Written by property expert Kate Faulkner
Having an independent survey is a wise move when spending so much money on a property.
Whether it’s a new build, a flat or an older house, an independent survey from a professionally trained RICS Building Surveyor is essential as you never know what roof issues there are and what might be hiding behind walls, under floors or on the land your property sits.
Deciding to renegotiate
If you have had your offer, subject to survey, accepted and then your surveyor comes back with a series of problems, should you renegotiate or just accept that issues need to be sorted when you move in?
The answer to this depends on three things:
- How severe the problems are
- Whether you can afford to fix them yourselves
- If you are still happy to go ahead with the purchase
How severe the problems are
Some of the problems the surveyor picked up you may be aware of already. For example, the boiler may need replacing or it’s obvious there is a problem with the guttering not working properly, so you already took this into account when you made your offer and have the money to fix them.
However, if some of the problems are going to require a lot of work and expense and you weren’t aware this was required, you might want to re-negotiate.
For example, if the surveyor has identified damp, this can take thousands of pounds to fix and may require you living in a property that you can’t decorate for 6-12 months after the work is completed, so as to allow the walls to dry out.
Another issue that may make you re-think about the offer is if it needs a lot of work to the roof, which can cost thousands of pounds.
On the other hand, if there are things that require fixing which you would be doing anyway with changes you are planning to make to a property – an extension for example or knocking walls down – or the works are minor, such as insulating the loft, then it might not be worth the hassle or risk losing the property by re-negotiating.
Can you afford to fix the problems yourself?
If you can’t afford to fix the problems yourself when you move in and the seller won’t re-negotiate, it might be worth speaking to the surveyor and asking them how long the property could ‘live without’ the works being carried out or if there is a cheaper interim measure you could do until you could save enough money to fix the issue.
This may partly depend on health and safety issues, so if it’s problems with heating or the electrics, this would be more of an issue than something like small cracks around the windows that have been there for some time, due to a lintel needing to be fitted.
Another option you could investigate is whether there are any jobs you could get done where you receive an interest free loan and can pay over time, rather than have to find the cash up front, with a ‘buy now, pay later’ deal.
The problems are so bad, you aren’t sure if it’s still the right property for you
If you just wanted to buy a property and move in and really hate carrying out renovations, then depending on the severity of the problems, you might not want to continue with the purchase.
If the house needs re-wiring, a new damp proof course or is suffering from subsidence, this kind of work is likely to take months - or longer – to get diagnosed properly and fixed and it just may not be worth the hassle from your perspective.
In this case, it might be that some of the work could be done by the seller, at their cost, between exchange and completion so it’s not something that impacts on you as much as it would if you had to organise the tradespeople and then live in the home when the work was being done.
However, if it makes you too nervous and you really don’t want the hassle, it might not be worth re-negotiating a deal and it may be worth looking for a new place to move into with less problems.
How to renegotiate
It can be a bit daunting having had an offer accepted on the property of your dreams, only to find out that there are some problems and now you still want to buy the property, but can only do so if you can buy it at a lower price.
Who do you speak to, to start the negotiation?
When you have digested the surveyor’s report, give them a call and discuss the pros and cons of continuing with the purchase.
Ask them for their advice. If they say it’s still worth buying the property, but you need to negotiate £5,000, £10,000 or more off the property, they will hopefully have given you a reason why, for example it needs re-roofing.
Once you have a good idea of why you need to secure the discount, the next port of call is the estate agent. Give them a call – or better still pop into see them if possible. The best way to re-negotiate is to be open and honest with the agent (and seller). Take the surveyors report with you and show them the problems that need fixing which you weren’t aware of. If you could even secure quotes for the work required, you can show that this is an expense you weren’t aware of and as a result you want to re-negotiate.
Be clear you absolutely want to continue to purchase the property, but this unforeseen cost means you will need the money to be able to buy the property and carry out the repairs required.
Usually, sellers are quite willing to renegotiate as they don’t want to lose your purchase either.
What if they say ‘no’?
This is a tricky one, but it comes down to how you feel about the property and your finances. Firstly if you love the property and can still buy it, even with the extra costs, it may be worth carrying on with the purchase.
On the other hand, if you would genuinely struggle, it might be worth speaking to your mortgage broker to see if you could borrow a little more or if there was a way to secure some extra finance.
The alternative is to just say ‘OK’ and leave it with them – you never know they may come back and agree after they have had a day or so to think about it!
Whatever the problems highlighted by your surveyor are, it’s always worth talking to them about your worries and fears. They will be able to give their expert advice on the problems.
You may be surprised how simple the issues would be to fix, even if it’s damp or subsidence, or the surveyor might be quite concerned themselves that the work may even be more extensive than they were able to highlight in their report.
So, the best advice is when you have digested the surveyor’s report, give them a call and discuss the pros and cons of continuing with the purchase.