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Is a full structural survey really worth it?

(25 Posts)
EggLegs Sun 24-Jul-11 20:25:35

Kind of following on from the recent thread on bothering with a survey.

We're thinking of making an offer on a bit of a wreck. It needs central heating, rewiring, lots of decoration. DH thinks we should have a full structural survey, not so much to tell us what needs to be done, because we pretty much know, but because if there's anything awful that pops up later, we have someone to sue grin

I am however not at all convinced by this. It's not a massive house, not a massive price, we don't have a massive budget and the cost of a full structural would be more than welcome elsewhere. And I think - surely they will make sure that they tell us to do EVERYTHING precisely in order to avoid this eventuality!

And as for the survey showing up nasty surprises - well I'm not sure I can think of one (she said naievely grin). Here goes:

- It's a sort of terrace - it's the quarter of a block of four. If it were a detached, I'd be more convinced on the survey, but find it hard to imagine that it's secretly about to collapse. It's Victorian btw.
- There are already rooms in the roof - it's built that way. So we can see the inside of the roof so to speak. No nasty surprises there. Roof looks ok. Gutterings ok. No leaks or damp.
- There's a bit of woodworm we've spotted in a bedroom, but it looks old. We're old hands with woodworm.
- We KNOW it needs heating/rewiring/decoration/new kitchen/new bathroom.
- The cellars are well ventilated and look dry.
- The windows all look ok. We plan to strip/re-putty etc. Windows look 60s and are actually nice, just later than the house.
- No cracks in walls outside.
- No damp spots that we can see anywhere.
- We've done up an old house before and know at least a little of what's to come. We know there will be stuff along the way that pops up and aren't fazed by living in temporary misery grin

Would you bother with a full structural survey? What have I forgotten? Anyone want to be the voice of doom? smile

belledechocchipcookie Sun 24-Jul-11 20:27:48

I'd have one, better to be safe then have to fork out £££ 5 years down the line.

Doodlez Sun 24-Jul-11 20:28:23

Not in my (limited) experience. We had one done when we bought this place. It said (and I quote) "There is no garage". The garage is the first thing you meet as you walk up the drive. £x hundred pounds well spent, eh?! angry

EggLegs Sun 24-Jul-11 20:30:30

Doodlez grin you must have slept easier in your bed after that one!

Belle I know! Argh...

MaryBS Sun 24-Jul-11 20:32:05

I would most definitely! If nothing else you can use anything you find as a negotiating tool

oldenoughtowearpurple Sun 24-Jul-11 20:37:15

mmm...i was going to say DEFINITELY HAVE ONE but maybe in this case...

I would say
- are you planning on knocking down walls/building extensions? are you sure the house/land could take it/is stable? although a house survey may not tell you this anyway
- i would have a drains survey done just in case

Doodlez Sun 24-Jul-11 20:37:35

Like I say Egg- limited experience. BIL is a builder. As it happens, a very good builder. We took him around the house before we bought it and he went into every nook and cranny, roof space, cellar etc and told us EXACTLY what was sound and what would need attention. Cost us the price of a pint!

EggLegs Sun 24-Jul-11 20:38:16

That's a good point Mary - the bank would be doing a valuation survey which would cover that aspect but not in as much detail of course. It's an empty house (owner passed away) and there have been several offers refused - you get the feeling that they don't have to sell and are holding out for a good price. However that's not a brilliant strategy right now! We wouldn't be offering high so I'm also a bit uncertain about shelling out for a full survey when there's a real possibility that any reduction won't be accepted anyway.
Hmmm...

EggLegs Sun 24-Jul-11 20:40:32

No extensions, no knocking down any walls - well there's a maybe wall but basically we'd only do it if we could afford to next year perhaps, and we'd be getting advice from the pros on that. Just doing it up - the rewiring will be the biggest job.

It was lived in until a few months ago.

Friends know a builder/handyperson who they rate, thinking of taking him along for a viewing instead!

