Updated 27 May 2022
Awaiting the results of your building survey is a tense time. Will it reveal that your dream home is actually a property nightmare? Perhaps there’s a quick fix to the problems identified, or could this be an opportunity to get the home you want for a better price?
Seeing some issues on your building survey is not unusual, particularly if the property is more than 50 years old. Surveyors have to highlight even the most obvious things, which actually may not require that much work to put right. A RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) property report has clear ‘traffic light’ ratings of the condition of different parts of the building, garage and outbuildings, which should give you an idea of how serious an issue is. If any points concern you, ask your surveyor to explain them.
Next, you can discuss what repair work needs to be done with a builder or specialist tradesperson to get an idea of what it’s going to cost to fix. This will help you decide whether or not the property is worth the asking price. After this, you’ve got a number of options. You could:
Negotiating may seem like a hassle, but it can be well worth the effort. Research carried out by the consumers' association Which? revealed that two-thirds of homeowners who had a property survey conducted in 2016 were successfully able to either negotiate a lower price or get the seller to fix the issues before completion.
There’s no hard and fast rule about who should pay for any repair work and it’s something that’s negotiable. Some sellers may be happy to do so if the repairs are fairly small, but less willing if major work is needed. In this instance, sellers may be prepared to compromise and sell for less than the asking price, particularly if they don’t have the funds to fix the problems.
It’s reasonable to ask the vendor to fix any minor problems, such as replacing a flat roof or repairing faulty drainpipes. Ask your conveyancing solicitor to include the work in your contract and request that the vendor provides evidence that the work will be done:
They should also stipulate that copies of any receipts or warranties are provided to you.
If the seller is unwilling or unable to fix the problems identified by the survey then you’re faced with a decision. Are you prepared to take on a property that you know needs work? As long as you’ve got as much detail as possible from the surveyor, advice and outline costs from specialist tradespeople/builders and you have the additional funds you’ll need, it’s up to you how you want to proceed.
Fixing problems post-purchase does offer greater control over the process and end result of the work. You can decide how much you want to spend on home improvements, which tradespeople you choose and the quality and finish you want.
The cost of repairs will depend on the nature and scale of the problem and it’s advisable to get at three quotes in writing from specialist contractors. Here’s a guide to the approximate costs you can expect to pay to fix some of the most common problems:
If you want to bag a run-down property at a bargain price, do some renovations and make a profit when you sell, then it doesn’t come without risk. Talk to a mortgage adviser about how much you can borrow and be aware that you may have to find funds from other sources, such as savings or short-term loans. Factor in the costs of new wiring, plumbing, any damp fixing, potentially a new roof, materials and labour – and add 15% as a contingency fund. Before putting in an offer, get a full building survey to check the property’s structural condition.
The seller is unlikely to drop the price because of a common issue such as damp. However, if your survey uncovers issues that will be costly to fix, it’s reasonable to use this information to renegotiate the price. Be aware that the seller will have limitations on how much they can take off the sale price as they’ll often need the money for their onward purchase.
Here are some useful post-survey tips for negotiating a house price down:
Properties with lots of problems – such as major structural or subsidence issues – can become a bottomless money pit. If the seller refuses to negotiate, becomes obstructive or even denies there’s a problem, then you may want to err on the side of caution and pull out before a legally binding contract is signed.
Contact your solicitor, who’ll explain the necessary steps to take. You’ll lose money for the work already carried out, such as the conveyancing searches and surveys, but the process stops there and you can walk away without losing any more.
Depending on the issues that a survey has identified, it may affect the terms of your mortgage or reduce the amount you can borrow. For example, if Japanese knotweed is present on the property, because it's so hard to eradicate, finance providers may require an insurance guarantee before they’ll issue lending for a mortgage. Delays while further investigations are carried out could mean your mortgage deal expires before completion. Having a mortgage adviser on hand lets you respond quickly to all unexpected developments like these.