This is a Premium feature
To use this feature subscribe to Mumsnet Premium - get first access to new features see fewer ads, and support Mumsnet.Start using Mumsnet Premium
Would it be stupid to ignore the home buyers survey?(20 Posts)
We are first time buyers so no experience with these things.
We had an offer accepted on a cheap Victorian terrace months ago. Everything is really slow because of Covid. After we had our offer accepted I noticed a damp patch on one of the bedroom walls and was a bit worried but figured the home buyers survey would pick up anything major.
Now we have our survey back and there are 6 red flags on there I think. First one is that damp was picked up in the living room (not the bedroom) and we should get a full independent damp survey done. Now I've been struggling to find one that is taking bookings at the moment, but the more I've been reading about damp in period properties the more I've been realising surely it's just par of the course? Is there any point in us spending hundreds on a damp and timber survey at the same time slowing down the buying process which has already taken months?
Another issue was that two of the windows are misted and need replacing. But it says we should have a FENSA approved fitter give us a quote before exchanging, because apparently changing windows in period properties can be extortionate if the walls need supporting.
I can't remember all the other things but they seemed less risky and things like garden wall needs repointing, but I don't think that is an immediate job or something we need to have looked at before buying, it's a budget period property so we don't expect perfection.
We were very lucky to get this mortgage offer as first time buyers, our mortgage lender is no longer offering it to new applicants and we wouldn't get one from elsewhere and would take years to save up the bigger deposit lenders are asking for.
In light of this, and that we would have paid a few grand more for the house to be honest, would it be totally unwise to just ignore it?
If I could turn back time I'd have just had the basic survey and paid seperate for a damp survey in the first place.
You're not ignoring it - you're using it to inform your decision. The home buyers report is useful because it's highlighted what things need attention when you own the house and what the worst-case scenarios might be. If you're understand the costs of that and are comfortable with them, there's no need to investigate further at this point - you'd only need to do that if it would've affect how much you'd be prepared to pay for the house.
Sorry - that was full of typos!
I live in a victorian house but I think the use of 'period property' by your surveyor is a bit OTT
Funny how you noticed damp in the bedroom but your surveyor reported it elsewhere. I've had damp here before and it turned out to be a small leak from the roof one time and under the bath the other. Did the house smell damp as that can be a good indicator of more serious problems.
Also, if the walls weren't supported properly you would start having issues with window and door frames having problems so he's being a bit dramatic there as well..
Misting can be sorted by changing out the glass panel in the frame. It's not a difficult job, I've changed quite a few of my own. I'm pretty sure you don't really need a FENSA installer to change the glass. Most local glaziers can replace a double glazed panel. Of course, it depends how big the misted units are but generally in a standard victorian house they aren't huge.
Garden wall needs repointing? Generally, repointing is done more for protection and aesthetics and usually on a wall that forms the external elevations of the house.
it sound more to me like he needed to find something to pad his report out with
Inspectors are there to report on the condition of the property, but there's a lot they can't see. So they speculate. He has picked up some damp (and you are right, I would imagine the vast majority of old houses have some), and a couple other issues. I think getting a damp inspection is unnecessary, unless you think it is a really serous problem. I had one look at a property and he said it needed a damp course and £4000 worth of work. It didn't- it already had a damp course and what it needed was the heat on and airing. I had another surveyor say a whole wall needed plaster hacking off, drying and replastering. I fixed the source of the problem (chimney flashing) and the wall was absolutely fine for the next four years I owned the house. I've also had ibe completely muss the fact the wooden garden doors were completely rotten and disintegrated after the first winter.
So just take the report as an indication of areas that you will need to pay attention to, not as a reason to panic.
We have just moved into a house built 1878.
All of the damp was stuff like pointing needing on one wall, crap drainage pipe on another etc. All easily fixed. It didn't stop us buying but we did look at average prices of sorting damp and negotiate some money off.
Absolutely any property is going to have some things come up on a survey. I'd you were to hold out for a property with nothing noted... well, you'd be waiting quite some time. As others have said, the survey is there to help you make informed decisions. Sometimes the right decision will be to walk away, but very often it's more about knowing what to expect and what you might need to get sorted.
I would definitely not be remotely worried about a misted sealed unit, incidentally. You just get the sealed unit changed; it's simple and not particularly expensive.
We bought a victorian house about 20 years ago and had a survey that was quite scary and expensive-sounding to us. We asked an architect friend to look at the survey and give us some advice. He basically said the house has been standing for 100 years and is highly likely to continue standing. It helped to put the details into perspective!
I think that you have answered your own questions really. If you are buying a house that is over 100 years old, is it pretty solid. It is also likely to flag a few things on a survey. Our first house was a Victorian terrace, and I loved it.
