When it comes to buying and selling houses, it’s natural to feel a little apprehensive. All parties want the process to be as smooth as possible, with no issues standing in the way. One of the biggest obstacles in the process will be the house survey, which explains why most people say they feel nervous about a house survey.
Maybe you’ve never moved before and don’t really understand what a house survey is, or whether you even need one. Or maybe you need to know the answer to ‘why would a house fail a survey’ to give you some peace of mind that your house is going to come out okay!
Whatever it is, we’re here to tell you everything you need to know and to help you feel less nervous about house surveys!
To help you quickly find an answer, use this menu as a guide:
- What is a house survey?
- What shows up on a house survey?
- Why would a house fail a survey?
- Nervous about house survey
- What do I do if my house survey is bad?
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What is a house survey?
A house survey is an inspection of a property, by an expert, to see the quality level of the house. There are a few different types of house surveys; a condition report (level 1); a homebuyers’ report/home condition survey (level 2); and a building survey (level 3).
A house survey will normally take place after an offer has been accepted by the seller, but before any exchange of contracts.
During a survey, a surveyor will visit the property and inspect and detail any problems found on the house in the form of a report, which will be given to the buyer a few days later.
There are three main different accrediting bodies for surveyors, and you should ensure your surveyor is a member of one of the following:
- RICS – the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
- RPSA – the Residential Property Surveyors Association
A house survey will take a differing amount of time depending on the size of the property and the level of the survey chosen. For example, a level 1 survey may take less than an hour to complete, whereas a level 3 survey could take up to a whole day!
Another survey you may come across is a new-build ‘snagging survey’, which is an inspection identifying the defects with a new-build home, whether that be a small ‘cosmetic’ issue or a structural problem. This report can be done before or after you move in and needs to be given to your builder within the first two years of moving in, in order for them to fix the issues free of charge.
What shows up on a house survey?
As you may expect, the different levels of survey will show up different things, with a level 1 survey showing far less detail than that of a level 3 survey.
We’ve made a summary of each survey, so you can decide which is most suited to what you want to look for:
Level 1: Condition survey
This will give you the most basic overview of a property’s condition and will highlight big issues, without going into lots of details. This report will give you peace of mind if you just want to ensure everything looks okay on the whole, and that the property has no major issues that affect its safety.
Level 2: Homebuyer report/home condition survey
This is probably what most people are referring to when they speak about a house survey as it’s the most popular type of survey.
A homebuyer report will look at everything a condition survey will look at, plus some ‘extra bits.’ The report will look for issues which may affect the property’s value, whilst also looking for big problems such as damp, subsidence, or anything that isn’t in line with current building regulations.
A home condition survey is similar to the homebuyer report, but it won’t look for anything to do with the market valuation of the property. It will also include photos to make it easier to understand.
Level 3: Building survey
This is a full structural analysis of a property and is the most detailed survey you can get, giving full details of the property’s structure.
This is a more intrusive survey and will require a surveyor to be more ‘hands on’, possibly needing to remove floorboards or carpets and go into your loft (if you have one).
Why would a house fail a survey?
It’s not actually possible for a house to completely fail a survey. When you hear people talking about a house failing a survey, they will likely be referring to a house showing up major issues which has caused the buyer to want to pull out of the sale.
This is the main reason people will feel nervous about house surveys, as they don’t want anything to go wrong with the house selling and buying process.
An issue which may cause a house sale to fall through could be the house may have subsidence, for example. Subsidence is when the ground beneath a house suddenly sinks, which pulls the property’s foundations down with it. This movement will cause walls and floors to crack, possibly leading to destabilisation of the property.
Alternatively, a much smaller issue which may crop up on a house survey is not having a carbon monoxide alarm. However, this is very much unlikely to cause a house sale to fall through, as it’s very simple to fix.
We’re going to go into detail about the common house survey problems later (as well as giving you some help in how to fix these issues!)
Nervous about house survey
Many people are nervous about house surveys, which is understandable as moving house is a major part of people’s lives, and the survey will dictate whether the sale can continue to go through. According to ‘This is money’, just over 300,000 house sales fell through last year, a rise of 12% compared to 2019.
However, although house survey problems are generally the main reason for a house sale to fall through, there was also the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the unknown nature what will happen, causing buyers and sellers to drop out of sales.
We’re going to talk you through how you can prepare a house for a survey, which may help you to feel less nervous. Also, we’re going to tell you how to solve any problem if your house survey comes back bad, all to help you feel less nervous about house surveys, so make sure you keep reading…
Should I be worried about a homebuyer’s survey?
It’s a natural feeling to be nervous about house surveys, as you want every step of the house buying/selling process to run smoothly. But it’s important to remember there’s no point worrying about something until you know it should be worried about.
Also, every problem will likely have a fix, whether it’s something big or small, but there will always be a cost. It may be that as a seller, you have to agree to sell your house for much less than you originally planned.
It’s likely you would know, however, if your house has a major issue as you would have had a survey before you moved in. A massive problem is unlikely to suddenly arise, so if when you bought your house there was no house survey problems, then it’s likely to still be the same now – that may help give you a bit of peace of mind!
How do I prepare my house for a surveyor?
No seller is obligated to do anything to their house before the surveyor comes round to inspect, but if you’re nervous about a house survey, then you may feel you want to get your house looking as good as possible.
