If you are in the process of buying a property you will at some point be thinking about getting a survey. Surveys give you an idea of the structural state of the property and will highlight any issues, which can save you money further down the line if repairs are needed. It can also become a bargaining tool should the unexpected repairs needed will cost you.
A study carried out by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) revealed that those who failed to get a home survey faced unexpected repair work after moving in, resulting in an average of £5,750 in costs . For some, the costs will be substantially higher.
Most surveyors offer three types of survey: a condition report, a HomeBuyers report and a building survey. RICS provides a basic template for each of these surveys, and most registered surveyors will adapt the templates to fit their own style. Surveyors registered with the Surveyors and Valuers Accreditation (SAVA) scheme offer an alternative – the Home Condition Survey. This is similar to the RICS HomeBuyers report, but without a valuation.
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Chartered Surveyors are independent experts who give an objective appraisal of the condition of the property you are buying. Whether you choose a Condition Report, a Home Buyer’s Survey, or a full on Building Survey, they serve to highlight any defects and issues and repairs needed to put things right.
It is fairly common for property surveys to highlight areas of concern in all types of property so it is always worth being prepared for the sorts of issues you may be faced with. Here are some of the most common home survey problems you are likely to come across, and suggestions on how to deal with them.
The term ‘damp’ could refer to condensation damage (which may be rectified by opening a window or installing an extractor fan). Or it could refer to problems caused by a leaky roof or faulty damp-proof course (DPC). Damp is often found by property surveys and can be caused by a number of factors. Penetrating damp happens when water gets into the house from outside, whether from leaky roofs, cracked render, or damaged guttering. Rising damp is often the result of a missing or substandard damp proof course. Dampness can also cause wet rot and dry rot to timbers, both internally and externally. Mould and mildew are more of a concern, mostly due to how fast they can spread through a property. Both issues are both caused by spores in the air, which can multiply very quickly if they find a cold, moist surface to settle on. People living in a building with mould and mildew typically experience allergy-like symptoms including sinus congestion, coughing, skin irritations etc.
The most important thing is to ascertain how big a problem the damp is likely to be. Depending on the kind of report you have commissioned, you could have all the information to hand straight away, or you may need to have a further, specialist investigation carried out. Once you understand how serious the damp is, and how much of the property is affected, you can decide whether you are prepared to carry out repairs, or if you would rather find a less leaky property to live in.
Issues with roofs can vary in severity from a cracked tile or two to overflowing gutters, broken flashing around chimneys or in the worst-case scenario, an unstable roof structure that needs replacing. Your survey should include a visual inspection of the loft, roof, chimneys, and high-level surfaces.
Minor repairs can be carried out by a qualified tradesperson. However, if the survey reveals major roofing problems, a specialist roofing contractor should be consulted.
Flat roofs usually have a shorter lifespan than pitched roofs. If your survey indicates significant wear and tear or damage to a flat roof, a full replacement is often the best solution. This should be done by a roofing specialist and should come with a warranty to protect against future issues.
A Chartered Surveyor is not qualified to test any of the utilities in the property however, the survey report usually has a section on ‘services’, where findings are recorded based on a visual assessment only. It is standard practice for a general home survey to recommend further investigations into the condition of electrical installations and gas appliances including the central heating boiler.
Electrical issues reported in a specialist property survey can range from relatively small repair jobs to potentially having to rewire the entire property. If the issue is highlighted as urgent you will need to get in touch with an electrician who is able to give you an idea of exactly what will need to be done to remedy the defect. This is likely to be done by undertaking an Electrical Installation Condition Report. Costs will vary significantly depending on the nature of work that needs to be undertaken.
In addition to any survey, you should ensure that the vendor supplies you with a recent electric test certificate (last 10 years) and a recent boiler test certificate (last 12 months) by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
Many homebuyers have never heard of Japanese knotweed before. However, similar to subsidence, knotweed nearby can invade buildings, exploiting cracks and weaknesses. It is strong enough to push up through tarmac and concrete, can interfere with drainage pipes, lifting pipework, and clogging sumps. It is a fast-growing, pervasive plant that is resilient to conventional methods of control and extremely difficult to remove. It is illegal to knowingly let it spread into the wild.
Arriving in the UK in the 1800s as an ornamental garden plant, knotweed is most likely to be found around period properties. If knotweed is near your intended property, it is usually necessary to eradicate the plant by implementing a Japanese knotweed management plan. In fact, mortgage lenders will typically require a management scheme with an insurance-backed guarantee to enable them to lend. Needless to say, these can be expensive.
The cost of remedy can vary depending on the extent of growth and the type of fix required. A relatively small patch of Japanese Knotweed could cost around £2,000 – £3,000 for herbicidal removal, or it might involve potentially tens of thousands of pounds for full excavation and disposal of larger sites.
Structural movement typically shows up as cracks in walls, particularly around doors and windows, although many cracks do not present any structural problems whatsoever.
If significant structural movement is noted within the survey report, you should speak to a structural expert ASAP. They may recommend that the affected area is monitored, reinforced, underpinned or even rebuilt. The costs of these vary significantly so do your research. There is likely to be implications as to the insurability of the building and you may need to speak to an insurance adviser to confirm whether the defect will be insurable in the future
Many homebuyers will be put off buying a property with subsidence due to the cost involved in fixing the issue. Furthermore, homes with a history of subsidence are difficult to get a mortgage for and insurance premiums can be exorbitant. A home survey can limit the stress of dealing with such problems too late in the process.
There are no hard and fast rules that dictate who pays for repair work highlighted in a survey. Usually, the buyer discusses the repair work with the surveyor and/or a builder so that a general idea of price can be determined. The buyer can then decide whether the property is worth the current asking price, after which, there are a few options: They can either use the survey results to negotiate down the house price, continue with the transaction regardless, or pull out of the sale.
If the buyer decides to continue with the sale, they can arrange any necessary repairs for after the sale has completed.
The most common result is usually for the buyer to ask for the asking price to be reduced to cover the cost of the repairs. This won’t always be accepted but many sellers are often willing to compromise and might agree to lower the price in the light of the survey report.
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