So you’ve decided to buy a property – congratulations!
If you’re buying a residential property it might be as a Buy To Let, to move up or down the property ladder, or it could be your first home. If you run a business you might be thinking of investing in commercial premises or you might want to rent on a commercial lease.
With property comes great responsibility
Whatever the case, you are spending a lot of money and by purchasing the property, you either become responsible for the future maintenance of the building or, if you’re buying a leasehold property, you are entering into a contract (or Lease) which sets out who is responsible for the maintenance work and who will pay for it.
I survey many different types of properties for a wide range of clients. Since I’ve been a surveyor, I’ve met two types of people: those who think a survey is a waste of money, and those who believe a survey is essential (although the former usually change their minds once we’ve had a chat on the subject!).
So who is right?
Well, it all depends on your attitude to risk.
Research carried out by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in 2012 found that on average new home owners discover £1,818 worth of repairs within a year of moving in. Remember that is an average.
You might be the one that has to spend an extra £30,000 while your neighbour gets away with spending nothing.
People also assume that the mortgage valuation will protect them against defects such as dampness. But a mortgage valuation is not a condition report or survey. It doesn’t go into that much detail.
You need to remember two words: “Caveat Emptor” or: buyer beware.
Most of the vendors and estate agents I meet are lovely people and I quite often have a friendly chat with them but – and it is a big but – they are not working for you. If I’m your chartered surveyor, I do work for you and I am here to protect you, talk straight to you and unfortunately, I do sometimes burst your bubble.
I keep thinking about the time I bought a secondhand car and within 2 months the engine blew up. When the car was towed to the mechanic, the mechanic said: “Oh another one of these, yeah it will be the butterfly valves. It’s knackered, it needs a new engine”.
It was a salutary lesson. I should have asked an expert’s advice before purchasing the car and I might have saved myself a few thousand pounds. It’s the same with property.
Days to choose a sofa, minutes to choose a home
I met a client at the property he was purchasing recently, and he said: “It’s bizarre you know, my wife and I spend days choosing a sofa, but we’ve spent 15 minutes in this house and we’ve agreed to buy it”.
I agreed, but I then reassured him that I had been there for two hours before he got there and I’d probably be another two hours before I was finished.
This was a Full Building Survey, so I was really digging around to find out everything I could about the property. Not only that, I also know how buildings function, just like a mechanic with a car. So I can pick up on problems that haven’t even happened yet but are likely to because something is not quite right.
With a Full Building Survey you are forewarned, you can re-negotiate or even withdraw if the problems are too much to deal with.
When surveys attack: what a building survey can do to a property price
I don’t know what happened after that survey, but recently I carried out a Full Building Survey on a property that needed refurbishment.
After sending the report and discussing it with the client everything went quiet for a while. Then I received an email thanking me. The purchase went ahead but the client had negotiated a 25% reduction based on the detailed report I provided. Now, don’t think for one minute I’m going to save you £50,000, but it’s almost guaranteed that I will tell you something you didn’t know or something you may not have considered.
Think before you buy
If you are buying a property, please at the very least think about getting a survey done before signing that contract. In my experience, the answer to the question: Why bother having a survey? is usually: You can’t afford not to.