You could fix any little cracks in any walls or ceilings, fix any leaking or dripping taps and also scrub off any mould on any tiles, if you have any.
Houses also always look better when they’re tidy and so you could have a quick clear up before a surveyor comes. However, if the house survey that’s being conducted is a more intrusive survey, e.g. level 2 or 3, then clearing away any clutter isn’t going to hide any possible major problems.
It may also be a good idea to prepare your garden, as a surveyor may check this for things like Japanese Knotweed.
What do I do if my house survey is bad?
As a buyer, you’re in the stronger position if the house survey comes back showing problems. You have three main options – pull out of the sale, renegotiate the price or ask the seller to fix issues for you.
As a seller, you’re in a more difficult position as you want your house sale to go through and even if it doesn’t and you find another buyer, you will still be facing the same issues as they’re not going to magically disappear.
It’s important to disclose any problems you know of with the buyer before the survey, to help build trust with them and make gazundering less likely. You could also offer to fix the problems for the buyer at your own expense, or be open to some renegotiation on the price, depending on the size of the problems identified.
It’s important to note that if there are house survey problems, this won’t mean the sale is necessarily going to fall through, and that if you’re nervous about a house survey, you should be open and honest with your buyer and speak to them directly about any issues, to ensure the sale still continues to go through.
You can also make a contractual obligation that repairs are done before completion, so exchange of contracts can take place, to give you peace of mind as the buyer or seller that the deal is legally binding and will go through. The contractual obligation will mean for the buyer that the repairs are guaranteed to be done before moving in.
Common house survey problems
We’re going to go through all the common house survey problems and tell you about how you can fix them, to help give you peace of mind and feel less nervous about house surveys:
- Asbestos – Asbestos is one of the common house survey problems and is a naturally occurring fibre, which can be found in various building materials. It was once credited for being durable but has since been condemned as it’s shown to cause life-threatening health issues to humans. You will need to talk to an asbestos specialist who will either contain the material or if it can’t be contained will remove it.
- Structural movement – Structural movement is another common house survey problem and can be a minor or major concern. On an extreme scale, movement can result in walls, floors, ceilings collapsing, which would be apparent to any surveyor through big cracks. If the structural movement highlighted is significant, this will need to be sorted straight away, whether that be through reinforcement or a complete rebuild. In more minor circumstances, it may be a case of simply monitoring the area.
- Damp – Damp is a common house survey problem generally in older houses. Damp can range from being a small area to a widespread issue throughout the house. You will need to speak with a damp specialist who will be able to conduct a deeper analysis of the areas of concern before deciding what to do. If you want more information on ‘damp surveys’, you can read this.
- Japanese Knotweed and invasive plants – Japanese Knotweed and other invasive plants are a common house survey problem which can be difficult to remove and control. It’s possible that a mortgage can be void due to Japanese Knotweed. You will need to speak to a specialist about removing and controlling any invasive plants, but you need to keep in mind the expense of this – a small patch of Japanese Knotweed can cost between £2000-£3000 for herbicidal removal and will cost more for a full excavation and disposal of bigger areas.
- Electrical issues – Electrical issues can range from a simple quick fix to a whole rewiring of the property. If the issue is highlighted as urgent, you’ll need to get in touch with an electrician to conduct an Electrical Installation Condition Report to find out what fixes need to take place.
- Drainpipe issues – Faulty drains is one of the common house survey problems which will be highlighted in great detail, if you get a level 2 or 3 survey. A number of issues can be caused within a property, like a backlog of water causing the building to smell of stagnant water.
- Roof issues – Problems with a property’s roof can vary in terms of significance. For example, it may be a case of one or two cracked roof tiles OR a roof being unstable and needing replacement.
- Bug infestation – Although this sounds like one of the smaller common house survey problems, an infestation can actually be a major issue unless it has been caught early. It’s generally a fairly easy fix if common bugs are identified, with a simple treatment being enough. Another infestation problem you may have is bats in the roof of your property, which will be much harder to solve…
- Insulation – You would assume most homes would have the correct level of insulation, with it keeping the heat in our homes and limiting our heating bills, but insulation is actually a common house survey problem. This is one of the easiest to fix, though, with insulation rolls being fairly cheap to buy and, depending on the area, can be installed yourself.
All of the common house survey problems we have mentioned all have a fix, whether it be something cheap and simple, to a more major potential reconstruction. Every solution will come at a cost, big or small, so it’s important for buyers and sellers to agree who will cover the costs.
It may be that a buyer uses the issues found on the survey to renegotiate the house price, which leads us perfectly on to…
Can you negotiate house price after survey?
As we said earlier, if the survey goes bad and shows up repairs that need doing, a buyer can use this as leverage to negotiate on the agreed price. It could be that the seller doesn’t want to move the price down but is happy to repair the problems for the buyer at their own expense.
It may also be a case that a buyer wants to use the issues on a house survey as an excuse to reduce their original offer to a lowball offer.
That’s everything you need to know about house surveys, including the potential issues and how to fix them, hopefully helping you feel less nervous about house surveys. Do you have another question about house surveys? Or maybe you fancy writing an article yourself? Whatever it is, don’t hesitate to get in touch!
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Millie is a perfectionist with a passion for property and writing articles. You’ll find her researching the latest housing trends and the newest up and coming areas worth investing in. Read more about Millie here.