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Discover How A Survey Can Make You Money On Your Next Home

Home Surveys can save you money and make you money

Just consider, when you're buying a new house typically you’ll spend on average two 20 minute sessions having a look round with all the clutter and it's all too easy to get seduced by the look and feel of the place.

The facts are that more than one in four house sales falls through due to buyers receiving bad news from their survey and changing their minds. So, if you don’t get a survey, are you the going to be the unlucky one to get that walk-away-from house?

Peter Bolton King, of the RICS, points out: 'Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions most people will ever make and yet many consumers are doing so blind to the facts. Serious faults are difficult to identify and costly to repair. 'By not being aware of them consumers are risking a potential home buying time bomb. This can cause extreme stress and financial strain on homeowners who are often stuck with a property they no longer want but cannot sell.'

Getting a survey is the best way to highlight problems that put you in-the-picture of what needs doing and the costs of such and this can be factored into your offer price.

For those who did not bother to have a survey carried out the shocking truth reveals that, on average, your new home has £5,750 in repair bills, including a whole range of hidden problems such as structural defects, rot and subsidence says the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

When buying a property, you need to think objectively; the money spent on a survey could save you thousands by providing ammunition for renegotiating the purchase price - or by making you think twice about buying at all.

Getting a survey is the best way to highlight problems that put you in-the-picture of what needs doing and the costs of such and this can be factored into your offer price.

Like any decision, the more knowledge you have the better decision you are likely to make.

Graham Ellis, of the RICS, explains: 'One of the most important messages to get over is that a buyer is entirely free to choose their own surveyor… You do not have to use the lender's surveyor'.

RICS Research Shows

The survey of 1,017 buyers across the UK found that consumers are clearly aware of the need for independent advice. However, nearly a third failed to get it. The new homeowner may then be unable to afford or have the desire, to fix the faults and may be left with a property they may no longer want to live in but are unable to sell to recoup their losses.

More than a fifth of home buyers who did not take out a survey are now saddled with a property they would never have bought if they had been aware of its true condition.

RICS’ survey shows it is the young and first-time buyers who are at particular risk, with a lack of understanding of the home buying process.

Nearly 60 per cent of respondents incorrectly identified an Estate Agent’s primary responsibility, with one in five thinking they act equally for the buyer and seller.

Background research you should do

You think that you are employing a solicitor to undertake searches for you but you don’t want the sale to fall through and cost you a fortune in professional fees so some initial background research is important to save you time and money.

A good start is, is it Freehold or Leasehold? and (if Leasehold what is the yearly rent, service charge and how long is remaining on the lease (83 years+ is about the minimum)). Whilst this is something that will be checked by your solicitor finding out details like this before you put an offer in can make a major buy or no buy or reduction in the purchase price offer. Surveyors can value the cost of buying the Freehold to give you a better idea of the costs. Get your free quote

Google Earth. This may allow you to see how the house is orientated i.e. where is the sun going to rise and fall, is the back garden going to be a BBQ hot spot or a north facing shiver? It may also highlight potential problems with neighbours overlooking, trees, parking problems and recent extensions etc

Past sales history of this and other surrounding properties can be found on sites like Rightmove, Nethouseprices, and Zoopla. This can tell you whether the property has changed hands frequently and for what price and sometimes past photographs. This will give you guidance on what similar properties in the area have sold for, giving you a good guide as to whether the house is good value for money

The Government’s planning website Planning Portal where you can see what local neighbours are planning to build. Are the neighbours planning to build a massive extension or a new house opposite that lovely view?

What should you look out for when doing the viewing?

Your surveyor experience in building defects is the best safeguard to ensuring your home is not a money pit or suffering from major repairs but a few basic things you can look out for include:


Subsidence-Cracks in walls or ceilings (look into fitted cupboards and behind settees and other heavy items.

Dampness-Signs include green or black mould or peeling wallpaper near skirting board level could be a sign of rising or penetrating damp

Dry rot-Internal woodwork that looks sunk back and is soft when touched, especially combined with the above

Condensation issues-Black mould in the bathroom or kitchen walls/ceilings but also elsewhere can be a sign of condensation (does the kitchen and bathroom have a working extractor fan?)

Underfloor issues-Check for springy floors by bouncing up and down.

Roof covering problems-Look in the loft/attic to check for signs of daylight. Also, is there is adequate insulation (should be around 250mm).

