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Would this survey make you walk away? (long)

(23 Posts)
TakingTheStairs Wed 12-Mar-14 11:40:50

We have just had the survey back on the house we have agreed to buy. It's a 1930s semi.
I have only ever bought new builds before so I'm a bit clueless in this area. Clever DH suggested that we ask Mumsnet for your collective wisdom. He was very impressed with your advice on getting work done in another thread I posted.

Please excuse the length of this post, I'm quoting parts of the survey which says;

To the rear there is an old chimney flue running up the outside wall of the house which has been capped off below roof level. The rendering on the externally expressed chimney breast is looking perished in places and may be harbouring dampness. The fact that we have detected internal dampness in the rear wall of the bathroom and the adjacent bedroom would suggest that either dampness is penetrating at this point or that condensation is occurring within the redundant flue due to lack of ventilation. We would recommend in the first instance that ventilation air bricks are installed at the top and bottom of the redundant flue and perhaps the rendering removed and reformed.

The horizontal damp proof course was not able to be identified to the base of the main walls due to the presence of a rendered plinth and mortar joints. Judging by the age of the property we believe it may be a bitumen felt strip which runs along the base line of the sub-floor ventilation air bricks. Moisture meter readings taken to the interior of the property revealed that the damp proof course to the front and the flank elevations of the building may have failed as readings obtained were higher than acceptable. It is possible that rising damp is occurring to these walls and would now recommend that you instruct a specialist timber and damp company to investigate the cause and full extent of the dampness including timbers in contact with damp walls and to advise on appropriate remedial treatment and allied repairs together with a full estimate of costs.

No obvious signs of significant rot were found during the inspection. However, few structural timbers could be inspected.

Having said that, there is evidence of rising damp to the front and side wall of this building which can obviously affect the sub-floor timbers which abut these walls. We therefore recommend that a representative sample of timber to the floors in these areas is removed to inspect the sub-floor area to ensure there are no signs of timber decay or wood boring beetle infestation to these areas. This is something that can be done by your specialist company when the work is undertaken to repair the damp proof course. There is no evidence of this at present but of course we could not inspect the under-floor area.

As already mentioned above there is evidence of rising damp to the front and side wall of the property which should be treated accordingly under guarantee by an appropriate specialist company.

We also noted dampness is evident to the wall at the top of the stairwell between the stairwell and the bathroom. Immediately on the other side of this is the large walk in shower which has a fully tiled wall. Clearly some dampness is getting through the tiling and indeed some of the seals around the perimeter and the shower tray have been replaced in more recent years/months. This is a common defect and we would now recommend that the tiling is fully examined and repaired and re-grouted as necessary to ensure it remains watertight.

Further dampness was noted at high level in both the rear wall of the bathroom and the rear bedroom due to the defective externally expressed redundant flue as mentioned above. We would recommend that the plaster in these areas is removed and the areas underneath examined for timber defects such as rot or beetle infestation and treated accordingly. Subsequent to that replastering will be necessary.

This is mains supplied to a head meter and fuse box in the understairs cupboard. The fuse box is an old re-wirable type with one or two trip switches but otherwise the system is of some considerable age. The circuitry appears to be a mix of PVC, rubber and lead lined cable as evidenced in the roof space and although some of this may be redundant we strongly recommend that this system is tested by a reputable electrician, (preferably NICEIC registered) to check the whole system and provide a quotation for works found to be necessary to comply with current IEE regulations prior to entering into a legal commitment to purchase.

Central heating is provided by an old Potterton Profile rather dated boiler located in the kitchen feeding steel panelled radiators throughout. Whilst the system was seen to be functional at the time of inspection there were no thermostatic control valves to the radiators and the boiler could be updated at some stage with a modern self-condensing system. We also noted that the boiler discharges via a balanced flue in the rear wall close to an opening kitchen window. Your Gas Safe Registered contractor should be asked to comment as this may be too close to the opening window.

