How to read a home survey

Before getting a home survey commissioned, many people wonder how they’re going to read and understand it. They might worry about getting their head around technical jargon or whether they need background knowledge of the property industry. At GB Home Surveys, we understand that a home survey can appear daunting, especially to those people who haven’t had one done before. As such, we’ve put this article together to explain what a home survey report entails and how you can interpret its findings to your advantage.

What is a home survey, and why get one?

A home survey is usually commissioned by a house buyer after the initial offer is accepted. At this stage, the buyer isn’t yet legally obligated to purchase the house, and the survey acts as a risk mitigator. Carried out by a qualified chartered surveyor, the home survey involves a detailed analysis of the property and any problems it might have. A chartered surveyor should usually be certified by RICS, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Currently, we offer three levels of home survey:


This is a quick once over to give an accurate estimate as to the property’s true worth. It reassures you that you aren’t overpaying.

Home Survey Level 2

The Home Survey Level 2 goes into more detail regarding the state of the property. The surveyor will perform more of an inspection on various aspects of the house. It also includes everything you get with the valuation.

Home Survey Level 3

Formerly known as a Building Survey, this report is the most detailed you can get. As well as all the information you’ll get from the Home Survey Level 2 and valuation, a Home Survey Level 3 goes even further in-depth, focusing on the property’s structural qualities.

What details does a home survey include?

The specifics of each individual home survey differ depending on which level you choose. For example, a valuation is pretty simple, but a Home Survey Level 3 goes into great detail. For the purposes of this article, we’ll take the Home Survey Level 3 as an example. It might be helpful to have the sample reports from RICS open alongside as you read through these sections.

RICS – Sample Home Survey Level 3
RICS – Description of the Home Survey Level 3

Home Survey Level 3 sections

A Home Survey Level 3 is divided into several sections, as you’ll see on the Contents page (page 2).

About the inspection – the first section contains the general terms of the survey, including what the surveyor has been contracted to carry out. You’ll also find their details and an overview of the weather and property conditions on the day.

Overall opinion – RICS home surveys are designed to be as clear as possible. With this in mind, Section B, the ‘overall opinion’, gives a brief overview of the main things of note. While this information is helpful at a glance, we’d always recommend going through the report in full to get the details of anything wrong.

About the property – this section of the report includes information about the property. You’ll find things such as the number of rooms and loft spaces, means of escape, energy ratings, mains services and grounds information (among more).

Outside the property – the surveyor carries out a visual inspection on the outside of the property. You’ll find details about the roof, walls, windows, guttering and joinery.

Inside the property – this and the previous section are probably what people are most interested in when they commission a home survey. A visual inspection of a house’s inside often reveals a few potential problems. The surveyor inspects ceilings, walls, floors, the loft space, and much more.

Services – as home surveyors, it’s our job to carry out visual inspections on services. Most of these are hidden within the building or grounds. Although we inspect these visually and check they work under regular operation (the findings you’ll find in the report), we recommend hiring specialists for anything more in-depth.

Grounds – as well as the land around the property, the surveyor will also check out any garages, outbuildings or shared areas for flats.
Issues for your legal advisers – notable things your legal advisers need to work with or around.

Risks – whether it’s risks to the property or its occupants, a home survey report lists them in detail. Use this section to get a more in-depth account of anything wrong with the house.

Energy matters – a broad overview of the property’s energy-related properties (such as heating, ventilation, insulation, etc.), including information from the EPC.
Surveyor’s declaration – once the survey has been completed, the surveyor signs it off here.

What to do now – for most people, this is the section of most note. It outlines the surveyor’s suggestions on how you should proceed with the issues and risks they have flagged. You can use this information as a rough professional guide on how to proceed. It also contains advice for getting quotes and further investigations, as well as cost estimates (an optional extra).

Description of RICS Home Survey – Level 3 service and terms of engagement – a quick overview of the report.

Typical house diagram – a diagram of a sample house, showing you what different terms mean when you read them in the report.

How do I use the information in a home survey report?

Most of the report focuses on the general condition, whether good or bad, of the house. Sections I (risks) and L (what to do now) are the most direct in terms of advice moving forward. We make extra efforts to ensure that our home survey reports are written in a jargon-free and easy-to-follow way. If you’re struggling to understand any aspect, we are always more than happy to clarify things or explain them differently.

The professional advice you find in a home survey is just that – advice. All our surveys are always carried out to the highest degree of quality and accuracy, and all the suggestions we make are always based on what we feel is best for you and the house in question. That being said, you are under no obligation to follow the report’s advice if you decide not to. It’s up to you. Occasionally, some people pull out from buying a home after receiving the home survey report, feeling it’s just not worth the risk. On the other hand, a ‘good’ home survey report might encourage people to finalise the deal.

You are always welcome to chat with your surveyor after the report has been completed and sent to you. If you have any questions or comments or simply want some help reading through the report, we’ll be more than happy to help you out. To schedule a free initial consultation, please get in touch with us.

Looking for a quote, or maybe you have a question? Get in touch today.

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