25th January 2022
‘With all the expense of moving home, one thing you should not be tempted to skimp on is the survey’, says Solicitor and Head of Conveyancing Rachel Silvester.
One in five buyers who did not bother with a survey later uncovered serious faults in their property, according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. Myers & Co works with Landmark Information Group, one of the leading providers of legal and due diligence reports for the property sector.
Someone selling a house, does not have to tell you about any physical defects in the property. It is up to you to find out as much as you can about the condition of the property by asking questions and commissioning reports. This is known as caveat emptor, which means ‘buyer beware’. Once the sale has taken place, the seller has no further responsibility towards the property.
A survey is an expert report, which should highlight any major physical defects in the property. It gives early warning of potentially costly structural problems. It should confirm the property’s real value, and help your solicitor establish that the legal boundaries match what is seen on the ground.
If your survey reveals serious defects, you may need to think carefully about your options. Your solicitor may be able to negotiate with the seller to put things right, or reduce the purchase price. If not, you may decide to walk away from the purchase altogether.
If you are taking out a mortgage, your lender will obtain its own valuation of the property. They will usually let you have a copy of their valuation. However, prudent borrowers should not rely upon this alone. Lenders just want to know that the property is adequate security for the mortgage loan. Most valuations will not give you enough information to make an informed decision. For example, your lender may not care about rising damp in your kitchen, provided the property is still worth more than the amount you are borrowing.
Your surveyor can help you choose the right survey taking into account your budget and the type of property you are buying. They will also know about any local concerns that could be relevant. A survey may reveal problems that need further investigation such as evidence of mining subsidence, the roof spreading, damp, flood risk, asbestos or red ash. Rectifying these could be expensive.
If you are buying an older property, you will need a surveyor who understands historic building techniques, to ensure that the building complies with heritage, listed buildings and conservation legislation.
New build properties can raise special issues too. You may not need a full survey if the developer is providing structural defects insurance. However, a snagging survey may save you money and time. It will pick up problems like incorrect plumbing or poor plastering. Developers are often more willing to correct defects quickly before you have paid them the purchase money.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.