We have set out in this report the defects found in detail some of which can be dealt with in the course of annual maintenance but items which we consider to be given immediate attention are those to which we wish to draw your attention are as follows:-

1.Patch pointing of chimney stack and provision of caps to open pots.
2.Removal of moss from roof covering and repointing roof tiles.
3.Repairs to external sand and cement mortar rendering.
4.Repair or replacement to window above stairwell.
5.Repairs to externally expressed redundant chimney flue and treatment of internal dampness.
6.Treatment of rising damp to front and flank elevations.
7.Obtain electrical test and rewire as necessary.
8.Carry out repairs to drainage system.

What would you do? I'd very much appreciate your advice

oscarwilde Wed 12-Mar-14 13:16:29

If you include the boiler replacement I would think you are looking at circa �20k to fix all of this caveat, I live in London so my view of pricing may be skewed somewhat. If that's reflected in the price and you are happy to do the work then fine. You can probably do it for a lot less but I take a conservative view as in my experience, when you take an old house and replaster one wall in a bedroom for example, the rest of it then looks like crap. Before you know it, you've kicked off a tidal wave of cost. That's not your vendors problem though. It really depends if you have already budgeted for retiling the shower and redecorating rooms etc.

If you want to contain risk and the house won't be sold to another buyer under your nose, then I'd get builders/electricians/rising damp folk in for proper quotes. Then have a chat with the vendors about the asking price.

I'm not a builder but repointing a chimney stack sounds fairly straightforward. Re-plastering a wall average bedroom size is �500-�1000 with electrical sockets updated at the same time.
Rewiring your house - �2500-�5k if you go completely mad with Cat 5 cable and other whizzy bits.
New boiler �3-5k
Damp proofing - our house was done about 10 yrs ago for �7500..

MrsJohnDeere Wed 12-Mar-14 13:21:37

I would walk away unless you are happy to do a lot of work, can set aside a sizeable reserve fund for other problems that will arise, and the vendors are prepared to knock a decent sum off the price you originally offered (unless the price reflects this already).

Sounds like a huge headache to me.

TakingTheStairs Wed 12-Mar-14 13:30:23

The price agreed certainly does not reflect the work that needs to be done. I think we'll get professionals in for quotes and then ask the vendors to reduce the price accordingly.
I'd be tempted to walk away but DH loves the house.
We'll see!

MrsJohnDeere Wed 12-Mar-14 13:36:24

Is it worth doing another viewing with the survey in hand? Maybe your dh will get cold feet and fall out of love with it when faced with the issues?

Mandy21 Wed 12-Mar-14 13:36:35

I don't think that all adds up to �20k wherever you are in the country but in my view, you've missed off the crucial part of the survey. Does the valuer say, "with these repairs in mind, the asking price is too much" etc or does he say its still worth what you're willing to pay?

We got a specialist damp and timber report when we got our survey back identifying similar issues to you = also a 1930s semi. I think to a certain extent 1930s semi are known for their ventilation issues (just have a trawl through mumsnet and you'll see) so some of the comments will be pretty standard. Can't remember how much it was, maybe �300-�400 by a company that specialises in damp and can give you realistic views of the costings. The survey had come back e.g. with a similar thing to your shower - probably leak in downstairs loo. H fixed the leak when we moved in, let plaster dry out etc, no cost. So its not necessarily a question of the points raised being expensive to remedy. I think for example the boiler comment is par for the course - if you're buying any kind of house, the boiler is unlikely to be brand new and you're going to have to replace it at some point.

You just need someone to tell you what they are likely to cost and factor this into your numbers.

So my suggestion would be :
1. Get in touch with the vendors sols and ask for copies of all the docs that go with the house (i.e. we got copy of invoices showing when a DPC had been put in, when the roof had been re-done, when the wiring had been done) so when you do get professionals in, you can say e.g. is it really a DPC issue because it looks like the house had one put in in 1995 or whatever.
2. Get a specialist damp company in and maybe an electrician to give you an diea of what costs you might have.
3. Think about what you will do with the house when you buy it - we had damp in 1 wall btw kitchen and dining room but knew we were knocking that down anyway, so not really an issue.
4. Look at overall costings - does it still work? Is it still worth what you're paying? If you walk away will you lose money spent to date? Is there likely to be another similar house? If you still want to go ahead then speak to the vendors. They will know that most surveyors will find the same issues and other buyers will be in the same position as you.

