RICS Surveys vs. Structural Inspection Surveys in the UK

When purchasing a property through a mortgage, there can be a myriad of processes and procedures involved. All of them are essential to get your mortgage approved. Especially when it comes to your lender who may request a survey of your prospective property to be carried out. In this article we’ll  look at the different types of surveys. And hopefully by the end of this read, you’ll be able to easily distinguish the difference between a RICS and a Structural Inspection survey.

What is a RICS Survey?

RICS stands for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. This is the regulatory body for surveyors in the UK. RICS include a variation of survey types such as building surveys, quantity surveys, valuation surveys, and land surveys.

An RICS survey provides a general assessment of the property's condition. According to their official website www.rics.org, there are 3 levels of survey they carry out. Each level has its own evaluation criteria allowing the client to objectively select the type of home survey he/she requires or as per the lender’s requirement.

Level 1: Describes the general condition of the property. While this is the most cost-effective survey with the lowest price tag, it addresses defects that are considered urgent to be dealt with, any pertaining risks within the building, and also any underlying legal issues. This survey is ideal for any form of residential type building constructed with conventional material.

Level 2: This report provides more detailed information about the property. You may find it noteworthy that this survey cannot be carried out if you have other extensions of your property, such as annexes, extensions or multiple alterations done at different periods of time. Level 2 actually has two forms of survey. The first where you can choose to have only the survey carried out, and the other where both the survey and valuation are done together.

Level 3: Progressively, this survey has the most in-depth inspection and analysis of the property. It will provide you with all the issues the property has and advice on its repair work, defects to be rectified and what type of maintenance should be carried out. This survey is typically carried out on large buildings, a badly maintained old building or if you are hoping to carry out major and extensive renovation works.

What do RICS surveys look at?

RICS surveys are ideally suited for relatively new and reasonably well-maintained properties with readily observable issues. And if extensive structural concerns are unlikely, an RICS survey can be a cost-effective option, providing a valuable overview of the property's condition for informed decision-making.

RICS surveys offer a valuable starting point for first-time buyers, giving them insights into the property's overall state and potential problems.

What is a Structural Inspection Survey?

Now that we know what a RICS survey is, let's look at what a structural inspection survey encompasses.

To begin with, a structural inspection survey has to be carried out by a Structural Engineer. The key focus of a structural inspection survey is the evaluation of the building's structural integrity. Unlike in a property assessment survey that looks at the plasterwork, plumbing, electricity, the gas services, etc. A structural inspection is a thorough assessment of the foundations, walls, roof, and major components for potential structural issues like cracks, subsidence, or damp problems.

A structural engineer will closely look at the structure of a property, and not at the superficial overlay or what is inside the home.

If you are planning on selling or buying a home, and you’re not sure about the integrity of its construction, this inspection is definitely a step in the right direction. From any structural movement of the building to a sinking foundation, this analysis will throw light on any underlying issues that exist. This type of survey is most applicable if you are investing in property that's over 50 years old or looking to extensively renovate an existing building.

When getting a mortgage to carry out a purchase of such a property, your lender may insist on a structural inspection report. The lender will rely on the outcome of the report to decide if providing the mortgage for the property is viable or not.


As seen in this article, there is a distinct difference between a RICS Survey and a Structural Inspection Survey. While the RICS surveys are more suited for properties in newer condition, the Structural Inspection survey is carried out for older or properties that may or may not have potential issues within the structure itself.

Many mortgage institutions may request you to carry out either one or both these types of surveys. You may find it useful to clarify which type of survey they are requesting before getting the professional services of an expert on the subject, ideally a qualified Engineer.

Finding out how well your prospective property is constructed is not only a requirement but will also provide you with the peace of mind to go ahead with the purchase. If you are about to embark on a mortgage, you may need to keep in mind the benefits of carrying out these surveys.  

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.