Advanced search

Ever bought without a survey?

(33 Posts)
downtothesea Mon 18-Jul-11 10:14:06

Over the years of housebuying we've always had homebuyer's reports or a couple of basic valuations and one full structural survey. Only once did we ever not buy a house because of the survey and in that case, someone else bought it a couple of weeks later. It was supposed to have roof issues. I drive by every now and then and the original roof is still there and still looks fine and the house has been sold a couple of times since.
I guess we have surveys for peace of mind (leaving aside the mortgage requirement) but given that only a full structural survey carries any real liabilty for the surveyor - what's the point?
Surely, if you're happy with what you can see and as long as you can get buildings insurance on the property, you may as well not bother with a survey as you won't be able to sue them anyway, even if the front wall falls down 2 years after you bought it.
Have you ever bought without a survey and what happened?

ThunderboltKid Mon 18-Jul-11 10:36:06

I haven't, but I completely agree with you.

We worried endlessly about the survey on the property we have just bought; but eventually realised that any property will have faults.

My PIL's live in an amazing house - absolutely gorgeous - but if you had a survey on it, it would be shocking! It needs endless amounts of money spent on it to bring it upto a 'clear survey' level, but as they said, they have lived there for years with no problems, and don't intend to replace the roof anytime soon.

I think in future, I would only have a survey done if there were any real conerns over its ability to be lived in. Everything else is liveable and fixable!

WhipMeIndiana Mon 18-Jul-11 10:38:20

always get a mid range survey, as would flag any supposed serious problems, wouldnt risk not getting one
if it were a period property would get the full survey

Notacluetoo Mon 18-Jul-11 10:41:23

We just have!! We didn't get a survey this time as we've bought a house only 5 mins down the road from our old house so is the same age. We had a homebuyers survey on the last place and it really didn't tell us anything we couldn't see ourselves and had rather a lot of disclaimers exonerating the surveyor of any responsibility! Our reasoning on not getting a survey on this place was that we could use the money we would have spent on the survey on anythings that needed fixing when we moved in. So far, apart from needing a LOT of cleaning and new flooring (think dog hair heaven...!) we've had no problems!
(watch now as the ceiling caves in... :-) )

downtothesea Mon 18-Jul-11 11:53:05

Thanks - glad to see others taking the gamble Notacluetoo! My feeling is that if you can't see something immediately wrong with the house, no cracks, no smells of damp. no missing roof tiles, broken gutters, slopes in the floor and so on - if you can't see it, what is a surveyor going to see?
And if he also doesn't see anything wrong, so you go and buy the house and then the roof collapses in a year, what have you gained by having the survey? Your first port of call will still be your insurance company.
I think also WhipMeIndiana that the mid range reports are the worst deal of all, no liability attaches to the surveyor at all, he can literally say anything without any fear of litigation - so what are you getting for your £500?
I think the security a good homebuyer's report gives you is an illusion. Effectively, after 30-40 mins walking around the house, the surveyor tells you he 'thinks' it 'looks' okay or not! That's it.
If you are an experienced buyer, you should be able to spot anything serious, it may well be so obvious it is reflected in a low price.
A homebuyer's report seems to me to be a bit like getting your old uncle round to look the house over. If you buy and it's fine - all well and good.
If you buy it and it's a money pit - what can you do? Take your uncle to court? You can't take the surveyor to court either!

Pendeen Mon 18-Jul-11 12:56:04

I think it depends on who you have to do the survey and what type of survey you have paid for.

Most Homebuyers reports are done by valuers and their principal interest is security for the lender, often just checking that the property exists and the roof is still on! If you are borrowing £50,000 on a £250,000 house then the building plot alone would be security for the lender.

After completing their degree Chartered Surveyors have to train for years and then pass very exacting entry standards so an experienced one is going to not only spot things that a layman can but those that are less obvious and also to understand and diagnose the implications of the defect.

cat64 Mon 18-Jul-11 13:09:24

Message withdrawn

overthemill Mon 18-Jul-11 13:11:25

yes, three times. each case no problems. did start off by getting full really expensive ones and worked out they were ridiculously detailed and we didnt actually care

bran Mon 18-Jul-11 13:25:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

hildathebuilder Mon 18-Jul-11 13:31:41

Yes also 3 times. And 2 of those houses have been period property. In those cases I did have the local builders round, and go through what I thought the issues were, but I work on the basis that if you get a survey and they say you must do x (usually damproofing) then the mortgage co might insist on it, but it still not need doing. I grew up in a 300 year old house. It had damp patches. It still does. It's still standing and worth a fortune. It can't really be damproofed due to its construction, and it really doesn't need it. A survey often only says it needs damproofing etc but not look at the big picture.

