According to GoodMove more than a quarter of house sales fell through at the end of 2015 because of bad news in surveys. If you’ve ever had a survey done on a property, you’ll know what it can feel like. From the outside to all intents and purposes, the place looks fine. Maybe a bit tatty, but basically sound. Then you flip through the chartered surveyor’s report and your heart sinks.
Whether you’re buying or selling, the fact that a full survey is so very comprehensive means it can easily scare the life out of you. But that’s the job of a thorough survey – to examine everything it’s possible to examine in fine detail and report back on any and every fault. No wonder so many buyers get cold feet when a survey reveals problems or mysteries to be solved. But a nasty survey needn’t be a disaster.
Here are some survey survival tips from your local Chartered Surveyor, London based and trusted by all sorts of people and organisations to do an excellent job.
Chat with the surveyor
As an amateur, a survey can look very daunting. But when your surveyor goes through the report with you, a more realistic view soon emerges. Most surveys rank the issues they find by both severity and urgency. A homebuyer’s report uses a traffic light system, a full survey is more thorough and goes into more detail about any problems. Your surveyor will tell you what everything means in plain language, confirm if it’s major or minor, and recommend action, whether that means talking to the vendor or getting a specialist in. The extra advice you ask for won’t cost you extra.
Think about getting a second expert opinion
Assuming the chat you had with the surveyor doesn’t make you feel any better, you can always get a second opinion. Not another surveyor, of course, but a builder if you’re looking at a building problem, a plumber if you’re looking at an issue with water supply. They’ll let you know the cost of fixing the problem, and how urgent it is, and that’ll help put things back into perspective.
Because you need to know an accurate cost, it’s sensible to get three quotes to compare the price and scope of the project. Because you want a truly independent view, it’s usually best not to use tradespeople recommended by your estate agent.
Are damp problems a big issue? Rising damp, penetrating damp and condensation can all prove tricky, and the cost of investigation, identification and fixing can be high. On the other hand, while damp can look dreadful, it isn’t always a nightmare. Mostly it’s treatable. It could be down to external maintenance, and sometimes it’s hard to pin down. The cost depends on what kind of damp it is, how damp it is, and how extensive the problem.
Is there damage to any structural timbers? Wet rot and dry rot both cause wood to decay, and dry rot is the worst offender, the most expensive to sort out.
Have the window frames rotted? Window frames can be expensive, especially wooden windows and sash windows, and the frame itself might also need attention.
How about Japanese knotweed? Knotweed is famously invasive and its long roots can damage anything it comes across, including working its way through solid concrete. If the current owners are treating the problem, get a copy of their treatment plan. Bear in mind mortgage lenders are often very sensitive indeed to knotweed and can easily refuse your loan application because of it. Knotweed, however, is merely a plant, and while it can be expensive to get rid of, it’s entirely possible.
Does the place need a re-wire? A rewire can take time and cost a lot, involving things like taking up the floorboards, drilling into walls and re-plastering. Much of the time it’s a safety matter and needs to be sorted out because bad old wiring is a serious fire risk.
Dealing with subsidence issues. When the earth moves under a property, for example, because it’s built on clay and the clay has shrunk in a drought, it can subside. It can also happen thanks to the soil shrinking then expanding again because there’s a water leak or a damaged drain. Bear in mind a house with subsidence, even if it has been fixed, often costs more to insure than one that has never subsided. If there are hints about subsidence in your home buyer’s survey, you’ll need a full structural survey to get full details of the problem.
If the survey uncovers real problems that’ll cost a lot to fix, you can negotiate on the price. Remember the offer you made is Subject to Contract, not legally binding until Exchange. Be sensible and keep your new offer in line with the cost of the work. You might want to show the estate agent the quotes you got for the work, so they know you’re being fair and reasonable.
Sometimes the seller will fix problems themselves, before you Exchange, as part of the contract. Talk to your solicitor about the best way to go about it. You’ll need evidence the work has been done to a decent standard, meeting all the regulations, and if there is a warranty you will need to get a copy of it. Make sure you get copies of all the receipts, too.
Do all of the above and you’ll be in an excellent position despite that scary survey! If you’d like to get a firm of local experts on the case, give us a call. We’ll be delighted to help.