There are three types of private survey available for residential properties that vary upwards in the level of detail provided and fee costs. These start from a level one survey (or home condition report), up to a level three report (or building survey).

It should be appreciated that they all have important things in common : a) that any type of survey undertaken is only as good as the available and safe access during the inspection. Therefore, the level of detail put in the report will be curtailed by the restrictions found on site. (In this respect it should also be noted that they are all non-invasive surveys, whereby no disruptive works of exposure are undertaken such as removing dry linings on walls or fitted floor coverings). Flat roof coverings for example, are only usually inspected with the use of a 3 metre ladder and unless other safe higher viewpoints are accessible, this will usually prevent any view of a two or three storey flat roof etc.(b) all of them include comments on any structural defects and none of them are called “structural surveys” as a result.(c) all of them focus and comment on each building element externally and internally usually working from top to bottom. So for example, the exterior would start with stacks then the roof covering etc and the interior would begin with the roof void then ceilings etc.(d) only a visual check of the services is usually undertaken and they are not tested. (e)They all comment, to a lesser or greater degree, on potential health and safety issues to the occupants of the property, any legal issues identified on site that a legal adviser should be informed about and the energy efficiency of the property.

Level 1 (Home Condition Survey)

This is a fairly minimal report, which unlike the other two levels, does not attempt to fully enter any available roof voids (i.e. only a “head and shoulders” inspection is attempted for accessible from the subject property), or lift covers to drainage inspection chambers. Furthermore, it simply points out the defects without offering any further advice such as what to do about the defects, who to contact, the consequences of not under taking repairs etc. It is considered most suitable for fairly simplistic properties such as purpose-built flats and modern properties where a relatively fewer significant defects/repair issues are likely to be discovered and reported on.

Level 2 (Home Buyers Survey)

This is an intermediate level survey that is considered appropriate for the vast majority of residential properties. This usually includes those built after 1850 with external walls containing traditional materials such as brick or stone and to a solid, cavity, or post 1960-built timber framed design. It would not be considered appropriate for properties that have a special status (such as being Listed), or if they are significantly larger than average.

Effectively, the level 2 survey will highlight significant defects in the report such as structural issues, dampness, timber decay, cavity wall tie corrosion, wood beetle infestation etc. It will then provide further associated advice, such as when to do the repair work, who should do it and the consequences of not undertaking the remedial work. It is a more broad brush approach than a building survey (or level three report) and is not intended to be an inventory of every minor defect found at a property. In this way it can provide a reasonably detailed report for any prospective purchaser of a residential property at a relatively cheaper fee.

Level 3 (Building Survey)

This is a more detailed level of report that is also appropriate for properties of non-traditional construction, older buildings constructed before 1850 such as listed buildings, larger properties etc. It provides more descriptive detail than the level two survey (or home buyers survey) and and can potentially provide additional elements such as the estimated cost of repairs reported. Extra effort is also made during the level 3 Survey inspection. For example, if inspecting a property for a level three survey (rather than a level two survey), an attempt would be made to open all the windows (rather than a random selection under a level two survey) or when inspecting the underground drainage inspection chambers, a level 3 survey would also flush W.C’s and turn on taps etc.