Buying a house or a flat is a major financial commitment, perhaps the biggest you will ever make. Whether you are a first-time buyer or an existing homeowner, you need to protect your investment by having a professional survey carried out. Being aware of the condition of the property is not only important for your peace of mind but, crucially, the survey findings inform your decision making on the purchase.
SSJ Chartered Surveyors are specialists in surveying residential property. We offer residential property valuations and surveys including the RICS HomeBuyer Reports and RICS Building Surveys to ascertain the value of the property and highlight any defects, issues and repairs required. It is by no means unusual for building problems to be found, and not just in older properties either. While not every defect is necessarily a dealbreaker, it is worth being prepared for the issues we may encounter. Here are some of the most common home survey problems that we come across, and what they can mean for prospective buyers.
1 – Damp
Damp is one of the most common problems detected, especially in older homes. The issue can vary widely in its scope and severity, from a small patch of local damp through significant rising or penetrating damp throughout the building. In many cases, damp is caused by condensation and poor ventilation, or by leaks in roofs or guttering. If left undealt with, damp can cause wet rot and dry rot. If the survey identifies damp, it should also reveal the cause so that you understand what repairs need to be carried out, and how much these are likely to cost.
2 – Roof problems
Roof defects can range from a couple of cracked tiles or blocked guttering through to the roof structure being unstable and in need of replacement. A Building Survey will include inspection of the roof, chimneys and high-level surfaces so far as they are accessible. The same goes for interior roof spaces and structures. Minor repairs can usually be done by a competent handyman, while more serious problems will require a specialist roofing contractor who will assess and quote for the work. Retiling an average 3-bedroom house will cost in the region of £5,000 to £7,000.
3 – Structural movement
You may be understandably worried about external or internal cracks in the wall, but not all of them are a cause for concern. If there is evidence of subsidence, your survey will flag this up and you should seek additional advice from a structural expert at your earliest convenience. In serious cases, they may recommend monitoring, reinforcement or underpinning – expensive undertakings that will most certainly make you reassess your purchase decision. There will also be implications for the insurability and mortgageability of the building.
4 – Gas and electrical issues
It is advisable to undertake an Electrical Installation Condition Report if electrical issues are highlighted in the survey, particularly if the building is older and if it looks like some rewiring may be necessary. It is important to check the safety of the electrics every 10 years, but no electric test certification is a common survey finding. Similarly, gas central heating boilers and pipework should be serviced annually by a qualified Gas Safe-registered engineer. The vendor should be able to supply a Gas Safety Record and Boiler Test Certificate. The same goes for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that are essential for safety in residential properties. Your survey will identify if either are not present.
5 – Japanese knotweed
Japanese knotweed is a highly pervasive, invasive plant that can cause damage to drainage and foundations. It is fast growing and resistant to conventional control methods, making it extremely difficult to remove. Mortgage lenders are likely to insist on the implementation of a recognised removal and management scheme with insurance-backed guarantees in order to approve the loan. Needless to say, these can be eye-wateringly expensive. If the presence of knotweed is detected in the survey, you will need to seek specialist help as soon as possible.
6 – Asbestos
Asbestos may have been banned as a construction material, but many modern and older homes may still feature asbestos containing materials (ACMs) in cement, floor tiles, insulation, walls and pipes. The preferred approach is to encapsulate and contain the material if it is intact and therefore not harmful to human health. However, any asbestos in the home that is exposed, damaged or in poor condition and cannot be safely contained may need to be removed. This is a job for a specialist contractor, and there are strict laws and regulation that must be complied with for the safe removal and disposal of asbestos-containing materials.
A ‘bad’ home survey result does not have to mean walking away from the purchase of your dream home, although that is of course an option you may wish to consider. More likely, you will use the survey findings as evidence to help you renegotiate the price, factoring in the cost of putting things right.
For professional independent advice on your next residential property purchase, SSJ Surveyors should be your first port of call. Our knowledgeable team provides a wealth of valuable building expertise to help you through your buying journey. Contact us today for full details of our services and to discuss your requirements.