EggLegs Sun 24-Jul-11 20:41:16

Drains survey a good idea old

Thanks all, this is helpful smile

fourthattempt Sun 24-Jul-11 20:43:44

No. They don't actually tell you anything at all for definite. Its all may be and could be and potentially. Any surveyor worth his salt covers his arse every inch of the way so you can't sue him later.

TheSkiingGardener Sun 24-Jul-11 20:47:28

We had a full structural survey.

They didnt spot the leaky roof, faulty wiring, bodged hole knocked through wall or the fact that every bathroom leaked into the floor below. Nor did they spot the other hole in the wall or the hole in the window frame (2 inches square).

I won't bother next time. I would take a builder round and get their honest opinion.

EggLegs Mon 25-Jul-11 09:13:04

That's what I thought fourthattempt

TSG shock I thought not being able to recognise a garage was bad! That's TERRIBLE. But, I assume that you had no comeback because they'd covered themselves? - which is my real issue.

It's not that I think a full survey would be useless, but I'm struggling so hard to think of something MAJOR which we haven't already clocked and which will make ££££ difference to us. It would have to be something like full on subsidence, roof about to fall off, galloping dry rot. We EXPECT leaks, misery and plaster everywhere... I want to put that £5-600 to better use...

Will show all this to DH, thanks again all! smile

greentown Mon 25-Jul-11 11:39:17

If you get a full survey and it's really bad - I guess you won't buy it rather than use the survey as a negotiating tool. The faults you describe you could alrady negitiate on if you want . Survey or no survey - doesn't mean the vendor has to play ball with you.
I'm not convinved of the vale of the full survey over a valuation or your own gut instinct.
It's great if you want a list of things to fix - jobs for the future.
It won't reveal (by definition) hidden problems - and in the end what I think everyone wants is someone to say there are no hidden problems!
If any problem is hidden at the time of the survey - you can't then sue the surveyor later when the problem is later revealed - so the notion of 'legal protection' is fairly flimsy.
Trust your instinct I say - stick with the minimum valuation.

LoveInAColdChamberOfSecrets Mon 25-Jul-11 11:49:43

I was very, very glad we had one on a property we put an offer in on as it revealed that the developers who'd done some work on it hadn't bothered with various things, the most important of which was a damp proof membrane, and it was going to need £50k of work doing to correct the problems. It had looked fine on the surface!

greentown Mon 25-Jul-11 13:09:22

My first thought on that would be if you can't tell whether a DPC is present, then you probably aren't experienced enough in buying - so should definitely get a survey.
Haven't heard of a DPC ever costing anywhere near £50k so there must have been a hell of a lot of other really big things wrong too.

LoveInAColdChamberOfSecrets Mon 25-Jul-11 13:49:15

greentown - I don't know all that much about it at all, but my FIL does and he had looked at the house as well - he thought there were a few (relatively minor) issues and suggested we get a full survey, but he was also amazed at the number of things it threw up that hadn't been at all obvious. The developers had been pretty sneaky, I understand, and done a good job of covering up the (very numerous) corners that had been cut. The survey was like some sort of example essay on the things that could be wrong with a house! They did offer to reduce the price to cover the work, in the end, but by then we'd been put off the house by the trauma of the awful survey and how difficult the developers had been over the whole thing, plus we didn't want to live in a building site while all the work was done. Apparently loads of the repair work would have involved uprooting things that were already in place and would have been very expensive and disruptive. But this was a totally different situation to that of the OP, anyway - it sounds as if it's clear that her place needs a lot of work, whereas this was being sold as newly renovated and high spec, but was a disaster zone if you looked beyond the flash kitchen and lovely floors. It was a real shame, actually - obviously entirely the developers' fault, but it was a beautiful house that was on the market for a good 18 months after we rejected it, presumably because everyone else also had a survey done. I assume that eventually either the developers fixed the issues or someone took it on prepared to do the work themselves.

