A disappointing survey report can easily put the brakes on a property transaction. Buyers can latch onto and focus on the seemingly negative comments of surveyor and if these cannot be resolved, there is the risk that the sale could fall through.
However, it is always worth digging deeper into what is actually being said, being mindful that the surveyor is employed to identify the issues and not to report on the property’s positive features. Reading that the garage roof is missing “...diagonal cross-wind bracing…” and is “...potentially a weakened structure…” may sound horrendous, but in reality, can be easily rectified with a couple of pieces of timber!
To start with, it is worth having an understanding of what the main survey types are:
Survey level one: RICS Home Condition Report (HCR) - The RICS Condition Report describes the condition of the property, identifies any risks and potential legal issues and highlights any urgent defects. It uses simple ‘traffic light’ ratings to clearly identify the condition of the key elements of the property. Typically, the lowest priced of the surveys, it is aimed at conventional properties and newer homes.
Survey level two: RICS HomeBuyer Report (HBR) - This is most suitable for conventional properties which are in reasonable condition. The report gives you more detailed information and provides the choice of either a survey or a survey & valuation.
Survey level three: RICS Building Survey - Essential for larger or older properties, or if you’re planning major works. The most comprehensive report provides you with an in-depth analysis of the property's condition and includes advice on defects, repairs and maintenance options.
A useful document produced by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyor, in association with Which?, gives you a quick guide to what survey is best for your needs.
The very first thing to do is speak with or if possible, meet with the surveyor and go through the report together. The written word can often feel very cold and final. Having a conversation to fully understand the issues and their ramifications and remedies, should help you make a much more informed decision. For example, if something has been highlighted as requiring “further investigation”, the surveyor can clarify what they mean and advise on who can provide additional reports.
Typically, surveyors will list their concerns in order of severity and urgency. If you are buying an old property, the list of defects is likely to be longer due to changes in building regulations in relation to when the property was last sold. The positive side to this is that you now have a schedule of works to plan against.
It is important that you maintain contact with the estate agent and seller throughout the process. In property, no news is rarely taken as good news. Ultimately, we are here to help find the common ground that enables the transaction to continue. Both directors of Waymark are qualified surveyors so they can help you with the technical details of your report.
Armed with your survey report and hopefully some reassuring words from the surveyor, there needs to be some decisions taken about what, if anything, requires further investigation, be it a second more detailed professional opinion or getting quotes for any works.
Most buyers purchase their property with the intention of making some changes or enhancements. Issues like window frames that need painting are obvious at the point of viewing. Damp to structural timbers or subsidence typically are not. The point being, the survey report should be used to identify the things that are hidden and not to beat the seller down on things that were already apparent.
When it comes to getting additional reports or quotes for work, it pays to involve the seller. It makes sense to get two or three quotes and if practical be there with the seller so that you both understand the scope of the work. A decent tradesperson will have no issue with sending any quotes to both parties so that there is a level of impartiality. It is always a good idea to move quickly and gather everything you need as soon as possible to maintain the momentum and keep the transaction ‘warm’.
Once you have all the additional information, there are really only three outcomes:
Continue as before.d
Withdraw your offer.
Negotiate the purchase price.
All of the above very much depends on the type of property you are buying and the general property market.
If you are purchasing a run down old probate property and the price already reflects this, then we would hope that most things in the survey are part and parcel of buying this type of property.
If the survey has highlighted some major structural issues that mean the property is not mortgageable then unless you are a cash buyer, your only real option is to withdraw.
If you are wanting to negotiate the purchase price, then having involved the seller during the survey report and further quotes stage may help you find that common ground. Emotion tends to trump common sense, so it could easily be a battle between head and heart. In the current market, where there are more buyers than properties, the seller may decide to remarket the property. This obviously doesn't get rid of problems highlighted in the survey but is does give the seller the chance to remedy the problems themselves or forewarn any interested parties. Experiences shows that if something is known it is less of surprise when it appears on the survey
In summary, the two keys points to remember are that a disappointing survey may not mean an aborted purchase and that keeping the seller and the estate agent informed helps when it comes to discussing the points raised.