What is the difference between a Building Survey and a HomeBuyers report?

James Peck

James Peck

James has worked the residential property sector since 2005 with roles in Asset Management, Probate, Insurance, Party Wall Matters, Valuation and Building Surveying in both local and national areas having spent several years working within the London area and the Home Counties. James specialises in building surveying with a particular interest in non-traditional construction properties and historic buildings. James has an in-depth knowledge of residential buildings and provides clear and concise advice to clients.
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Building Surveys, Regulated by RICS

When it’s time to conduct a thorough survey on your property, many people wonder whether to get a Building Survey or a Homebuyers Report and may not even know there’s a difference between the two. The survey you should select depends on a range of factors relating to the property’s condition and background – so it can often help to understand the differences between them. Read on to learn more about these two survey types, and how to choose between them, alongside the answers to other frequently asked questions.

What are these survey types?

Understanding the actual definitions of these surveys can help you identify, and compare, the main differences between them, as each report has its own unique focus.

What is a Homebuyers Report?

A Homebuyers Report is a Level 2 inspection, and the most popular choice for people buying property in the UK on account of being relatively cheap, and providing you with a general building review. This is primarily a visual inspection, with many of the concerns being noticeable, even if buyers typically don’t spot them. Surveyors use extensive knowledge of potential building issues to investigate each part of the property, using a traffic light system to help you figure out if the property is worth buying. While this is less thorough than Building Surveys, many buildings fare better with a Homebuyers Report, allowing you to save money.

What is a Building Survey?

A Building Survey, also known as a full structural survey, is a Level 3 report that thoroughly assesses a building’s condition in much more detail than a Homebuyers Report. This helps you detect any potential problems before a property purchase – and this certainty usually makes it a worthwhile investment, as they generally cost more than a Homebuyers Report to accommodate the thorough investigation. This approach may highlight a greater range of defects if applicable, alongside an estimate of repair costs. It also makes use of the traffic light system as a visual indicator of the property’s current status, such as if repairs are necessary.

Building Surveyors

We are one of the leading Chartered Surveyors covering London, Buckinghamshire, Marlow and Oxfordshire and regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Our team is dedicated to providing the highest quality building surveys.
Contact us to discuss your requirements further.

What are the similarities between these reports?

These reports involve different emphases and techniques, but they both have an overall aim of helping you see if a property has significant issues that may stop you from getting a good deal. Most of the issues they uncover end up being the same, including mould, cracks, and rot – though the added security of a more thorough check might still prompt you to select a Building Survey. In either case, the surveyor will still do their best to ensure a complete inspection, uncovering any problems that the seller might be unaware of or even concealing.

On top of this, both approaches rely on a traffic light system to assess the building and its main features, as this is a helpful format that clearly illustrates the building’s condition. The Oakfield Building survey can use either this or a bespoke format to suit your needs. For example, if the property’s electrical work has minor faults that are easy to remedy, the surveyor marks it as yellow – while more significant faults incur a red rating. If the electrical work seems to all be in order, it gets a green rating. Both reports also give you a full understanding of how to use negative results in your favour, such as negotiating a lower asking price.

Do Building Surveys and Homebuyer Reports include images?

As the elements of these investigations are easily identifiable, both reports include a robust gallery of images to complement the written explanations and traffic light system. These photographs serve as clear evidence of an issue that needs remedying, or that the feature is in good condition and requires no further action. The photos go alongside the relevant report sections to illustrate problems or other assessments; they don’t just go on the document’s appendix. The amount of images depends upon how many are necessary for illustrative purposes, but even a less-thorough Homebuyer Report could include up to 100 photographs.

Homebuyers Survey Roof Report
Building Survey from Oakfield Chartered Surveyors
Homebuyers Drainage Survey

What technology helps with these reports?

Though the professionals conducting these investigations have the training and knowledge to assess a range of concerns just by looking at each part of the building, they also use technology to back this up. This is the case for both Homebuyers Reports and Building Surveys, as each encompasses many elements of a property. To get a fully accurate picture of the building’s features and performance, surveying firms use specific tools that access areas of the property they cannot reach. This includes:

Investigators can install special cameras into a property, which they can then manually control or direct to find a specific part of the property that isn’t available. This may help them discover, for example, mould colonies in the walls that the owner hasn’t discovered.