Good luck. I certainly wouldn't see any of the above as "dealbreakers".

Mandy21 Wed 12-Mar-14 13:40:25

The other point re docs that the vendors will have - there may be guarantees for windows / DPC and e.g. we had british gas certificates to show that whilst the boiler was old it had been serviced every year and met all current guidelines etc.

oscarwilde Wed 12-Mar-14 13:42:59

Who is going to manage the builders on a day to day basis???

LondonGirl83 Wed 12-Mar-14 13:51:55

It wouldn't put me off as everything can be easily dealt with as long as the price reflects the work to be done. Rewiring a house and damp proofing / removing & treating timbers is very disruptive as it involves lifting floor boards, replastering and repainting walls. However its less disruptive than the extension you are planning (if that gives some context) as it can be done in weeks rather than months.

I'd get the the damp and timber specialist and electrician in as a first step. If the house really does need rewiring or does have woodrot, those are expensive and disruptive as you'll have to replaster and paint most of the house. However, some surveys just cover themselves by highlighting areas of risk that aren't actual problems so get in an electrician and a timber specialist to confirm before making it a deal breaker. These additional tests will cost another 500 GBP so perhaps only do it if the sellers are keen to work something out or if you need to know for sure before you decide to walk away. Perhaps speak to the vendors and say that you will get additional surveys done and quotes but you want to know they are prepared to negotiate price before you spend any more money?

sleeplessbunny Wed 12-Mar-14 13:58:09

Did you notice damp in the property? My personal view (living in an ancient house without DPC and with solid walls) is that some surveyors can get a bit fixated on it. New houses have cavity walls, insulation and ventilation designed for modern living but older houses can suffer with damp just from condensation from showers, cooking, drying clothes etc, if you don't ventilate properly (which a lot of people don't because of heating costs).

The term "rising damp" makes me a bit hmm too. Plenty of old houses don't have a DPC and manage perfectly fine, with the right ventilation.

The chimney is an obvious area for concern re. damp, it is typical for these to cause problems if unused and unventilated. My personal preference would be to open it up, have it lined (including insluation) and fit a woodburner. We did that for a cost of about £3k.

Also, this winter has been horrendous for old houses with solid walls. Most will take months to dry out properly after the rain we've had. So personally I wouldn't be put off by all the damp comments.

The boiler sounds like an old fashioned & probably robust type. Older boilers have very little to go wrong in them, so tend to be much more reliable (if less efficient) than newer models that last 10yrs max. We had a 30 yr old gas boiler in our last place, it never caused any problems. If it is venting too close to the window you can get a snorkel kit to move the vent, you'd need to get the flue re-balanced afterwards though.

Electrics do sound like they need re-doing.

Personally, this report wouldn't put me off. But it all depends on price smile

Auntimatter Wed 12-Mar-14 14:24:41

No. Just needs a bit of sorting out.

What is scaring you particularly? Why are you thinking of walking away? 1930s houses are always going to have point on the survey; this one isn't about to fall down.

Sunnyshores Wed 12-Mar-14 14:30:43

I think with carefully chosen suppliers - boiler £3k, Rewire £3k, dampcourse £3k say £10k, the other bits max £15k total. I'd also leave the boiler until later, rewiring and dampcourse (replaster, decorate) is messy but max 2 weeks work.

I know it sounds alot of work, but in reality these are fairly run of the mill jobs on older houses and dont necessarily indicate the house is in poor repair or been neglected. It certainly wouldnt put me off buying it, as long as the asking price reflected this.

TakingTheStairs Wed 12-Mar-14 16:58:15

Thanks for all your replies. I'll read them properly this evening. DS is poorly so I have to concentrate on him for now.
Thanks again

TakingTheStairs Wed 12-Mar-14 17:42:52

I just called the estate agents to let them know we were arranging a damp specialist and that if they found it to be an expensive problem, which I hoped it won't be, then we would like the price to be dropped to reflect that.
The estate agent said to me that if I was going to start talking about price reductions already then they would just put it back on the market! Charming!!!

Sunnyshores Wed 12-Mar-14 19:55:01

I assume when you offered then, you thought the house was 'perfect' and had none of these issues? That being the case, they should certainly wait a week or so while you get quotes for works.

TakingTheStairs Wed 12-Mar-14 21:44:16

I did think the house was "perfect" but we fortunately seem to have the time to get quotes for any repairs as the vendor still hasn't found somewhere to buy.

Relating to that, I asked the estate agent last Saturday if the vendor would be willing to move into rented accommodation if she didn't find somewhere to buy soon as I didn't want to lose our buyers. The estate agent said "well it's a rising market, if you lose your buyers you'll get some more"
I think the estate agent is going to be the issue in this chain!

OliviaBenson Thu 13-Mar-14 07:01:19

Just a word of note, some so called damp specialists just sell you their product. Is the house actually damp? What is the reason. Rising damp is quite rare and very often misdiagnosed. Get an independent damp surveyor.

christinarossetti Thu 13-Mar-14 07:09:26

I think that's a fair comment from the estate agent tbh. It's not the vendor's fault she hasn't found somewhere to buy and it would be crazy to step off the property ladder I'm the current market in the SE at least.

Bohemond Thu 13-Mar-14 07:22:02

I would say that they are pretty standard comments for a survey on a 1930s house. Mostly arse covering by the surveyor ie there may be, get a specialist company to look. I have bought a couple of houses with those comments and then had to do only minimal work to get them up to standard - in this case probably the chimney, retiling the shower and at some point replacing the boiler.
You should bear in mind that when you sell, exactly the same comments will come up re damp whether you do anything or not.

TakingTheStairs Thu 13-Mar-14 22:46:31

Thank you. We have a specialist damp and timber person and an electrical person going to check things out.
We plan on replacing the boiler in the first year or so anyway.
And Christina, I hear what you're saying about stepping off the ladder. I just really hope the vendor finds somewhere soon! I really would like to be in by the summer.

CelticPromise Thu 13-Mar-14 23:04:56

I think it's perfectly reasonable to ask if vendor will rent. Rising market or not no-one can wait indefinitely. We have walked away from a purchase because the vendors just didn't move out! They were looking for their dream house, I exist they're still there now...

vj32 Fri 14-Mar-14 11:08:42

Get the boiler checked by someone working for you not the vendor. Boiler died within weeks of us buying our new house despite not being that old (about 12 years) and having been serviced every year since installation. Installation had been faulty - had been done on the cheap and not correctly wired up. Obvious as soon as the engineer took the front off the control panel.

We planned to replace anyway but being without heating for 2 weeks in winter wasn't brilliant.

Alwayscheerful Fri 14-Mar-14 11:27:22

I agree with sleepless bunny. OP you don't mention the general condition of the house, does it look smart and well decorated what are the kitchen and bathroom like. Are you paying for floors and fitments you will have to rip out?
At least if you sort the damp out yourself you will know it has been done properly, one or more of the floors and joists might be rotten, easy enough if it's just a carpeted room but have they laid an oak floor or laminate over the top? Was the bathroom fitted 10 years ago and has it been slowly leaking for 5 years and does it need replacing anyway.

Personally I like to have a house rewired, new consumer box, all the sockets and lights where I want them etc - most people,only do work when they move into a house, how long have the current owners lived there? Or did they move there not knowing about all the work required and have decided to move instead.

You will need to budget for a new heating system, re-wiring, plastering an redecorating and the possibility of a couple of new floor and joists. Get the estate agents on board and get some quotes in to help you negotiate a better price.

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