Common Property Problems that a Survey Can Flag Up

common property problems

If you’re buying a property there are two main types of building survey to choose from – a HomeBuyers Report or a Full Building Survey. One is obviously more comprehensive and expensive than the other, but both will identify any issues with a property. In this article, we look at the most common problems a building survey can flag up.

HomeBuyers Report

Undertaken by an experienced firm of Chartered Surveyor such as Hammond and Shaw, this type of survey is designed to keep costs to a minimum and is the better option if you’re buying a standard property that’s less than around 30 years old. After the inspection, the surveyor assesses whether or not the property is a reasonable purchase at the agreed price, and his report normally contains the following:

·       General condition of the property

·       Major faults in accessible areas of the building

·       Results of tests for any dampness

·       Urgent problems that need to be inspected by a specialist

·       Woodworm, rot, or damage to the timbers

·       Condition of insulation and damp-proofing, if any, and the drains

·       Estimated cost of rebuilding the property in the event of fire (for building insurance purposes)

·       Current market value of the property

Full Building Survey

A full Building Survey is more expensive but it’s also a more comprehensive and detailed assessment of the property’s condition. This is the report to choose if the property is more than 30 years old and/or you’re planning to undertake major renovations. The surveyor’s final report will contain the following:

·       All major and minor defects

·       Estimated cost of repairs

·       Results of damp tests

·       Any woodworm, rot, or damage to timbers

·       Condition of insulation and damp-proofing, if any, and the drains

·       Detailed information on the type of construction of the property and the materials used

·       Recommendations for any further specialised inspections

Most common post survey reports

common property problems 2

The most common specialist reports that surveyors recommend are:

Electrical Installation Test

A test is often recommended to check the electrical installation – this may be triggered by a lack of certification, which is normally indicated by the sticker showing that testing has occurred every 5 years. In addition, any home renovations or DIY projects are checked as these can often result in the fitting of exterior wires and unprotected cables, or sub-standard workmanship. There may also be a lack of earth bonding, or the presence of older and perhaps dangerous wires and fuses.

Central heating system

If the central heating system is complex and has been added to, or is old and may need to be modified, a specialist test may be recommended by your surveyor. This needs to be carried out by a registered gas engineer.

Damp walls and rotting timbers

Damp and timber testing is the most common report for older properties. As soon the surveyor’s moisture meter turns amber or red, he will immediately recommend a test by specialists. In the majority of cases, damp is caused by leaking gutters or a faulty damp proof course and can easily be rectified. Rising damp is relatively rare, but that is also not difficult or expensive to remedy. (If a patio is bridging the damp proof course, this will be more expensive to fix.)

Timber problems such as dry rot or beetle attack, are normally due to long-term dampness together with a lack of proper ventilation. If there are bats in the roof, then specialists need to be called in to do an inspection. All reports will contain recommendations on how to improve the existing conditions.

Roof survey

Because surveyors are normally unable to access all parts of a building’s roof, they will almost certainly recommend a specialist roofer does this. Surveyors do not have equipment, such as extending ladders and cherry pickers with which to check all the areas of the roof, especially the hard-to-get-to areas. Many buildings have butterfly roofs, or roofs with shallow pitches and these cannot be seen from ground level, even with the aid of binoculars.

Structural engineer’s report

Unless there are some obvious structural problems, most surveyors will not alarm you by recommending a full structural report. If you’re buying a Victorian or Edwardian property, especially where the sub-soil is made up of shrink-swell clay, inevitably there’ll be some movement. A structural engineer should only be called in if the movement is recent or of a serious nature. In this case, the engineer will check the problem highlighted by the surveyor rather than the whole property and submit a report. Your surveyor should also enquire if the property owner’s insurance company knows about any structural problems and, if so, how long they’ve persisted.


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