Which One is Better – Level 2 Or Level 3 Survey?

Did you know that, according to a recent poll, British homeowners move house once every 23 years, on average. We all know that moving is one of the most stressful things in life, so it’s no wonder that we don’t do it all that often! With that in mind, it isn’t all that surprising that buying a house can feel like an unfamiliar process, even if you’ve done it before. Especially since processes and guidance changes, which leaves buyers confused as to what types of surveys are available and what they’re for. So today, we’re going to help you choose the best survey option for you when buying a home.

What Surveys Are Available?

There are two main survey options available when you’re buying a pre-owned property (in other words, anything but a new build). They are Level 2 and Level 3 surveys. You may have also heard them called the Homebuyers Report and Building Survey (or even a full structural survey), which is what they used to be known as.

We haven’t mentioned Level 1 surveys because, while they do exist, they usually don’t contain enough information to allow an informed purchase decision, so we don’t offer these at Harrison Clarke.

What Is A Level 2 Survey?

A Level 2 survey is considered the basic survey by most purchasers. It provides a professional opinion on the condition of the property on the day the surveyor inspects it, providing a snapshot of that moment in time. The whole property is inspected, and each element individually described for the report. If the surveyor finds any defects, they are written up into a special report along with any remedial actions that should be taken to address them.

At Harrison Clarke, we dictate our survey reports rather than relying on stock phrases preloaded into iPad software. That way if we see something we think you would want to know as a buyer, it’s easy for us to add bespoke descriptions into these reports. It’s one of the big reasons we’re able to exceed RICS standards for Level 2 surveys.

When Should I Choose A Level 2 Survey?

Typically we should recommend a Level 2 survey if you’re buying a property from around 1900 onwards, which looks on the surface to be well maintained, in good condition and hasn’t been significantly modified. Buyers would normally rely on a Level 2 survey as something of a ‘professional doublecheck’ to make sure the building is structurally sound and in good condition below the surface. That being said, sometimes structural defects can go deep, and shiny refurbishments above can leave those defects untouched.

What Is A Level 3 Survey?

A Level 3 survey is one step above the Level 2. It goes further and considers potential future defects as well as what can already be seen. A Level 3 survey will provide much more detail than a Level 2 survey, providing a more detailed assessment of any remedial works that would be needed to address the defects.

At Harrison Clarke, we offer cost estimates for addressing remedial works as standard, which can be especially helpful if a defect is found that could help you renegotiate the price. This is known as price chipping. When comparing survey costs, make sure you’re comparing like for like and that you will receive cost estimates with your Level 3 survey.

When Should I Choose A Level 3 Survey?

If you’re looking to buy a more complex property, then you’ll probably want to consider a Level 3 survey. That includes properties that:

Have been extended, maybe multiple times
Are in visually poor repair
Haven’t been refreshed in many years
Are older properties
Are of non-standard construction

Some buyers just like to know as much as possible about the property, and so will commission Level 3 surveys even on newer properties that seem to be in good condition.

If you’re planning to buy and then alter a property, then a Level 3 survey would probably be best. Your surveyor will be able to tailor their advice on proposed alterations for you. Just don’t forget to tell your surveyor your plans when discussing your survey requirements.

What About If I’m Planning A Comprehensive Refurbishment?

Sometimes buyers (often developers) will look to buy properties that are clearly in need of significant repairs. They will likely have a cost plan to rip out and refresh the kitchens, bathrooms, plumbing and electricity, but there might be some areas they have more specific concerns over – for example evidence of water leaks or visible cracking. These are more informed buyers, and are only interested in specific areas.

In this case, a non-standard survey would be needed. The terms of the inspection will need to be agreed in advance between the surveyor and the buyer, and it will usually cost less than a full Level 3 survey. Thats mainly because it won’t include detail on things the surveyor knows will be replaced anyway.

At Harrison Clarke, we’re always happy to help guide our clients towards the right survey option for them, whether that’s a Level 2, Level 3 or even a bespoke survey. Our teams will gather all information on the property from both the client and online listings, and use it to help you make the most appropriate choice. Balancing the need to understand the building with the potential survey cost can be tricky, but we have years of experience to help you decide. If you would like to discuss your survey options, you can contact one of our friendly team on 023 8155 0051.

We also have a range of videos talking through various aspects surveying. You can access them via our website or our YouTube channel

At the time of writing, we have a total of 97 reviews across Trustpilot and Google. We are proud to say that they are all 5 star ratings across the board.

Discover something you would like to know more about?

Tim Clarke, Director at Harrison Clarke chartered surveyors.

About the author

Tim Clarke,


Tim set up Harrison Clarke Chartered Surveyors in July 2017 following a series of public and private sector surveying roles, having previously worked for the University of Cambridge, Rund Partnership, Goadsby, and CBRE. 

Tim has degrees in building surveying, construction project management, and business administration.