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Structural surveys....worth the money?
Recently Redundant and Retired
Posted: 06 November 2011 10:38:30(UTC)
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I thought I 'd post this here since there are a lot of landlords who deal in property frequently. Are structural surveys worth having or do you just get a long document full of get-out clauses like "consult a specialist on this matter" ?. I'd have thought a full structural survey should cover the fabric of the building and give you answers, not further ways of spending money to maybe find the answers. The property I'm thinking of buying is period, so I want a building surveyor rather than a GP surveyor. I want to know if woodworm is viable, I want to know if cavity wall ties are sound, but I don't think my £1000 is going to get me this information. Any ideas on what I should look for in a surveyor, or any recommendations on surveyors in Herefordshire/Worcs ?
I've just had the house I'm selling surveyed by my buyers' surveyor, I found it quite cursory to say the least, it was a full structural survey, I could have done better myself.
normski
Posted: 07 November 2011 08:32:51(UTC)
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I ,ve never had asurveyor on the past 4 houses Ihave bought for myself but have needed extensive improvement anyway . and I have a building background. I suppose if the house loks shabby then expect to have spend money. I hope this helps a little.
EA
Posted: 26 January 2012 13:18:09(UTC)
#3

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Very often, surveys aren't worth the paper they are written and contain vast amounts of caveats throughout. Generally speaking I would only consider a structural survey for an older property or if there were visible issues; such as bowing walls and cracks etc... Also look out for freshly rendered or repointed external walls as this may be an indication of vendors hiding structural problems.

Building regulations obviously in the 1800s weren't what they are today so in my opinion would be worth arranging a structural survey.
Dennis .
Posted: 26 January 2012 21:03:02(UTC)
#4

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I was once in the situation where myself and my staff were relocated at company expense to work on a project. I had my prospective house surveyed and one of my staff had his prospective house surveyed by the same firm of surveyors. The two houses were in different towns and different ages but the surveys were virtually identical word for word The surveyor told me afterwards that the real value was in the phone call where he said that the place was OK .
Mr Tom
Posted: 27 January 2012 08:37:42(UTC)
#6

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Not worth the paper they are written on?

Hardly, I always have a structural condition survey undertaking on every property I buy. It’s a no brainer really; would you buy a car without an MOT or HPI check? I doubt it especially when a house is possibly the most expensive purchase you will make in your life time.

Every house I have purchased, something was found during the survey that I was unaware of, and please note, I have been in the building game all my life.

I have no hesitation in recommending the guy I use is from Milton Keynes (Michael Hornsby).

I have even used his report to reduce the cost of the house further due to the things he has identified.

It’s up to you what you do as it is your money and your risk.
Recently Redundant and Retired
Posted: 27 January 2012 17:09:25(UTC)
#7

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In the end I commissioned a structural survey and probably just about recouped the £1000 outlay in remedial works by the vendor, but I was careful to prime my surveyor to make sure I got a comment on issues I'd spotted to ensure indemnity.
My buyers had a structural survey, what a joke, he picked up some little things but missed a lot also. Naturally I put everything right whether on the survey or not before completion.
It is hard to miss that surveyors who discuss the property with the vendor tend to fill the survey with what they have been told. The report on my house was a transcript of our conversation, the report on my purchase sounded as if the vendor (who I'd met a few times) had written it.
Moral-
If you're buying choose a surveyor who doesn't chat to vendors.
If you're selling, chat to the surveyor about good stuff, impress him with your knowledge but bow to his superior judgement and intellect.
EA
Posted: 30 January 2012 09:59:12(UTC)
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Mr Tom,

You are fortunate to have found a trustworthy and competent surveyor, this is not always the case.
normski 2nd
Posted: 31 January 2012 21:37:56(UTC)
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Dennis .;13638 wrote:
I was once in the situation where myself and my staff were relocated at company expense to work on a project. I had my prospective house surveyed and one of my staff had his prospective house surveyed by the same firm of surveyors. The two houses were in different towns and different ages but the surveys were virtually identical word for word The surveyor told me afterwards that the real value was in the phone call where he said that the place was OK .

Is this a joke on a house survey, the surveyors should be shot.



normski
normski 2nd
Posted: 31 January 2012 21:40:08(UTC)
#9

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Recently Redundant and Retired;1124 wrote:
I thought I 'd post this here since there are a lot of landlords who deal in property frequently. Are structural surveys worth having or do you just get a long document full of get-out clauses like "consult a specialist on this matter" ?. I'd have thought a full structural survey should cover the fabric of the building and give you answers, not further ways of spending money to maybe find the answers. The property I'm thinking of buying is period, so I want a building surveyor rather than a GP surveyor. I want to know if woodworm is viable, I want to know if cavity wall ties are sound, but I don't think my £1000 is going to get me this information. Any ideas on what I should look for in a surveyor, or any recommendations on surveyors in Herefordshire/Worcs ?
I've just had the house I'm selling surveyed by my buyers' surveyor, I found it quite cursory to say the least, it was a full structural survey, I could have done better myself.




Get a builder in who will stick by his survey.


normski
Spartacus
Posted: 04 February 2012 20:07:58(UTC)
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Surveyors wear suits, I don't see how it's possible to do a proper survey without ruining a suit. I get a builder to do my surveys, he's not scared of getting mucky.

A survey is pretty much a legal document who's main purpose is to indemnify the surveyor...but I'm a bit of a cynic.
EA
Posted: 13 February 2012 10:50:03(UTC)
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Spartacus,

I couldn’t agree more, builders have more experience when it comes to identifying issues and best of all how they can be solved!