Drones can quickly capture data throughout the property, minimising the time a report administrator needs to spend on-site. They can access hard-to-reach areas, and provide high-quality video footage of each level – such as the roof, which might be inaccessible.

The surveying industry is always growing and embracing new innovations, many of which aren’t available to all building survey and inspection companies. These technologies could massively alter and streamline the entire sector in years to come.

Laser scanning is a particularly interesting innovation that is slowly becoming more available – this involves the use of lasers to map an environment. The end result is a 3D facsimile, which the reviewer and buyer might then assess together.

Building Surveyors

We are one of the leading Chartered Surveyors covering London, Buckinghamshire, Marlow and Oxfordshire and regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Our team is dedicated to providing the highest quality building surveys.
Contact us to discuss your requirements further.

What can I do if the report finds defects in the building?

Though the professionals conducting these investigations have the training and knowledge to assess a range of concerns just by looking at each part of the building, they also use technology to back this up. This is the case for both Homebuyers Reports and Building Surveys, as each encompasses many elements of a property. To get a fully accurate picture of the building’s features and performance, surveying firms use specific tools that access areas of the property they cannot reach. This includes:

Investigators can install special cameras into a property, which they can then manually control or direct to find a specific part of the property that isn’t available. This may help them discover, for example, mould colonies in the walls that the owner hasn’t discovered.

Drones can quickly capture data throughout the property, minimising the time a report administrator needs to spend on-site. They can access hard-to-reach areas, and provide high-quality video footage of each level – such as the roof, which might be inaccessible.

The surveying industry is always growing and embracing new innovations, many of which aren’t available to all building survey and inspection companies. These technologies could massively alter and streamline the entire sector in years to come.

Laser scanning is a particularly interesting innovation that is slowly becoming more available – this involves the use of lasers to map an environment. The end result is a 3D facsimile, which the reviewer and buyer might then assess together.

What technology helps with these reports?

If a survey or report reveals that the property has problems you weren’t previously aware of, this may affect if you go ahead with your offer. You could use this information to negotiate a lower price with the owner, as you might be able to prove that the property has a lower value than advertised due to these issues. The owner can decide to quickly fix the issues, but the buyer could simply feel safer purchasing the home for a lower price and then fixing it themselves; this could provide them with better peace of mind.

Some concerns may also take a significant amount of time to deal with, in which case a transaction would have to wait possibly weeks before the owner fixes these property defects. A lower asking price could cover the fees of any necessary repairs, and a Building Survey specifically outlines these same fees to make it easier – you can even ask for a deduction of this specific amount. If you aren’t satisfied with the owner’s response to the report or survey, you might decide to abandon the transaction and seek a property in better condition.

Which buildings benefit the most from each approach?

If a survey or report reveals that the property has problems you weren’t previously aware of, this may affect if you go ahead with your offer. You could use this information to negotiate a lower price with the owner, as you might be able to prove that the property has a lower value than advertised due to these issues. The owner can decide to quickly fix the issues, but the buyer could simply feel safer purchasing the home for a lower price and then fixing it themselves; this could provide them with better peace of mind.

Some concerns may also take a significant amount of time to deal with, in which case a transaction would have to wait possibly weeks before the owner fixes these property defects. A lower asking price could cover the fees of any necessary repairs, and a Building Survey specifically outlines these same fees to make it easier – you can even ask for a deduction of this specific amount. If you aren’t satisfied with the owner’s response to the report or survey, you might decide to abandon the transaction and seek a property in better condition.

Who can I trust to provide Homebuyers Reports and Building Surveys?

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, or RICS, is the primary surveying body of the UK and devised these two approaches to building assessments, among others. Surveying companies that register with RICS have high standards to maintain throughout every job, and this regulation serves as a mark of quality. When looking for a business to conduct structural surveys, RICS-regulated options have more experience and reliability than other organisations and can provide you with better surveys and reports with more depth. RICS-regulated surveyors also have full insurance, protecting you from liability in case of any issues.

This means you should always select a RICS surveying company whenever you need to thoroughly investigate a building’s current condition before making a purchase or offer. Oakfield Chartered Surveyors is RICS-regulated, and we use the available standards and training to continuously improve upon our service. This lets us provide our clients with excellent Building and Homebuyers Surveys, which we use to give them peace of mind about a property purchase or a chance to negotiate a better price. For more on our service and to discuss which survey format suits you best, give us a call at one of our locations or info@oakfieldsurveyors.co.uk email us.

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