Many people take the risk of buying a home without having a proper survey carried out, which can sometimes result in expensive repairs, which would have been picked up in a survey. Appointing a chartered surveyor to carry out a full building survey could save you thousands of pounds – either on repair bills or the property’s asking price.
Paul Anderson is a chartered building surveyor based near Ipswich. He is also a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, who have identified the following faults as the commonest problems new homebuyers can encounter.
Woodworm and other insect-boring infestations can be expensive to remedy if not caught early. All internal joinery, including skirting boards (above), floors and roof structures can be badly affected by this problem. The earlier it’s dealt with the cheaper it will be to remedy – but you will need to get a competent expert in to treat it.
The actual expense of rectifying the issue will depend on how far it has spread and which type of insect is involved. For example, a common furniture beetle typically does less damage compared to the far more aggressive deathwatch beetle.
Insect-related invasions are more of an issue for timber-framed properties, which aren’t just in rural areas – Anderson Associates carry out barn conversion surveys in the Greater London area as well as East Anglia, Essex and Kent.
The problems that nature can cause aren’t restricted to insects. The invasive plant Japanese Knotweed can damage pipework, drains, walls, conservatories and other outbuildings. You could face legal action from your neighbour or local council if you don’t take steps to remove it from your garden; and it could be years before it’s successfully eradicated, even if the work is done by an experienced specialist.
Roof problems can vary considerably, from a few cracked or missing tiles, or faulty guttering, which shouldn’t take too long to rectify. However, in extreme cases, if the whole roof is found to be structurally unstable you could be facing an extremely large bill. Remember, you may be partly liable for the cost of any repairs even if you have a flat on a lower floor of a block of apartments or flats.
Flat roofs are a particular source of problems. Properties with single storey flat roofs could be more prone to break-ins, as these can make access to the property easier, which in turn could raise your insurance premiums. Although they may be easier to build than pitched roofs, they don’t last as long and the water run-off isn’t usually as efficient. Where accessible, a survey will check they have been properly insulated, ventilated and sealed.
Originally praised for its durability and versatility, asbestos was identified as a potential problem as early as the 1920s by the medical profession. It’s believed to be responsible for a range of diseases, including lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Although its use has been banned in the UK since 1999, there are still more than 1 million properties (including some public buildings, not just private homes) which contain some asbestos, even if it’s in relatively minor amounts. If a surveyor finds a suspected asbestos containing material in a home you want to buy, then you will need a specialist to remove it and there are strict laws relating to how it should be handled. Removal can be costly.
The wiring and electrics, as well as any gas supply, can often be an area of concern. This is particularly true if someone has tried DIY wiring the property in the past, as any work should only be carried out by qualified professionals.
An RICS chartered surveyor can carry out a visual inspection of the gas and electrical fittings, but you will need to hire an expert to rectify any serious issues.
Damp is by far the most common issue properties suffer from, particular older properties.
The causes of damp are varied, but the most common causes are poor external detailing and maintenance of external elements (Roof coverings, brickwork, render, timber doors and windows) leaks from pipework or wastes
There are three main types:
Of the three, condensation damp is usually easier to fix, as it can be greatly reduced by increasing ventilation - opening windows in the affected rooms or installing extract fans to kitchens bathrooms showers or toilets.
Penetrating and rising damp can involve more extensive work to remedy, but usually involve repair and maintenance of the elements that make up the external fabric and structure of the building and improvements to lower external detailing.
Chemically injected DPCs are not considered to be effective as they try to address the symptoms and not the underlying causes of damp.
Independent chartered surveyors like Anderson Associates will be able to identify the cause as well as the symptoms and give you an idea of how much it will cost to put right.
Subsidence is defined as the gradual sinking or shrinking of the ground under a house, which causes the property’s foundations and upper parts of the property to move, causing cracks to walls and ceilings.
It can be caused by tree roots, clay sub-soils, (particularly within the London/M25 area) leaking water pipes, rainwater or foul drains.
If you are interested in buying a property which has any of these issues, it would be very useful to take pictures and point them out to a chartered building surveyor – like Ipswich-based Paul Anderson - who should be able to identify the root cause.
Reasons to use a Chartered Building Surveyor
If you are buying any type of home, you need to be talking to an independent surveyor. They work for you, not the mortgage lender, and will always have your best interests at heart.
A mortgage valuation is not a survey. It is to inform the mortgage lender the property is worth what is being paid for it and that is suitable for a mortgage.
Anderson Associates recommend our full building surveys as these should identify any of the problems above, and many other issues as well. With these types of reports a cost summary is included, which not only advises you on what repair and maintenance issues the property has but also gives an indication as to the cost of these repairs.
It should be noted that not all building surveys include this.
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