What are your options after a bad survey result?

Row of Edwardian terraced houses

Buying your next home can be an exciting journey, but resist the temptation to fall in love with your dream home. Properties presented for sale may not be what they seem, and it’s the job of your building surveyor to find out if there are any issues you should be worried about. An independent property survey is your due diligence safeguard – don’t skimp on it!

The purpose of a professional building inspection and survey report is to point out the risks you could be taking with your investment, so you can make informed decisions. For most homebuyers, buying a property will be the biggest financial commitment they will ever make, so you must ensure you get it right.

At Able Surveyors, we have over 25 years experience of surveying residential properties in London and the Home Counties. As members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, we offer a choice of RICS surveys including our popular HomeBuyer Report and full RICS Building Surveys, along with plenty of professional advice and guidance to help you with your purchase decision.

So, what do you do if the house of your dreams turns out to have serious problems? For sure, a ‘bad’ survey will be disappointing and frustrating for any homebuyer, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the road. You could look at it as an opportunity to get a better deal.

What serious issues might be found?

It is by no means unusual for the survey findings to include areas of concern, regardless of the age of the property. Some of the most common building problems revealed by a home survey include

  • Damp issues and timber defects including wet and dry rot
  • Roof problems and drainage issues
  • Gas and electrics
  • Structural movement including subsidence
  • Japanese knotweed and other invasive species

Your survey report should explain the location, nature and severity of each problem, as well as the degree of urgency of any remedial action. If there’s anything you don’t understand, please don’t hesitate to ask us. The team at Able Surveyors are always happy to chat through the report after you receive it and answer any questions you may have.

What should you do next?

Once you’ve fully taken on board the survey findings and their implications, it’s important not to panic, but to consider your options calmly and rationally. You have four choices regarding how to proceed:

  • Do nothing and carry on as planned

Finding a serious issue with the building doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem with your purchase. Perhaps you are buying the property as a renovation project? If the survey flagged up ancient electrics and plumbing services but you were planning to rewire and replace the central heating system in any event, maybe there’s nothing much to worry about. And, if the agreed sale price reflects the ‘poor’ condition of the building, then you can use the survey and any further investigations as valuable tools to help you draw up an accurate refurbishment budget and priority to-do list.

  • Ask the seller to carry out repairs

Your second option is to share the offending survey findings with the seller and ask them to fix the problem before contracts are exchanged. You could even make it a condition of the contract that you will only move forward if, say, the leaky roof or faulty guttering has been dealt with. Be knowledgeable about the issue at hand and have an idea of how much it would cost to fix. A Specific Defects Report or further investigation by a specialist surveyor may help bolster your case. If the seller agrees, make sure you put a checking system in place to confirm everything has been done as promised.

  • Renegotiate the price

However, if the problem is not a quick fix, or you would much prefer to tackle the building repairs yourself, you can ask the seller to reconsider the agreed price. One of the best things about a property survey is that it gives you greater bargaining power. With written evidence from an independent specialist to back you up and a clear idea of the costs involved to remedy the issue, you can request a discount equivalent to the amount it would cost to fix it. Of course, the seller is under no obligation to renegotiate, but with a bit of give and take, a compromise can usually be found.

  • Walk away from the sale

Under English law, your offer to purchase the property is subject to contract, which means you are not legally committed to the transaction until contracts are exchanged. Talk to your surveyor to find out how much it would cost to fix the problem and whether any long-term ramifications could impact the property value or its saleabilities such as a history of subsidence, or a knotweed management plan. If, after careful deliberation, you think the survey findings constitute a dealbreaker, you are completely within your rights to simply walk away.

A bad survey result does not have to spell the end of your dream home, but you do have to be prepared to be honest with yourself and make some tough decisions in the face of the information that’s come to light.

Would you be prepared to lose the house if the seller won’t budge on the price? Would you accept having to pay the full price, despite the survey’s findings? While our surveyors can assist with detailed factual information and professional advice including general property surveys, Specific Defects Surveys, Damp Reports and many other property services, ultimately the final decision rests with you.

If you would like to discuss your next property purchase with our expert team or obtain an instant quote, please get in touch with Able Surveyors.