Poor Building Survey? What to Fix First

A Negative Survey Doesn’t Mean the End of Your Dreams 

If the building survey on your dream home comes back with a list of problems, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it could be exactly what you need.

Buying a new house is one of the most stressful and emotionally draining experiences you are likely to go through. It’s not just upheaval of moving and the hassle of going around the mortgage lenders getting the money together. It is the stress of the transaction itself. The searches, land registry, survey – all seem fraught with danger and you desperately want everything to go right.

If a survey report comes back showing a list of problems as long as your arm, you will get the same sort of heart-sinking feeling as if the mortgage lender has declined or the seller has decided to pull out. But in reality, a poor survey is just a tool that provides you with information on how to proceed. From negotiating with the seller to arranging timber treatment services to put things right, here we offer some advice on turning that negative into a positive.

Discuss with the seller

If the offer is already on the table, it has been made subject to survey, so the first thing to do is negotiate. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors carried out a study on “hidden horrors” found by buyers who had not had a proper survey done, and found that the average cost of putting things right was almost £6,000.

With your survey in hand, you are a step ahead. The average house price in the UK is about £235,000, so if you have made that offer, and the survey has revealed £5,000 worth of problems, it is not unreasonable to revise the offer to £230,000.

The most important thing is to be well informed. Clearly, when talking about those sorts of sums, £200 to get a damp specialist or electrician to come out and take a look is going to be money well spent.

If you really love the house and the seller is reluctant to budge, you can always look to compromise and split the cost – the point is, you are going into it with your eyes open.

Stop the rot

The next step is to put things right. There are some things that can wait – for example, archaic plumbing clearly needs to be put right, but if it is still working after 60 years or more, it can probably manage a few more months.

Anything to do with rot, however, needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. If you have rotten joists in the floor or ceiling, the problem can spread rapidly. Experts can treat wood that is not too badly damaged, and replace it if it is too far gone. But the longer it is left, the more serious and expensive the problem will become.

Don’t compromise on safety

Once you’ve stopped the rot, address any safety-critical issues such as home electrics. You might say these are like the plumbing – if they are still working after 40 years, what’s the hurry? The difference is that if a pipe bursts, it is an annoyance. An electrical fault can burn the house down in the night while you and your family are sleeping. It’s really not worth the risk.

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