The survey can be one of the most expensive outlays when you move – and surveys can consist of a basic report by a surveyor – to a full structural survey of a property which is used to investigate, detect or diagnose any structural issues which may cause a problem with the building.
Because structural surveys are so expensive, many homeowners are tempted to opt for a cheaper surveyor’s report – and in newbuild properties with a 10-year NHBC certificate, a surveyor’s report should be adequate if the property is still covered by the National House Building Council structural guarantee.
However, many lenders will not offer a mortgage if the property is older or a period property – or if there is a current issue with the structure or maintenance, or a history of disrepair. Insurers are also unlikely to pay out if there is problem with the house and you did not have a structural survey before buying – or may not insure your property at all.
What are Structural Surveys for?
Structural surveys are undertaken by chartered surveyors and go into much more detail than a report or letter survey – which might be a general overview of the property with some images.
A structural survey will investigate and observe all the structural aspects of the property and pinpoint any current issues – or aspects of the building which might cause problems in the future. Flat roofs which might have let in water in the past are an issue which might require a full structural survey, for example.
In newbuilds where there is an apparent problem like cracks in interior or exterior walls, a chartered surveyor will be able to confirm whether this is subsidence or not.
In older properties such as Victorian terraces, the property may not have been built on solid foundations – and whereas most houses experience a degree of movement after building, if this is significant or the house has had structural alterations made to it by the current owner, then movement could potentially be very serious.
What if problems are flagged up?
Propping up a house and reinforcing the foundations is one of the most extreme building projects you are ever likely to encounter – and the success of it often depends on the suitability of the ground below the house, as piles have to be driven deep into the ground before concrete can be poured underneath the house to reinforce the foundations. If the soil is sandy and will not support the procedure then you may have a very serious problem indeed on your hands.
Other problems which can cause structural issues are underground streams running under the foundations and unsettling them; or trees growing very close to a property – especially trees like willow which may grow rapidly and find their way beneath the foundations of a house in search of a water source. If a willow tree is growing well on dry land, it may be that an underwater stream is nearby or the roots have found their way into your mains water pipe or sewer pipe.
The more any type of tree roots grown under the property, the more likely it is the foundations will be disturbed. The only solution is to top the tree and cut out the roots, and replace any pipes which have been invaded – all expensive building projects.
Other issues which a chartered surveyor can help with involve the current trend for DIY, when homeowners may inadvertently or naively start digging into the structural foundations or move load bearing walls, causing catastrophic structural damage to a home.
Poor building skills – and this can be common if an extension has been added or the attic or roof space has been converted – can be dangerous; and so if your dream home has been altered or extended in any way, it is a good idea to pay for a full structural report before you exchange contracts, rather than opt for a cheaper type of survey.
If you are experiencing issues with your property purchase, always keep your conveyancing solicitor in the loop.
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