House surveys – what findings would make you back out?

House surveys – what findings would make you back out?

author: Dan Griffiths

By Dan Griffiths

You’ve done the legwork and found the home of your dreams...

Everything’s going well, but then your house survey uncovers some hidden surprises that make you doubt whether buying this property is a good idea. Sound familiar? If it does, we’re here to help.

The deal-breakers

Some things your structural survey might uncover should instantly make you reconsider whether buying the property is a good idea.

One of the biggest deal-breakers is an issue called subsidence. If they find this in your home report, it could throw a rather large spanner in the works. If the property has signs of subsidence like cracks in the walls and around window and doorframes, it means the ground underneath the building is unstable.

Clay in the soil underneath the property is usually to blame for subsidence, but nearby trees can also have an effect. When there is a lot of rain, the clay becomes soft and can cause the building to sink slightly. But when it’s hot, the clay can harden and expand, and this causes the opposite problem of heave, where the property rises.

To fix these issues usually requires underpinning, which can be very expensive. Not only this, but you’ll probably find it much harder to get a good home insurance deal as insurers are less keen to insure properties with evidence of either problems in their past.

Another potential deal-breaker is the presence of Japanese knotweed. This seemingly harmless plant can be a nightmare for your property as it can invade and damage the structure of the building. It can grow up to 20cm per day, so it can easily spread to cause some serious problems.

If there is evidence of Japanese knotweed on the property or nearby, it should crop up in a full structural survey. If it is out of control and has consumed the property, it’s probably best to look elsewhere. You may wish to pay for it to be removed if the problem is still relatively small-scale.


Deal-breaking solicitor finds

Your solicitor will carry out checks on the property you’re interested in. In these checks, they may uncover problems with the area that may affect you while you’re living there.

For example, they may find that the area is prone to flooding, or that a nearby cliff face has signs of erosion. These issues will usually appear during your solicitor’s checks (which come after the house survey) but they are two of the biggest deal-breakers. You may struggle to find insurers willing to insure your home, and if you do, it’s probably going to cost you a lot more.

It might also be worthwhile asking yourself if you want to risk moving into a property that could throw up costly and maybe even dangerous problems in the future.

In these checks, your solicitor may find that improvements made by the old owner were done without planning permission. This can be a tough one, as you could be asked to remove their changes. Whether it’s new windows in a period property or an extension that was built without permission, it can be costly and very time-consuming to undo the previous owner’s work. In the case of an extension, you might be asked to demolish it.

But, if the work was done over four years ago, the council generally won’t take action, so it’s worth checking this before making your decision.

Of course, whether these issues are deal-breakers to you is your decision to make. You may decide to buy the house anyway, but bear in mind that some of them – such as subsidence – can be dangerous if left unfixed.


A worthwhile investment?

Some problems that show up in your home report might put you off, but they could be much cheaper fixes. And, if you truly love the property, the investment might be worth it.

If the building is suffering from damp, often this can be fixed relatively cheaply. Buying a dehumidifier and improving ventilation indoors can help get rid of damp caused by condensation. But for damp in the structures of the building, you might want to invest in specialists to come in and inject damp-proof membranes into the bricks or wood.

Similarly, woodworm can pose a problem to the building’s structures, but can usually be put right by hiring in professional exterminators. Again, if the property is right up your street, the investment here could be worth it to you.

Energy-saving features like double glazing and insulation are important, but if the building lacks them, you might want to consider getting these jobs done. Double glazing can be expensive, but you’ll save on your energy bills as your home won’t be leaking heat. You might be able to get insulation done for free by your energy provider. If not, it’s pretty cheap to fit yourself. 

In your home report, you may find that the surveyor says your home needs rewiring. While this can be costly and quite disruptive (the floorboards will have to come up and your walls will need re-plastering), it’s not something you should ignore. It’s vital your electrics are all in working order for your own safety.


Negotiate and consider the disruption to your life

Remember, any issues present that are listed above all mean you have room to negotiate the price with the seller. If there are problems that will be costly to repair, you’re well within your rights to state these and try to come to a better price. 

Keep in mind that repair work may have to be carried out whilst you’re living in the property, which can be stressful and disruptive. If at all possible, it’s best to get the work done before you move in or during those first few weeks of living there.

After all, you may have the home of your dreams, but if you’re basically living on a construction site with next to no spare cash, it won’t take long for your dreams to feel pretty out of reach. 

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House surveys – what findings would make you back out? House surveys – what findings would make you back out?