What should I do following a bad home survey report?
You've started the process of buying a house, but your surveyor comes back with a bad survey report. Should you walk away?
Which property survey reports are we talking about?
There are various property surveys you can commission your surveyor to produce for you; here we are discussing the RICS Homebuyer Report and the full building survey.
Read more about Homebuyer Surveys at the Royal Ininstitution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
The Homebuyer Report is the less in-depth of the two and will highlight issues using a traffic light system: e.g. any areas flagged as red will need urgent repairs.
A full building survey takes longer to carry out and will give you more comprehensive detail about the defects that have been uncovered.
Both reports will give you a breakdown of which issues are most pressing, and recommend next steps. Amongst other things, they can include details on:
- The condition of the roof
- The condition of drainage and insulation
- Rot or woodworm
- Electrical issues
- Japanese knotweed
- Recommended action on repairs
Once you receive the adverse survey results
First, ask your surveyor to clarify everything.
Because property survey reports are designed to highlight defects, they can feel like a list of reasons to pull out of buying the property. There is no need to panic and act in haste; it shouldn’t cost you anything to ask your surveyor for more detail on a specific area of concern, so you have nothing to lose.
When it comes to repairs there are degrees of severity, so talk to your surveyor about exactly how serious the items highlighted are, and get clear feedback on which experts you would need to consult over specific issues. Ask them to show you the issues at the property if it helps.
If you are also selling a property, your estate agent may be able to inject a sense of perspective and proportionality.
Your conveyancing solicitor may also be able to offer pragmatic advice on what to do.
Get advice on cost and timelines
Once you are happy you understand the issues highlighted in the survey, you should time to speak to a few builders or relevant tradespeople about how much repairs would be likely to cost you, and also how long they would take to carry out.
Stress which repairs are urgent, and what can wait. Get several written quotes.
This isn’t just about money; if you take on a property that needs serious repairs, you may have to move out while they are carried out, or delay moving in. You may get the property at a discounted price, but is it worth the upheaval?
Now is the time to weigh up how much you want the house against how much time and money needs to be spent on it.
Talk to the vendor
Ensure you have quotes in writing that you can forward to the seller to enable you to negotiate on price.
The first thing to ascertain is to what extent the work that needs doing on the property is already reflected in the price. If the house was clearly advertised as ‘in need of renovation’ then the cost of works is probably factored in already. The basis for a price reduction may be ‘fuzzy’ in this example.
The Homebuyer Report will include an independent valuation – with a building survey you will usually need to request this as an extra.
If your surveyor has valued the house at less than your initial offer, use this to negotiate alongside the repair quotes you’ve gathered. You can do this through the estate agent of course.
Keep your emotions in check
Buying a home can be a very heart-led process, and a disappointing survey can make you feel incredibly deflated.
If you still want to proceed with the purchase, remember that you want to maintain positive and business-like relations with the seller, so keep the facts and figures in mind to make sure your offer is fair.
If there is something seriously wrong such as cracks indicating structural movement, severe damp or a roof that needs replacing, you should expect a reduction in price that reflects this.
The extent of the price reduction may depend on how keen the vendor is to sell, or how much interest they’ve had in the property from elsewhere.
Set your financial boundary and stick to it
Always keep in mind how much you’re willing to pay based on the defects that have been uncovered, and try to make a business decision however much you love the property.
If you take on an expensive headache that will require you to rent somewhere for months while it’s fixed, it may not seem like the dream home you thought it was.
An adverse property survey report isn’t usually a reason to panic, however. Get as much detail as you can, do the necessary sums and communicate with the seller.
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