HomeBuyer Report vs Building Survey, what is the difference?

December 7, 2018

In this blog we will take a look at some of the more detailed differences between a Homebuyer Report and a full Building Survey.

To begin, it is recommended that you acquaint yourself with the outline of a HomeBuyer Report, a copy of which can be found here: https://www.rics.org/globalassets/rics-website/media/upholding-professional-standards/sector-standards/building-surveying/homebuyer-report-survey-1st-edition-rics.pdf

In comparison, a blank Building Survey can be found here: https://www.rics.org/globalassets/rics-website/media/upholding-professional-standards/sector-standards/building-surveying/building-survey-sample-form-rics.pdf

Clearly the two appear similar although there are additional items within the Building Survey that are not included within the HomeBuyer Report including:

  • Means of escape
  • Security (alarms, security gates etc.)
  • Information on permanent outbuildings and other structures
  • Energy efficiency

These in and of themselves would not seem to merit a significantly higher price tag however there are much more notable differences between the two which we will take a look at:

A statement from the RICS suggests:

‘The inspection for the level 2 HomeBuyer Report is less extensive than that for a level 3 building survey… as are the degree of detail and extent of reporting on the condition. These factors do not imply that the surveyor can avoid expressing opinions and advice relating to the condition that can be formed on the basis of the defined level of inspection. The service requires an adequate level of competence in surveying the type of property for which the service is suitable.’

In respect of the Building Survey the RICS suggests:

‘Inspection for the building survey is longer, more detailed and more extensive than that for the RICS HomeBuyer or the RICS Condition Reports…. The degree of detail and extent of reporting is also substantially greater. The service requires a high level of competency in surveying the type of property in question. The [Building Survey] requires the surveyor to have relevant experience in this field, have appropriate knowledge of building construction and be sufficiently skilled to inspect and report on the particular property concerned. If the surveyor cannot fulfil these requirements, then the instruction should be declined.

In short a Building Survey will be more detailed than a HomeBuyer Report, but what does this mean in practice. Lets take an example given by the RICS, that of the ceilings. The RICS suggests that a HomeBuyers Report should ensure that the ceilings are: ‘visually inspected from floor level. [Also checking:]

  • type and condition
  • dampness to surfaces, including condensation mould growth
  • safety and cracking
  • cornices or centrepieces
  • finishes, including decorations
  • asbestos containing materials (cross refer to section J).

In contrast the RICS suggest that the Building Survey should ensure that the ceilings are: ‘visually inspected from floor level and are gently pressure tested for underlying defects (such as detachment of plaster from laths).

  • type and condition
  • dampness to surfaces, including condensation and mould growth
  • safety and cracking
  • cornices or centrepieces (and implications for listed buildings)
  • finishes, including decorations
  • asbestos containing materials.

Clearly these are very similar excluding the gentle pressure testing and therefore the difference is more subtle: the way the information is conveyed. The full Building survey ‘is the premium product in the RICS Home Survey range. Clients who want a clear, impartial and detailed assessment of any type of property will choose it, and their expectations will be higher than that for the RICS HomeBuyer and Condition Reports. To meet this, it is essential that the RICS Building Survey Service:

  • is performed by a surveyor who has sufficient knowledge and competence necessary to carry out a detailed condition assessment of the property
  • describes the identifiable risk of potential or hidden defects
  • ensures that the surveyor establishes a relationship with the client in order to determine the client’s precise requirements before providing the service, and to be able to discuss the report once it has been delivered
  • includes an appropriate desk-top study carried out by the surveyor that provides a good working knowledge of the property in its locality
  • ensures a thorough and detailed property inspection, and provides a report that is factual and unambiguous, is presented in a logical order and is written in plain language. The report must also clearly differentiate facts from the surveyor’s opinion.

Unlike other Home Survey products, the RICS Building Survey Service is more flexible and may include a broader range of issues arising.

The HomeBuyer Report ‘is specifically designed for lay clients who are seeking a professional opinion at an economic price. It is, therefore, necessarily less comprehensive than a level 3 building survey (see HSIS).

The focus of the service is on assessing the general condition of the main elements of a property.

The inspection is not exhaustive, and no tests are undertaken. There is, therefore, a risk that certain defects may not be found that would have been uncovered if testing and/or a more substantial inspection had been undertaken. This is a risk that the client must accept. However, where there is ‘a trail of suspicion’ the surveyor ‘must take reasonable steps to follow the trail’. These ‘reasonable steps’ may include recommending further investigation.

In essence, the HomeBuyer Report will offer a good mid range report which is suitable to many property types and is aimed at lay people. The Building Survey is good for all property types (although is perhaps excessive for newer and smaller properties) and will provide the maximum level of detail it is possible to provide.

If you have any questions as to what level of survey is appropriate for you, feel free to give us a call.

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