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What to do after a bad house survey

It’s every home buyer’s worst nightmare. You find the house of your dreams and you’ve put in an offer, but then the survey report reads more like a horror story. It can be disappointing, frustrating and even frightening. But all is not lost! A bad survey can actually be an opportunity to get a better deal.

What to do after a bad house survey

What happens after a survey on a house?

After your Chartered Surveyor has finished surveying the property, they will produce a report detailing the condition the house is in. Some surveyors will call you with a brief summary of what they find, whereas some will require you to wait for the report to be completed. This could take up to 10 days. If you’re in a rush, ask in advance how soon you’ll receive the report.

What if problems are revealed in a house survey?

Some of the most common problems revealed by a house survey are damp, damage to structural wood, Japanese knotweed, subsidence, and electrical issues. If you get the results from the building survey and they’re not what you expected, the first thing to do is to make sure you understand the issues and their implications. Absolutely do not panic – sometimes things can sound quite severe in a survey, but then you find that they’re standard issues for a property of that type or age.

Most surveyors are happy to chat through the report after you receive it, and answer any questions. Remember that they won’t tell you whether or not you should buy the property (that would be their personal opinion) but they will give you the facts on what buying the property would mean and if you got a Building Survey it will detail the cost of the changes.

Some Chartered Surveyors may include photos of the issues, which is useful if you want to bring it up with the seller or the agent.

Read more about common problems your house survey might find.

What are my options?

Once you’ve got your head around the results of the survey, you’ll probably be wondering about what to do next – or more important, who pays for the repair work.

Pull out of the sale

You’re not legally bound to buying the house – your offer is Subject To Contract so if the problems revealed in the survey are too detrimental to the property’s value you can always pull out.

This is why talking to your Chartered Surveyor is so important – they’re the expert. If it seems like the issues will be long-term, costly or just change the way you feel about the property then you can pull out of the purchase with no issues.

You may even be able to sell on your report to the next potential buyer, which is a great way to make your money back on the survey.

Ask the seller to fix them

Depending on the market, how popular the property and area are and how many offers the seller had, they may be very willing to make changes to keep the sale going forward.

You could talk to the seller of the house to ask if they’d consider fixing the problems before you exchange contracts. You can even make it a point in the contract that you will only move forward if these issues are solved before exchange. However, it’s important to put a checking system in place, as if the sellers agree to changes and you find on moving day they haven’t made the promised changes, it is harder to chase them up.

Put into place a checking system (or perhaps get a second survey after the changes are made) to confirm everything is in order.

Renegotiate the price

Some people would rather make the changes themselves in the property, as they can be assured they are done to the quality they expect. For example, if the boiler needs to be replaced, but the seller replaces it with a low cost one instead of one that would save you money long term, you’re not in a great position.

One of the best things about a survey is that it gives you bargaining power. You have written evidence from a specialist that there are issues with the property, and you know how much it would cost to have these things fixed to the appropriate standard.

As such, you can take this back to the estate agent and seller, citing the survey, and request a discount for the amount it would cost to fix it.

Remember:
 
  • Be honest: Be upfront about what the survey has shown. You could share the report with them so they can see it for themselves.
  • Do your research: The exact amount you can renegotiate will vary wildly depending on the buyer, the seller, and the current state of the property market. Before you dive in, do some research on whether the current state of the market is in favour of buyers or sellers.
  • Be knowledgeable about the issues: If the seller is open to renegotiation, gather as much information as you can on the extent of the problem(s) and get quotes on how much it will cost to fix – your Chartered Surveyor can help you here.
  • Be realistic: If you’ve done your research then you’ll have a fair idea of what counts as a reasonable reduction in price for the issues found. Don’t go asking for an unfairly large price reduction, or else you may end up irritating the seller and make gazumping more likely.
  • Be honest with yourself: Are you prepared to lose the house if the seller doesn’t agree to your new offer? Or would you rather pay the full price, despite the survey results? You must approach renegotiation prepared for all eventualities. If the seller doesn’t budge you’ve got to be ready to make that decision.
For more information, have a  look at our negotiating guide.

Advice for sellers

What if I know there are problems?

In short, if you don’t disclose something that could affect your buyer’s decision, you could be in trouble. Don’t wait for your potential buyers to ask – if you know there’s dry rot or an infestation of pests, be honest about it. Most buyers will have a survey carried out anyway, so you may as well speed up the process. Coming clean about issues will also build the trust between you and your potential buyer, which makes gazundering less likely.

Read our article on what you should disclose to potential buyers.

What if the homebuyer reports problems I didn’t know about?

If your homebuyer reports problems you didn’t know about, you’ve got to think about whether you’re in a financial position to either fix the issues yourself or be open to renegotiation. But remember:
 
  • All surveys will yield similar results, and now you know these problems exist you have to disclose them – so if the deal falls through you might encounter the same dilemma with the next potential buyer(s).
  • If you jeapordise the rapport you’ve build with the potential buyer they may be more likely to gazunder you, particularly if they feel they’re paying too much for the property.

EPCs

We often forget that EPCs are another type of survey, and you must have an in date one to sell your property. As a buyer, be sure to check the EPC to see how energy efficient the property is, and if you’ll be paying high fees on your energy bills.

Sellers – much like the survey, your EPC can give you the opportunity to improve your property, either before you put it on the market, or if interest has been a little less enthusiastic than you expected.

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