Plumbing problems-Open the taps to check the water pressure, low pressure could be a sign of potential problems with the system


Check for large trees near the property - roots can damage foundations and should be at least further away than the crown spread when fully grown

Subsidence-Check for cracks in external walls, vertical or horizontal which could mean subsidence, failed or no lintel support above windows, wall-tie failure etc. These are just a few of the many issues that can arise. Also, check the brick/stonework to see if the pointing is good as poor pointing can be a cause of internal penetrating damp issues.

Check the chimney to make sure it is in good condition Check the roof surface to ensure there are no missing tiles/slates and that the roof line isn't sagging. With a flat roof check for cracks or bubbles from an upper window.

Internal damp problems-If external ground levels are not at least 150mm or 6 inches below internal floor levels as high ground levels are often the first cause of internal damp problems. Ask the owner- Has a new Damp Proof Course been fitted?

Check for recent cover-ups - such as recent paint or render work.

Check doors and window frames to make sure they open properly and the gaps are even as subsidence can often show up first in these areas

Gutter issues-Check for green staining around downpipes and staining around gutter joints that can indicate problems.

Whilst you can be vigilant and any serious issue can mean you walk away at this point-without spending money, once you have found that perfect house there is no better advice than to have a professional survey carried out. 

'Ask the Seller and Estate Agent' Checklist

The old adage “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” and in legal terms the Latin phrase when buying,” caveat emptor” essentially buyer beware so you should be armed with a list of checklist of questions before you go for the second viewing

Going through with a sale is both time consuming and costly and whilst, later down the sales progress line, many of these will be asked by your solicitor you will have spent a lot of time and money by then so best to pick these issues up early and pull out if there are real problems

Buying a new home?

Even a new home can have defects and you might think that having an NHBC certificate or Buildmark, 10-year warranty is sufficient but remember like any insurance based cover unless you bring any matter to their attention it will never be remedied

If you are purchasing a new home, there is a specific type of survey offered by most surveyors called a New Home Snagging Report. This type of survey focuses not only on serious defects that may have been missed but also on cosmetic issues that should be remedied as part of the builders Snagging-List. So, unless you point these defects out to the builder they will never be remedied.

I am buying a flat, should I go for a Homebuyer Survey and Valuation or Building Survey?

A Homebuyer Survey and Valuation Report may suffice for a purpose built flat in a modern traditionally built small block, however, the repairing responsibilities of flats as shared Leasehold properties can vary enormously depending upon the type of leasehold and the wording. Larger, apparently in good condition, blocks may have roofing problems that would mean scaffolding would have to be used, thereby incurring huge bills just to get to roof level. Some Leaseholds cater for this through sinking funds that are built up to cover these huge costs. Your solicitor should advise you on this together with questions like when was the roof last recovered or the lift last serviced

A Survey is...

  • Peace of mind
  • Highlights problems that might be a significant cost to you in the future
  • Might enable you to have the works completed by the Vendor or
  • Give you the opportunity to get a reduction in the purchase price

What to do with your survey: Can you get money off?

The survey is designed to highlight defects and once you know the faults you should reopening negotiations with the seller - particularly if you find that you have to carry out some unexpected costly work.

If the seller isn't open to discussion on the price, ask them to carry out the work before you move in and obtain guarantees that the work has been carried out professionally.

If the property is already at a bargain price, it may still be worth proceeding. If they won't negotiate down, ask yourself if you can afford to carry the full cost of the repairs and think carefully about whether to go ahead. Your surveyor should be able to advise you on specifications to undertake the work to a good standard

Structural Engineers Reports

This type of report is usually required if your mortgage lender’s surveyor has highlighted matters of concern i.e. a serious crack, damp issues, evidence of subsidence, any lintel failed or non-standard construction etc Get your free quote

Specific Defect Reports

This type of report is usually required if you have matters of concern and need advice on how to repair the defect and the costs of undertaking the work Get your free quote

Calculations and advice including:

Removal of supporting structures (opening-up between rooms) New extensions Building Regulations
New rooms in the attic Existing defective loading analysis Crack monitoring Specification of design

These are generally covered by a Structural Engineer. Get your free Structural Engineer quote

Learn how else a surveyor could help you with our post, “Surveyors - Top 10 list of how they can help you improve your home”.

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