Thanks all. I was worried everyone would say I'm mad and I must follow through or end up spending thousands. I guess, if we were buying a more expensive house, or I thought we were paying over the odds, there would be scope for asking for reductions.
Misted windows often just need the panes rather than whole windows replacing.
See if you can pop back to look at the damp areas. In the rain, if possible. I bet there's either a dribbly gutter or something leaning against the wall.
@PickAChew We've actually only been to the house once on our first viewing, the vendor is a an older lady, so I haven't really wanted to do more visits than necessary with Covid. The damp wall is the other side of the bathroom which is where one of the the blown windows is, and there are gutters close by outside so fingers crossed it's something related. We didn't see the damp patch on viewing, I noticed it on the video tour afterwards, and the surveyor didn't pick it up so perhaps it comes and goes which I hope is a good sign.
You can still go for a look at the outside, though.
One of the things in our survey was that the house was in poor decorative order and needed the attentions of a professional painter and decorator
Go back and have another look.
I have to say that I find a lot of MN posters out of kilter on surveys. They are there to inform you as a buyer if there is anything significant you should be aware of. The best thing to do is call your surveyor and ask about your concerns, on the phone they will be more frank with you about what is rated highly because they didn't know, and what they are genuinely concerned about. I too, wouldn't be worried about the windows, but perhaps in person the surveyor can explain why they were.
We have just moved to a new Victorian house. The survey picked up significant problems with the roof. We got a roofer round for a second opinion and a quote. It's 10k+ worth of work and absolutely indicative of the cowboy building all over the house. We asked for some money off the price, which means we can go through with the purchase and fix the bodge the previous owners have made of it.
The sellers probably think we were massively unreasonable, but they are also the people who thought their crap repairs were perfectly fine. You are spending huge amounts of money and will be paying it off for decades, focus on the most concerning thing (probably the damp) and get someone who knows about old buildings in to have a look.
If you do decide to get a damp survey, before or after purchase, go for an independent one - we used a Damp Detectives independent surveyor and he did a thorough job and suggested some pretty straightforward things we needed to do.
Victorian houses need maintenance and work and invariably have damp issues.
We lived in one where the utility was built without a double skin wall or damp proof course. The walls were damp. Previous owners redecorated, so did we and then we tried a few remediation measures as advised by a 'damp expert' who then went AWOl when it failed, we sprayed the outside, had the inside tanked, and I can't remember what else. What we should have accepted was that it was designed as an outhouse/ lean to.. and should have been allowed to breath and be damp and a condenser to remove the damp would have been a better investment.
Our garden walls were huge and needed repointing, we eventually found a college student who needed the practice for his building course as it is a long labour intensive job but essential to stop the walls falling down eventually!!
Spot repointing on the outside, cracked drains, exposing air bricks, fixing roof tiles, gutters and down pipes as well as opening up chimneys are all essential maintenance tasks on old houses.
When we bought ours, every single thing on the survey needed attention, time and money and we possibly stuck our fingers in our ears a bit over it as we were in a rush to move and there were few houses in the area we wanted of the size that we wanted for a price that we could afford. We overpaid in a falling market and then paid thousands in maintenance before selling it on 8 years later, a much better property at very little profit... but... we loved the house!!
The moral is... go in with your eyes open and know what you are letting yourself in for.
Damp could have many causes. It could be condensation, driving rain under a window, rising damp, a fault in the brickwork, a leaky drain, a roof leak caused by the felt or tiles...
The good news is all of these can be fixed. However, you won’t know how much it will be unless you know what the problem is. A well-maintained house shouldn’t be damp but a damp patch can usually be remedied once you’ve found the reason.
I’d call the surveyor for more info, and go back to the house to have another look. It might feel inconvenient because of COVID or because of the process but it’s a lot of money to spend so it’s good to have peace of mind.
PS. The roof was deemed to be at the end of it's useful life.. we replaced slipped and broken slates, a couple of ridge tiles, repointed the chimney, replaced the flashing round the chimney. The valleys were showing signs of age and would eventually need attention. All the roofs on the terrace were the same...
PS Our lovely Victorian house had 2 damp issues; one under a sash window and one on the ceiling of an extension. I fixed the sash myself (cost less than £30) but we decided to get the roof relaid as the tiles were unsuitable and letting water pool underneath (cost over £1000). Both small damp patches, but big variation in cost.
My Mum bought a victorian property 15 years ago, she was told in the report that the roof would need entirely replacing urgently. 15 year later, roof is still perfect. Just needed some tiles replaced which cost around £500. If you can afford the worst case scenario, then just go for it, but bare these things in mind and think about your contingency fund for these repairs / investigations over the coming year(s).
Please login first.