surveyors provide meaningful insights into a property's condition, helping you make informed decisions and avoid unexpected costs. Whether you're a first-time homebuyer, an experienced investor, or a property manager, leveraging the expertise of RICS can ensure you're making the right choice. By using an RICS survey, you gain a professional evaluation of your property, aiding in financial planning, legal compliance, and, ultimately, peace of mind.

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