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What is a Building Survey?

Martha Lott

Written by

24th Jan 2023 (Last updated on 9th Feb 2024) 6 minute read

A Building Survey is the most comprehensive property survey available. It’ll help you make an informed decision when buying a home as it provides detailed information of the property's structure and condition.

Now called the Level 3 Survey, the Building Survey will outline any defects in the property. It'll also look at the causes and provide an outline with advice on repair work.

You’ll need to hire a RICS Chartered Surveyor to carry out your Building Survey once your offer has been accepted and before the exchange of contracts. Any RICS surveyor with AssocRICS, MRICS or FRICS in their title can carry out a RICS Building Survey.

  1. What Does a Building Survey Include?
  2. Who Needs a Building Survey?
  3. What Gets Checked During a Building Survey?
  4. How Much Does A Building Survey Cost?
  5. Who Pays For It?
  6. How Long Does It Take?
  7. What Are Other Types of Building Survey?
  8. What’s the Difference Between a Building Survey and Structural Survey?
  9. Is A Building Survey Worth It?
  10. Finding a Surveyor
  11. FAQs

What Does a Building Survey Include?

The RICS Building Survey will include a thorough external and internal inspection of the property. Once your surveyor has examined all visible and accessible areas of the property, they'll provide a detailed report with their findings.

It'll include the surveyor's advice on further inspections needed and then go into more detail on specific concerns.

A Building Survey report will provide the following details:

  • Structural defects that could be serious
  • Hazardous materials such as asbestos
  • Signs of damp within walls
  • Structural work done without permission
  • Material the property is made from
  • Damage to the roof or structural timbers
  • Assess any threatening trees near the property
  • Recommend repairs for any urgent defects

A property valuation is not included but can be requested for an additional charge.

View Building Survey Report Example

Each aspect of the report will be given a condition rating of either 1, 2 or 3. Condition rating 1 means there are no repairs needed, whilst a rating of 3 means there are urgent repairs needed. This is called the traffic light system. Here's an example of a Building Survey report to help you know what to expect during your survey, provided by Cambridge Building Surveyors.

View example

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Who Needs a Building Survey?

The Building Survey can be carried out on any type of property. It’s more suited for buildings that are over 80 years of age or buildings that have specific and obvious defects that need reviewing.

Property types that need a Building Survey:

  • Historic buildings such as listed buildings
  • Buildings that are over 80 years old
  • Buildings in poor condition with visible defects like large cracks
  • Uniquely built PRC or unconventional properties
  • Buildings within conservation areas
  • Have had or plan to have renovation work
  • Homes without building regulations approval

    What Gets Checked During a Building Survey?

    A Building Survey is non-intrusive, meaning your building surveyor will only look at what’s visible and accessible.

    You can use the following to act as a Building Survey checklist:


    • Woodworm and rot
    • Dampness and condensation
    • Ceilings
    • Walls and floors
    • Chimney breasts and joinery


    • Roof space: Full inspection of the roof
    • Chimneys
    • Gutters
    • Main walls
    • Windows and doors
    • Drainage and boundaries
    • Boundary walls
    • Fences


    • Garages and permanent outbuildings
    • Conservatories
    • Tenure
    • Services

    To learn more, read What Does a Surveyor Look For.

    How Much Does A Building Survey Cost?

    The average Building Survey cost for 2024 is £800. This is based on our own data using the average UK property price of £277,00 as an example.

    We've put together the average Building Survey costs for a range of property prices.

    Property Price

    Avg. Cost of Building Survey

    up to £100,000


    £100,001 - £200,000


    £200,001 - £300,000


    £300,001 - £400,000


    £400,001 to £500,000+


    To create the table Compare My Move took the average costs from a sample of 20 RICS Chartered Surveyors and Building Societies across the UK. Note that true survey costs will vary depending on your particular situation and area.

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    Who Pays For It?

    The buyer will pay for the Building Survey in most parts of the UK. You usually have to pay for this upfront and directly to the surveyor.

    If you're buying a house in Scotland, it's the responsibility of the seller to organise and pay for a Home Report, their equivalent of a property survey.

    How Long Does It Take?

    A Building Survey can take anywhere between 4 to 8 hours to complete depending on the size of the property. The report is usually completed within 3 to 7 working days. The timing will vary depending on access and the property size.

    You’re likely to receive your survey report via email 3-7 working days after inspection. Although in some cases you can get it sent in the post for an extra charge.

    To learn more, read how long does a survey take on a house.

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    What Are Other Types of Building Survey?

    The main property surveys when buying a house are:

    • Snagging Survey - For new build properties.
    • Condition Report (Level 1) - Suited for modern homes and flats.
    • HomeBuyer Report (Level 2) - Designed for homes built less than 80 years ago.
    • Building Survey (Level 3) - For unconventional older properties.
    • Structural Survey - This might be recommended after a Building Survey for further investigation.

    What’s the Difference Between a Building Survey and Structural Survey?

    A Building Survey and a Structural Survey are two separate surveys:

    Building Survey:

    • Must be completed by a property surveyor regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
    • Consists of an inspection of all accessible areas, detailing any defects or maintenance issues.
    • Required when you’re buying a property.
    • Used to be called a "full structural survey".

    Structural Survey:

    • Can be conducted by Chartered Civils or Structural Engineers.
    • Designed to look at the structural integrity of a property.
    • Can be recommended after your survey or when you want to carry out renovation work.

    Is A Building Survey Worth It?

    It's always worth having a property survey before you buy a house. It'll highlight any specific concerns that might need significant work to repair. This gives you the option to either pull out of the sale before it's legally binding, or get money off the sale price so you can cover the repair costs.

    Finding a Surveyor

    At Compare My Move, we can match you with up to 6 leading surveyors in your local area. Fill in our surveying comparison form to compare quotes and save up to 70% on your surveying costs.

    All our surveying partners must be regulated by RICS to join our network. This is part of the surveying verification process that must be passed.

    Need a Removal Company?

    Our integrated surveying and removal comparison form allows you to compare quotes from up to 6 surveyors and up to 6 removal companies. With just a few extra steps, you can save time and money by making both arrangements through one simple form.


    Q. Do building surveyors look in cupboards?

    A. Yes. Surveyors will open cupboards to check for hidden damage or defects that exist or potentially could get a lot worse. If this could injure the surveyor or seller doesn't consent, the survey will not continue to assess the cupboards.

    Q. Do surveyors look for Japanese Knotweed?

    A. Yes. A surveyor will notify the buyer of the presence of Japanese knotweed and other invasive plants during their survey.

    Q. Do surveyors look in the loft?

    A. Yes. Surveyors will look and inspect the loft for both a homebuyer report and a Building Survey. The roof is often where problems are easily hidden, especially as this is an area that isn't shown to buyers.

    Q. Does a building surveyor check the boiler?

    A. A surveyor will check the boiler and electric meter if there aren't any risks of damaging anything.

    Q. Will a surveyor move furniture to look for mould during a survey?

    A. Yes. During a Building Survey, a surveyor will move furniture to examine behind that area, only if it doesn't pose a threat of injury or damage.

    Martha Lott

    Written by Martha Lott

    Having guest authored for many property websites, Martha now researches and writes articles for everything moving house related, from remortgages to conveyancing costs.

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