My father in-law is a retired builder and we always have him involved when buying property.
DirtyHarry
Posted: 13 February 2012 16:29:50(UTC)
#12

Joined: 13/02/2012(UTC)
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Its true that many surveyors caveat their reports to an extent that you wonder whether they have actually seen the property.
Often you may find that a General Practice residential surveyor will carry out a Building Survey that is often beyond the knowledge or training that he has had and then avoids responsibility by inserting lots of conditions so your chances of suiing him are reduced to practically zero.
On the whole you need someone who has no axe to grind on making something out to be worse than it is which unfortunately many builders will treat their inspection as work prospecting.
In most cases I would advise using a Chartered Building Surveyor with the right length of experience in the type of building you are intending to buy. I wouldn't hire anyone with less than 5 years post qualification experience. They should be RICS members and you should ask to see proof of their Professional Indemnity insurance . All Chartered Surveyors have to retain this insurance. It also prevents them losing their own house for giving bad advice on someone elses.
One thing to remember is that no - one has a crystal ball so if a defect is below fixed floor coverings or in an innaccessible area then it won't be picked up.
Some Building Surveyors will do a wall tie inspection if asked but often a remedial wall tie firm can do it for less but once again are obviously after some business.
At the end of the day it is good to involve someone you can trust to advise you but they are not always the ones with the greatest technical knowledge, experience or insurance if a mistake is made.
mr rowe
Posted: 14 February 2012 12:56:34(UTC)
#13

Joined: 02/02/2012(UTC)
Posts: 2

I had a structural survey done on a house a few years ago and it was utterly worthless.

The surveyor tried to justify the cost (ie. pad it out) with a load of photos about some mould around the back of the fridge in the kitchen - big deal - there was no damp anywhere else. But, he didn't even take a look at the roof and tell me how long it would last or tell me that the structure was definitely solid.

Total waste of money.

If I felt the need for one next time around, I would make sure that I am there with the surveyor so I can ask questions and get honest verbal answers.
jcz
Posted: 14 February 2012 20:20:22(UTC)
#14

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From my experience so far the ones I've had have been useless.

Same goes for the Energy Performance Certificates - waste of time - anyone can see if a property has double glazing or loft insulation (they don't even check if there's cavity wall insulation, just make assumptions).

Imo much of the property market is just a gravy train - from estate agents to conveyancers & solicitors to surveyers.
Money for old rope.

RichJ
Posted: 30 December 2012 22:05:27(UTC)
#15

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Interested to read that if an external wall has been recently repointed that the seller could be hiding structural problems - what sort of problems would they be?

I had a look at a brick house to buy recently and it had been repointed, which I thought strange as the whole house needs reworking (new bathroom and kitchen needed)..Interior walls however were all redone, painted, while floors were left stripped of covers and basement left with considerable damp evident near a blocked out former street level window - damp was not fixed.

Could I be considering trouble and if there is trouble how to discover the extent of it - bearing in mind all that has been said about the complete or near to complete uselessness of many surveys, however complete they are presented as. Would appreciate views.

House is a least century old - looks very solid (after repointing) but sits at the base of a street that climbs to a average hill. Could damp be seeping down the hill into the foundations?
jeffian
Posted: 30 December 2012 22:31:21(UTC)
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RichJ,
The comment regarding being wary of re-pointing almost certainly relates to settlement rather than damp. If a property is suffering settlement, it will show in fault lines which open up along the mortar joints and, occasionally, in fractured brickwork. If you just re-point the open joints and replace fractured bricks, it highlights the problem, so the 'solution' is to repoint the whole wall and try to disguise the area affected. Have a look at the inside as well - are there any signs of distress (cracks, creases in wallpaper) or have they decorated internally as well? It may be that there has been a problem which they have fixed and subsequently repointed/redecorated as part of the repair (in which case, they should tell you), but it may be that they have something to hide!


Edit: I've just re-read your last post and you do say that the interior has been freshly decorated too. Exterior repointing + interior decoration on a property which will require renovation work anyway spells settlement problems to me. Ask the vendor point blank. If he says there has been a problem which has been fixed (underpinning) ask to see evidence of the work done and any guarantees etc.
1 user thanked jeffian for this post.
RichJ on 31/12/2012(UTC)
RichJ
Posted: 31 December 2012 09:15:45(UTC)
#17

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Jeffian,

thanks for your comments and advice. It was where my mind has been going over the last hours. The work does seems deliberately cosmetic but of course there could be other reasons why it has been well done. The building looks very solid, and tracing Google pics I have seen it before the re-pointing was done and it looks solid then too. The place next door has been redone; I will ask the vendor and in the area. My worry is that being on the bottom of a slope (only one way, up a gentle slope on a diagonal) that damp has accumulated where the house is deep down. The plus is that it has been there for a long time and there is now sign of bowing or major cracks.

But the basement has serious damp below a street level window that needs redoing ditto for the drain right outside, but to my my eye it is fixable, just how fixable and how costly I don't yet know.

I have experience of Italian stone houses and know having a good builder is the key to before, during and after renovation. From what I read and from experience and instincts I don't think a generic building survey is the way to go - finding a good builder who will tell you the truth is what anyone needs - even if you pay a little bit more for his work. In Italy we found the best in our area in Tuscany (via a local recommendation) and after paying on the high side to have a roof redone we have used him for major work inside - he is a good friend and a brilliant builder and charges us very fairly and will come at any time to do small things for almost nothing. But that of course is all easy to say, finding builder is what is hard. My idea is to look for a local builder but if I can't find one, look for a Polish builder who doesn't mind traveling.
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