Personally I think if a house has stood for 100, 200 etc years and is still standing there is no real reason to expect it not to once I have bought it

downtothesea Mon 18-Jul-11 13:54:09

This is great!!! Feck the system!
Pendeen - I'm not sure of the distinction you're drawing between valuers and surveyors. All my homebuyer's reports have been done by RICS surveyors and not one of them could be relied upon in the event that something later turns out to be wrong with the property that the surveyor should have seen - that's what you get - too many caveats and get-out clauses.
Of course, the surveyor may well see loads of things the layman won't (but if he doesn't - there's still no comeback for the buyer!!!).
In the end, I wonder if the seller's Q&A forms (TA10?) + written enquiries (ie has there been any subsidence?) probably offer the best route (with legal liability for fraud) of finding out the state of a house.

Fennel Mon 18-Jul-11 14:10:10

Yes, for our current house, it's a 200yo ramshackle thing and the previous owners hadn't done that much, so we knew the survey would come back saying "needs new everything".

But DP comes from a family full of builders, and he knows about electrics, so he is quite good at knowing what to look for, and then what to do about it.

The house did have woodworm in a room we hadn't spotted before buying, a survey would have showed that, but we found it ourselves anyway, so it wasn't a big deal.

microserf Mon 18-Jul-11 16:43:38

i feel like i bought the house without a survey as my blindingly over the odds expensive full structural survey seems to have missed every bloody issue we are actually experiencing! bastard, sometimes i even wonder if he went to the right house.

violetwellies Mon 18-Jul-11 16:54:16

I bought my brother out of his share of our parents house no survey. We paid over a hrand for survey on current money pit, but only for mortgage not structural, we could SEE it needed a roof , wiring, plumbing, heating, chimney replacing, outside walls pointing etc etc etc smile

Pendeen Mon 18-Jul-11 17:39:54


I wasn't trying to defend poor surveys or surveors (I'm an Architect not a Chartered Surveyor) but suggesting that people only get what they pay for.

Generally speaking, the majority of people will only consider a valuation or homebuyers report which is not a full building (structural) survey.

EggyAllenPoe Mon 18-Jul-11 17:54:01

we only got the minimum survey required for mortgage - its a 1930s bungalow - it didn't look like it had anything wrong with it...and it didn't. a few minor problems have shown up since, which probably happened since then...and are fixable.

MIL had a full survey that failed to tell her house was being repeatedly flooded. still, she might have guessed that from the lie of the land..(so might the surveyor!)

downtothesea Tue 19-Jul-11 07:34:40

Are surveyors the only professionals allowed to offer this 3 tier system? Two types of survey are reasonably priced but carry no guarantee in terms of legal responsibilty for their contents - what's actually the point of them? Imagine if doctors or lawyers offered equivalent tiered service - ie, "yes madam, level one conveyancing should cover all the legal niceties but if by any chance it doesn't, I'm not liable"
We once had a homebuyers report on a ground floor flat and the surveyor missed an internal window between the hallway and the upstairs flat hallway!!! Luckily we saw it on a second viewing - don't know how we missed it either - but we're not surveyors.

narmada Tue 19-Jul-11 10:19:18

Gosh you lot are a lot less cautious than me. I would never contemplate buying a place without having a full structural survey done first. We are just about to do a doer-upper, and the survey's given us a wealth of info which has enabled us to come up with at least some idea of costing for renovation, and an order of works. We can see what definitely needs doing now, and what might need doing 5 and 10 years down the line. It's also spotted things we might not have noticed, like an asbestos concrete downpipe and some possibly asbestos ceiling boards, blown flashing, etc. It was 500 quid plus VAT, and that was in Greater London.

