The fable of an unfortunate property viewing – and how a potential buyer saved thousands
In the wonderful world of films, they say true stories are always best. So why not in the world of surveying, too?
Back in 2013, a senior manager in construction, Steve, took early retirement to focus on renovating his new home in leafy Surrey. It had five bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, all the latest building technology, top of the range fixtures and fittings, and a granny annexe for his mother.
The project was completed the following year, and his new house was like a show home. Sooner or later, Steve and his wife would sell up, making a pretty profit to live in comfort and luxury for the rest of their lives.
However, life is never straightforward. With circumstances conspiring to force their hands due to a pandemic, Brexit, and the ripple effect of war, interest rates would soar – all while Steve still had a mortgage to pay on his renovated property. Time to sell and move on. Still for a profit, but perhaps not quite as substantial as anticipated.
Priority number one for the next house was a granny annexe (mother is still very much alive and kicking), and besides, she had helped finance their dream house. As luck would have it, a suitable property only two years out of its 10-year National House Building Council (NHBC) warranty was found quickly in the right location, and at the right price.
Logic says that Steve, with all his working life in the building industry, would immediately spot any major structural issues. However, the fact is that, with the average initial viewing lasting 45 minutes at most – and properties presented to look their best – our judgement is often clouded by emotion over rationality.
From a whizz around his potential new home, Steve noted the modern kitchen, generous-sized rooms, and ample storage. But what about the damp patch in the bathroom? Probably just needs the window opened more often, right? And then there’s the peeling paint on the soffits. Surely the timber isn’t old enough to suffer from rot – it’s a newish property.
Luckily for Steve, his background in construction came with prior knowledge such surface-value aesthetics can often hide expensive remedial repairs. As such, he made the wise decision to instruct a local surveyor to conduct a Level 3 Building Survey – and just as well.
The report came back highlighting one glaring problem – the mortar binding the bricks together throughout the house was crumbling badly. The builder’s sand and cement mix had been too weak. As such, Steve went back to the vendors armed with a quote for £40k to fix the problem. Otherwise, no deal.
The moral of the story? When buying a property, a Building Survey prepared by a Chartered Building Surveyor such as Tates Surveying Services, can potentially save you a packet.
There are different levels of Survey (the more comprehensive, the higher the cost). Your surveyor will advise which level is most appropriate in your case, but as a general principle, Level 2 is for properties ostensibly in good repair up to say 80 years old, and Level 3 is generally for older and seriously dilapidated properties, including listed or conservation area buildings.
Any concerns you have about the property should be discussed in advance with your surveyor. Your report can then be tailored to address those concerns. Once you have your survey, you have the means to make a rational, rather than emotional decision – to buy, to negotiate or to withdraw from the sale.