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What problems might a survey reveal?

Aug 12, 2016


Latest figures from What Mortgage suggest that 7 million current homeowners did not have a survey carried out on their home before they purchased their property. If you are looking to buy a home and you are thinking about getting a survey, what sort of things could flagged up and what should you do about them? 

Every property is different and every survey is bespoke to the individual home – you only need a mortgage valuation to be carried out on your property to secure a mortgage, but you can pay for more comprehensive surveys to be carried out on your home to highlight any areas of concern.

If you are unsure what survey you need, click our house survey article here.

If you go ahead and opt to pay for a more in-depth survey to be carried out, here are a few examples of ‘problem areas’ that sometimes crop up.

1. Asbestos
It is now well–known that asbestos is bad for your health. Although most cases of asbestos–related illness involve construction and trade workers who have been exposed to asbestos over a long period, the presence of asbestos will be flagged in a survey. 

What do you need to do about it?
If your surveyor thinks there’s a risk of asbestos in the property, you will need to know where it is and its condition. If the asbestos is in good condition and is left alone, there may be no issues but you can get a specialist asbestos survey carried out via your local council.

2. Breach of Building Regulations
If there’s been an alteration to the property you are looking to buy, e.g. an extension, your conveyancer will need to check whether the alteration was done according to the necessary building regulations. It will be flagged in the survey if not.

What do you need to do about it?
It will be the responsibility of the seller to provide evidence that any alterations are compliant but lack of paperwork could result in delays. If the situation is complex or the repairs/ structural changes are major, you may need to negotiate a solution with the seller. 

3. Damp
There are different kinds of damp but one which buyers should be aware of is Rising Damp. It can be expensive to sort out and is caused by water coming up from ground level. Other causes of damp which might be highlighted in a survey include condensation and penetrating damp. 

What do you need to do about it?
If your surveyor finds damp it’s important to find out the cause of the problem and to assess how much it would cost to fix. You can then decide whether you want to negotiate with the seller on covering any repair costs. 

4. Dry Rot
Dry rot is a fungus. It can weaken the timber of a property including important structural elements such as floor joists. Dry rot can spread quickly and if discovered means there may be work needed to remove the problem and repair any damage. 

What do you need to do about it?
Once the extent of the problem has been confirmed with the surveyor, you will need to think carefully about your options – you may want to negotiate with the seller and ask them to cover any repair costs. There could also be a delay in purchasing and moving into your home.

5. Japanese Knotweed
This is a harmless looking but highly aggressive plant that spreads quickly and kills other plants. It can even infiltrate the structure of buildings – which is why it will be flagged if present.  It is an offence to grow Japanese Knotweed and some mortgage lenders may be wary of lending upon properties with it present. 

What do you need to do about it?
If you discover the property has Japanese knotweed, you should look to eradicate it asap; finding out how much it will cost and how long it will take to remove.  You will also need to talk to your mortgage lender as soon as you find out. 

6. Subsidence
Subsidence happens when the ground underneath your property moves, affecting the stability of the property. This often happens in an uneven way and causes cracking to the structure. Luckily it can usually be fixed through a process called underpinning.

What do you need to do about it?
You'll need to make sure you have a full structural survey to understand the extent of any subsidence problem as well as how it could be, or has previously been, fixed. This will help you make a decision about the progression of the purchase. You will also need to consider how it may affect your buildings insurance as subsidence may make a home more difficult to insure. 

7. Woodworm
Woodworm is where beetle larvae burrow into timber, causing structural damage. Woodworm might be referred to as ‘wood–boring insects’ on your survey and the tell–tale sign is small, rounded holes on the surface of wood; if woodworm affects the structure of a building, the tell-tale signs can be out of sight and not obvious.

What do you need to do about it?
Follow your surveyor’s guidance, which may be to get a specialist survey to assess the extent of the problem. The methods and costs of treatment can depend on how severe the problem is.

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