I suppose we could have got a builder in to have a look around, but I would have been nervous about that because we don't know a good one (seemingly only know ones who've made our friends' lives a misery!) and also, if they are not federation of master builders or some such then you have no professional body to report them to if they do a crap job. At least surveyors have some liability if they get things disastrously wrong and if you get a full structural survey done.

downtothesea Tue 19-Jul-11 11:20:33

that's a bargain price for a full structural - been quoted minimum 450 for a homebuyer's outside London and 700 for a full survey.
Worth noting though - last place we sold our buyers had both a full structural and a valuation from the morgage co. Two separate surveys.
Full survey - 40/50 mins and Valuation 40/50 mins - both did exactly the same. There's no carpet lifting or floorboard removing these days unless the house is empty and it's easy fro them to do it.

Pendeen Tue 19-Jul-11 15:04:55


"3 tier system"?

I don't think surveyors are the only professionals to do this.

For a design commission, I offer several levels of service depending upon the client's wishes (as do most Architects).

1. Production of drawings for statutory approvals only i.e. planning consent and building regulations aproval. Usually this is all people want for a domestic extension or loft conversion.

2. Production of full design and construction details, compile a specification, prepare tender documents and even run a tender exercise. This is only worthwhile if the commission is a large one e.g. a new house.

3. 'Contract administration' i.e. running the project when on site, checking quality, chasing progress, issuing variations and progres payments and negotiating the final account (amongst many other items). This is quite rare, usually I only seem to do this for council, housing association or NHS projects (whatever the value).

My dentist offers differing levels of treatment depending on the patient's means.

My accountant will provide a very basic service for a basic fee or looks after a client's books, deals with VAT issues, etc.

downtothesea Tue 19-Jul-11 15:42:05

That's interesting Pendeen. I would disagree though with your analogy in that I suspect you don't offer a lower liability threshhold for any tiers of your work.
Surely even at your level 1, you would still accept responsibilty for any errors you might make in your drawings - to the extent that a client wouldn't have to think - is there any point in having a level 1 service?
I think your three tiers are more closely related to quantity of work rather than liability for quality of work.
A dentist will not refuse to accept responsibilty, for example, for root canal work based on how how much the client pays. They may not offer certain treatments within a certain price plan but the fillings they do under any plan will be of the same quality and their patients equally protected by the dentists professional indemnity cover.
And a basic service from an accountant is still expected to be correct and fit to be relied upon by HMRC. You are really again describing different quantities of work rather than the same work presented with a different standard of integrity/liability.
The equivalent standard of service from an accountant compared to a surveyor would surely be that
level 1 - the accounts will be good enough for home use - but I will not put my name to them for HMRC purposes - I can't imagine any accountant doing that, certainly no lawyer would and no doctor or dentist would and I'd be very disappointed if that's what architects do.

I really don't think any other professionals offer such overtly compromised products in the same way as surveyors.

Pendeen Tue 19-Jul-11 16:09:36

I had a meeting with a quantity surveyor on a school project this morning and whilst chatting waiting for the Head to see us I asked him about the different types of survey and he admited he hadn't a clue!

Wrong type of RICS surveyor apparently but he said they had a leaflet. I have just looked at their website and found this:

Types of Survey Leaflet

which bears out what I was suggesting about levels of work depending on what the client wants.

I think my analogies with other professions are reasonable so we will simply have to differ on that point.

harrietthespook Tue 19-Jul-11 16:17:40

I wouldn't personally. We walked into a house that looked fine to us once - main beam rotting away. How would you ever be able to tell?

downtothesea Tue 19-Jul-11 17:23:04

well Pendeen we will just have to agree to differ.
I wouldn't expect a RICS produced leaflet to point out the huge gaping hole in their product - after all - it's just an advert for surveys - does it mention which of their products don't include legal liability for any professional errors? Surprise, surprise - No.
Any other professional would be insulted to have their services compred to surveys. A professional should stand by the quality of their work.
A survey is more comparable with a car's MOT.
You wouldn't expect a mechanic to offer three different levels of MOT on your car and only be liable if the most expensive one was chosen.
There should be one uniform report - with full liability for any errors in what it puports to offer.
Harrietthespook - the question is would the surveyor have spotted it either. certainly not if it was concealed beneath boards or carpet.
And if you later discovered it, and didn't have buildings insurance - well if you had a valuation or homebuyer's report then don't expect the surveyor to cough up.
If it's concealed, they won't cough up on any type of survey anyway.

harrietthespook Wed 20-Jul-11 13:23:58

I guess my question is then, if you are buying a very old property and it would be financially extremely difficult if something major were wrong with it - what they heck do people do???? to try to assess this then, if not get a survey done.

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: