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Deal breaking surgery report?

(15 Posts)
Orangelover Wed 23-Sep-20 19:24:13

Sold our house at the end of July, was starting to panic slightly that there was nothing on the market in the area we wanted until a few days later the most beautiful detached house in our budget became available. I dived in to view and put an offer in pretty swiftly and things have been plodding nicely until the survey report came back today.

It's a 1930s house and the current owners were very honest that the roof needed some work as they'd had a leak causing a bit of damp upstairs. However they've since had that fixed and have said they'll be able to provide all evidence for this. However along with this, the survey has highlighted a few things that need attention. Some of the points don't necessarily bother me - some updates needed to guttering and fascia which I was expecting however in the middle it says the phrase "evidence of structural movement". Now I'm no builder but something tells me that's really not good? It goes on to say that there's is a stepped formation fracture to the front elevation. Any wise property experts of Mumsnet able to shed any more light for me? confused

I'll be absolutely gutted if we have to pull out here, loved this house and there's literally nothing else on the market in this area sad However I can't be taking on a house that's going to cost thousands to fix if that's the case. The report recommends further evaluation by a structural engineer which I would be happy to go down that avenue but am I wasting my time? Or might it not be that bad?

As you can see I'm way out of my depth here, and any similar tales of woe or further knowledge welcomed blush

OP’s posts: |
Orangelover Wed 23-Sep-20 19:25:00

Ooh dear, title meant to say survey not surgery! Its been a long day...

OP’s posts: |
Residentdove2020 Wed 23-Sep-20 19:34:21

I personally wouldn't touch it, but then I'm a chicken. grin

Will your mortgage provider still agree to finance a property with 'evidence of structural movement'? I guess it depends how bad it is. And no-one will know until you start forking out for further investigations.

Best of luck op wine

Residentdove2020 Wed 23-Sep-20 19:36:08

Oh & as someone with not a clue about this, I typed 'evidence of structural movement' + house survey report into Google. That'll start your research off grin

Orangelover Wed 23-Sep-20 19:37:19

Yes that's what I thought, still waiting to hear back from lender but only got report today, sounds fairly pessimistic! I'm also a chicken. We're taking out some equity and have a bit of money to play with but that was for a new kitchen/bathroom, wasn't expecting to have to keep it standing...

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Zebrahooves Wed 23-Sep-20 19:47:27

I would walk away. A structural report would tell you more, and I would weigh up the cost of that.

I would be concerned that they could have covered up more evidence of subsidence inside. Also, you don't know how long it has been subsiding. If it has recently started to subside, how much worse could it get?

The other thing I would look for is any trees nearby that could have caused the subsidence. If not, it could be a problem with drains or other foundation problems.

It could also prove very expensive to fix.

Lurchermom Wed 23-Sep-20 19:52:28

The most important question to ask is is the movement historic, or ongoing. Many properties move when they are first built. The ground settles and they crack. And then they never move again.
If it's ongoing movement, it's more of an issue and you'd have to decide if you want to go down the investigation route to see if it's something you want to fix. Causes of movement can be so varied!

Guymere Wed 23-Sep-20 20:49:35

It’s cracking associated with subsidence. I’ve attached a picture of typical cracking.

I would strongly advise that the current owners get this sorted out. They claim on their insurance. Hopefully they have insurance. Do not take this on unless the insurance is transferred to you.

A bigger problem will be getting a mortgage. It’s not going to get one. It needs to be fixed before a lender will be interested. Or you negotiate a big discount. To ascertain the full picture and the cause of this damage, you need a report from a structural engineer and get an estimate for fixing it. Another problem is that they usually monitor if movement is ongoing. This takes time. If you really want this house, you need to get the vendors to fix it and it’s not a quick process.

Subsidence is caused by the soil drying out under the foundations which lets the house sink. Often due to inadequately deep foundations. Sometimes faulty drains wash the soil away. Sometimes large trees are drinking water from the soil leaving it extra dry.

A builder won’t help with expert advice. If you don’t want hassle, walk away. Or get your own estimate from an underpinning company via a structural engineer and get a huge discount. But the mortgage might still be a problem. The best solution is for the vendors to sort it out.

Orangelover Wed 23-Sep-20 20:51:50

Thanks for the replies folks.

After some googling I'm really not optimistic however OHs dad until recently worked in civil engineering and has a fairly good knowledge base for this kind of thing. He said any house of this age will have movement and don't rule it out just yet. We're going to try to find out if the current owners have been aware of this before now or not - as the report does document that there is evidence of monitoring. He said if they're keen to sell to us or anyone else they should want to get this looked into anyway.

We've emailed our solicitor a list of questions anyway but won't be going forward if there will be issues getting building insurance or obviously a mortgage.

Potentially back to the drawing board but not given up complete hope yet!

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Seeingadistance Wed 23-Sep-20 23:32:17

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a survey which didn’t mention movement, but if it’s historic that will be clearly stated. If it’s not described as historic or similar, then I would assume it’s an on-going issue and very much a major problem.

MoreCookiesPlease Wed 23-Sep-20 23:36:48

Agree with @Zebrahooves I'm afraid. Same situation two years ago - dream house in dream location, but evidence of structural movement and a subsidence prone area. The structural engineer's report was expensive and basically said the house could move again. Not worth the insurance cost for us... so we said goodbye.

Guymere Thu 24-Sep-20 00:02:21

If the subsidence has not been dealt with, then it’s a possibility the house can continue to sink for obvious reasons. The ground can be drying out further and the foundations are still too shallow. Therefore if it’s been monitored, this is a known problem.

Insurance companies try and get out of paying. They say it’s historic or it can be solved by removing a tree. They dodge paying for remedial work and householders don’t take them on. If the crack is obvious and it’s split bricks, it’s a problem.

Think of a structural engineer as a consultant surgeon. Not many engineers are structural engineers so they don’t come cheap. Anymore than a consultant at a private hospital does.

DaBaDe Thu 24-Sep-20 08:13:34

I would phone the person that did the survey and ask them to clarify exactly what evidence there was of structural movement and what their concerns were. Sometimes they see something and say 'needs further investigation' just to cover themselves.

Some evidence of movement is entirely innocent and natural of 'settling' but of course it could be indicative of subsidence- did you notice any cracks? Inside or outside?

DaBaDe Thu 24-Sep-20 08:15:58

Also, how much of the roof was repaired? After our neighbours had a new roof it caused significant cracks upstairs in one of the bedrooms; they were completely convinced it was subsidence but it turned out to be 'natural' settling due to the additional weight of the new roof.

Guymere Thu 24-Sep-20 09:40:16

My DH is a Structural Engineer. You will find that surveyors are rarely competent to know the structural defects of houses in order to make a precise diagnosis. Their insurance simply won’t cover them for this, so they defer to a specialist. It’s like the hospital analogy above.

If a roof, or indeed extra chimneys in Victorian times, adds to the weight of a structure it must be borne effectively by the foundations. All the weight of a building must be held up by the ground via the foundations. Any addition to the original structure without improvements to foundations can cause problems. So although it’s not subsidence was most people know it, it still causes cracking as a result of foundations failing. It is not natural settling to add a new roof and not calculate what that might do to the walls and foundations. A little knowledge about buildings is dangerous!

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