Guest Expert: It’s Madness Not to Get a Pre-Purchase Survey

Monday, December 4, 2017

For Dan Butt, surveying runs in the family. His father was a chartered surveyor, and Dan’s been following in his footsteps ever since work experience. Today, he’s Managing Director of Now Chartered Surveyors, and with over 25 years of experience under his belt, he’s our trusted source for pre-purchase surveys.

By my estimates, only around 25% of people purchasing a home seek pre-purchase surveys from an independent surveyor. It’s usually the biggest purchase most people make in their lives, yet the majority of buyers aren’t doing all they can to ensure their future home and most valuable asset is everything the seller is claiming it to be.

I’m sure if you asked the same people whether they’d skip getting an AA or RAC inspection on their car, you’d get a very different answer.

Now, I may be biased, but when you consider how life changing and expensive a house purchase is, not getting a pre-purchase survey from a chartered surveyor who’s on your side seems like madness.

Houses hide many secrets

Typically, most of what we discover during a pre-purchase survey are relatively minor issues. There may be decorative elements that need to be dealt with, such the exterior timberwork being in poor condition or walls that are in need of re-plastering. If a house has been in single ownership for some time, the plumbing and mechanical and electrical services are often out of date or need replacement or updating.

Then there may be issues that could be passed off as minor, but an experienced surveyor would spot as being severe or even dangerous.

Take damp, for example. Many properties suffer from dampness, and solving this problem could be as simple as fixing a blocked gutter or installing a bit more ventilation. On the other hand, the damp could be caused by blocked cavities and poor ventilation leading to rising damp that’s allowing rot to set in to floor timbers, which compromises the structural integrity of the building.

An experienced surveyor will be able to tell the difference, and advise.

In the case of DGA’s clients, who are planning on developing the property, we can take their plans into account during our pre-purchase survey and check for any issues that might prevent or complicate them.

For example, the roof may not be inherently strong enough to take a loft conversion, or there could be subsidence issues that need to be addressed prior to any basement works being carried out.

Whether the issues are big or small, a quick fix or months of work, getting a pre-purchase survey means that you can go into purchase negotiations with the full picture.

It’s simple: we very often save you money

We recently helped a client with a pre-purchase survey of a house they were considering buying in Wimbledon. On the surface, it may have seemed like a safe bet, but there was a sealed off cellar that hid a disturbing secret: much of the below ground level was heavy with damp, and without any ventilation the damp had spread up into the timbers of the ground floor and infected them with aggressive dry rot.

The estimated cost of repairing this damage was over £50,000. The seller wouldn’t move on their price, so our client backed out and saved themselves expensive remediation work.

Unfortunately, many buyers have already bought their new house and moved in by the time they discover such issues, making such works not only expensive but hugely inconvenient. No one wants the first few months in their new home to be spent in a building site.

In another recent case, we discovered that the house our client was buying had, at some stage, been subjected to a substandard loft conversion.

Again, on the surface everything looked fine, but we knew the signs of a compromised structure and – sure enough – when we investigated further we found the builders who did the work had cut an irresponsible number of corners and not obtained any Building Regulation Approval. This is dangerous for the building structurally and also for the occupants, as fire safety had been neglected.

In this example, the seller was willing to renegotiate, and reduced the price by £25,000 to cover the works required to bring the home up to proper standards.

The alternative would have been for our client to pay the full asking price, only discover the issues later when they were more severe and more expensive to fix.

Finally, in happier news, we made a client very happy by confirming that a property they loved for its location was a perfect candidate for a large rear extension and they could potentially make it far more valuable, with works that they were comfortably be able to afford.

They purchased the house with full confidence at a fair price.

But make sure you hire the right surveyor

If  you do decide to hire a chartered surveyor, make sure they’re a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) – or, even better, they’re a fellow. RICS regulated surveyors have to carry full professional indemnity insurance so you have peace of mind.

Experience is also paramount. The longer someone’s been a surveyor, the more experience they will have gained about the condition of a property and any secrets it might be hiding.

If you’d like to find out more about our pre-purchase surveys or any other services we offer, feel free to get in touch with us at 0333 130 2834 or visit our website at