greentown Mon 25-Jul-11 14:39:05

Sounds like you struck gold with your surveyor. My experience has been more along the lines of every report reading like an essay of what could be wrong with a house, although it may not be wrong but I can't say for certain either way. So as a buyer you're left with the option of getting a raft of other reports from other experts, or pulling out, or buying knowing that the surveyor has well and truly absolved themselves of any responsibilty for whatever decision I make.
Fair enough - but I can't respect people who work like that.

fapl Mon 25-Jul-11 15:12:59

If you are getting the survey just to have somebody to sue if the house falls down in 6 months, don't bother. A full structural survey is a document full of arse covering for the surveyor, a lawyer probably writes the basic template and the surveyor goes and alters it according to the house. A friend of mine bought a house with severe dry rot after a full survey which did not pick it up. Apparently every tradesman that walked in could smell it as soon as they walked in the door. After spending tens of thousands putting everything right, time talking to lawyers etc, they walked away from it after all the stress it looked like they wouldn't get anything back (at least I think they have dropped it now, it may still be on the back burner with a lawyer).

That is not to say don't get a survey, if you don't know much about houses and don't know a trusted builder you could walk around with, it could save you from making an expensive mistake. Or it can be used as a negotiating tool to save you thousands, in your case though the price has probably been agreed taking into account that everything needs to be done

LoveInAColdChamberOfSecrets Mon 25-Jul-11 15:58:37

He was brilliant, Greentown - he was a friend of FIL's and really saved the day. I am so glad we didn't buy that house!

LoveInAColdChamberOfSecrets Mon 25-Jul-11 15:58:50

He was brilliant, Greentown - he was a friend of FIL's and really saved the day. I am so glad we didn't buy that house!

minipie Mon 25-Jul-11 17:18:14

I would get a full structural but I would get it with a recommended and trusted surveyor (or experienced builder) who will be thorough, not the person the bank appoints to do the valuation.

Pendeen Mon 25-Jul-11 19:25:36

If you are experienced at house renovation OP then you probably do not need a building survey (or structural survey as they are sometimes called).

You sound confident in your ability to spot problems and to deal with those that might arise whilst you are working on the house.

I have to say that commissioning a survey simply to have the opportunity to sue someone is symptomatic of the grasping attitude of many in the UK who seem always to want someone else to be responsible.

As most people have pointed out, surveyors are usually very careful to limit their liability and your DH would probably find that any report would either (a) cost a fortune but be very comprehensive or (b) be 'reasonably' priced but riddled with caveats or most lilely (c) both.

As for that mythical creature: 'the friendly local builder' then I'm afraid, after several years of dealing with them from a professional standpoint, I would not be so confident in their judgement either.

GnomeDePlume Mon 25-Jul-11 20:02:13

I agree with Pendeen we have bought a couple of 'projects'. We havent bothered with anything more than valuations because both times the buildings were empty so we were able to lift carpets, peer into the loft and we were planning to strip them back to a shell anyway. It helps that DH is an electrician.

EggLegs Mon 25-Jul-11 20:55:05

LoveInA - funny you should tell that story, that was one of the first things we both said - that one of the main reasons that we'd lean towards not getting a survey is because the house hasn't been touched. No bodge job en suites or dodgy kitchen jobs. Everything is as it was - which means that you can see exactly what it needs! UNLIKE our last place, whose previous owner fancied herself as a bit of a plumber hmm. Oh lordy lord the tangled web that woman wove (beneath our the bathroom floor).

Pendeen surveying just to have someone to sue sounds horrible, I agree - I can't imagine us suing anyone in real life I have to say grin What he really wants is to minimise risk - that you take all the advice you can and then yes, should it go tits up and you'd paid to have all avenues investigated, you could at least have someone to go to. And of course the natural nervousness that you would shrug off taking all the advice you could when it's such a big commitment. But it's been confirmed here pretty much that it just wouldn't work like that, and that we'd be on our own anyway should the house fall down grin And that kind of settles it, because we don't need the survey for other reasons, I think. greentown and fapl as you say, it's not really going to be much of a negotiating tool either here - everyone knows it needs modernisation. We won't pay over the odds, but that's more to do with the market and our own budget anyway.

Cheers!!!

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