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What To Do After a Bad House Survey Report

A survey report can make or break a property deal. Buyers often get cold feet if problems arise from a survey and it can lead to sales falling through. But a 'bad survey' doesn’t have to mean the end of a sale. Here’s what you should do next.

bad survey

Speak to your surveyor

Ask your surveyor to go through the report with you so you get a comprehensive overview of the condition of the property and understand what the issues are and their implications. They may be willing to walk around the property with you again, if you didn’t arrange to do so in advance.

Some surveys are more thorough than others. Most rank the problems in order of severity and urgency. A homebuyer’s report rates defects with a traffic light system while a full building survey is more thorough and goes into detail about the defect itself and advises you on the next steps you should take.

If the report has flagged something that needs further investigation, the surveyor should be able to tell you what they mean, whether it is a major or minor issue, and recommend what to do next. For example, whether you need to call in a builder, get a specialist involved or if it is just something you can speak to the seller about.

Your surveyor should answer any questions you have regarding the survey report at no extra cost.

More than one in four house sales fell through at the end of 2015 as buyers received bad news from their survey and changed their minds, according to Quick Move. There is no right or wrong about what you do next. It’s a personal choice, based on the information you have to hand.

Do you need a second expert opinion?

Now that you have your survey report and have spoken to the surveyor, you may feel reassured and informed enough to proceed with the purchase. If not, now is the time to call on the experts to investigate further.

Find a specialist, tradesman or builder to give their opinion on the severity of the problem and how quickly it would need remedying. They can put things into perspective and help you feel more positive about your dream home. Or they may scare you off completely. But at least you’ll have had the reassurance of a second opinion before you walk away.

Find out how much it will cost to fix the problem

Get at least two quotes, so you can compare scope and price. Always use someone impartial – i.e. not a tradesman that the seller or their estate agent recommends. Get an idea of whether you could do the work over time (and so save up/budget for it) or whether it needs doing urgently.

Try to get quotes in a timely fashion so the seller does not get frustrated and starts looking for another buyer.

Will the survey pick up on every major issue?

Think of it as a tool that you can rely on but be aware that things can slip through the net. More often than not, surveys aren’t invasive and it isn’t possible for surveyors to look in every nook and cranny. But they should highlight all the major issues.

Here are some of the common problems surveyors come across:

Here are some of the common problems surveyors come across:
Damp Damp problems can look terrible but most forms are treatable. You need to get to the bottom of the cause of the damp – it may be an external maintenance issue. But sometimes the cause can be hard to identify and may not be fixable (although many firms will offer solutions to cover it up, at a price). The cost of treatment depends on the scale and cause of the problem. The main forms are rising damp, penetrating damp and condensation. The cost of getting it investigated, identifying the cause and fixing it can run into thousands of pounds.
Damage to structural timber Wet rot and dry rot are major causes of wood decay. Dry rot is more destructive than wet rot and therefore more expansive to treat.
Japanese knotweed This invasive plant has long roots that can damage anything in its path. You’ll want to know the existing homeowners have a treatment plan in place. There are likely to be implications for getting a mortgage and insurance. See our guide
Subsidence This occurs when the supporting soil moves away from the foundations of a property, causing it to sink. It can also be caused by soil shrinking and expanding or from a water leak from a damaged drain. In many cases, it can be fixed. But it is harder to find insurance for a house that has suffered subsidence and it can be expensive. You’ll want to get a full structural survey.
Rotten window frames Window frames can be expensive, so find out if you can replace part of the frame, or whatever it is more cost effective to replace the whole thing. Get at least three quotes.
Old wiring A rewire is not a quick job and again can cost thousands and be disruptive and messy (think floor boards up, drilling into walls and re-plastering). Get a local qualified electrician to give you a quote.

Negotiating the house price after a survey

If your survey uncovers issues, you can use it to renegotiate the price you’re willing to pay. Your offer is Subject to Contract (STC) and you’re not legally bound to buy the property until the point of exchange. So at this point it is reasonable for you to go back to the estate agent with this new information and a revised offer. Sometimes the urgent improvements required can make the purchase unaffordable, so you’ll be looking for a discount to match your newly identified costs.

But when it comes to how big a discount you can get, there are no rules. It depends on how much the seller wants to sell, how much both parties are willing to compromise and comes down to negotiation. If you’re buying in a market where properties are in short supply, for example, your seller is in a better position and they could refuse to give you any discount.

Don’t be shy about renegotiating on the price but keep it sensible and in line with costs of the work needed. You could share the relevant extracts of the survey with the estate agent and seller, with the quotes for work that you have, to show there is a valid reason to renegotiate the price.

In some cases you may want the vendor to fix the problem(s) flagged in the survey themselves, before you exchange contracts. This is especially reasonable if the survey report suggests the value of the property is impacted by the problems identified.  This work could form part of the contract specifics. Speak to your conveyancing solicitor about the best way to handle this. You’ll want to get evidence work is done to a good standard, in line with regulations, and get a copy of any receipts or warranties.

Don’t forget the seller will also have limitations on how much they can take off the sale price as they will often need the money to afford their onward purchase. So while “don’t ask, don’t get” definitely applies here, so does the old adage “a house is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it”.

So in summary:

  • Don’t panic when you read the survey report – your surveyor should answer any questions you have at no extra cost
  • Consider getting the experts in to further investigate and/or cost for repairs
  • Use the survey report and quotes to renegotiate the sale price so you can afford to do any essential remediation work or ask for works to be completed by the vendor before the point of exchange


Leave a comment (40)* Required

  1. AngeAnge

    Hello, I am after some advice…After a potential purchaser pulled out of the sale of our property, our agent sent us a copy of the surveyors report in good faith. We believe the survey has been overly negative without supplying any specific evidence, just conjecture – what recourse is there?
    We still have the report from when we purchased it 5 years ago and it did not identify any Red issues whereas this latest report identical 6 Red issues.

    Please can someone let us know what options we have eg, get our own independent survey done, who to contact for advice on what really needs done etc…were under no illusions some work needs done but it’s nowhere near what was in the report.
    Many thanks in anticipation to anyone who can point us in the right direction.

  2. Christine ChalmersChristine Chalmers

    I bought my flat 4 years ago. It is on the top floor. I have noticed there are cracks round the windows, doors are out of alignment window ledges have dropped and my kitchen floor has dropped. The building factor said its not subsidence but I have checked with the neighbours and discovered its not just top floor affected its 1st and 2nd floors too. The ground floor is not affected at all. Building factors said if it was subsidence there would be cracks in foundations and the problem was start with groundfloor flats first. Can you advise

  3. BrendaBrenda

    Hi I have just bought a house and I feel conned the mortage company sent a valuer out before we signed but we never seen report now we have house that needs alot of work like the front of house is timber framed there is no insulation or sound proofing in it this was not disclosed to us not all windows were Pvc like it says there is only 3 there is slight subsidence at front of house, condensation is getting in the attic been told by builder there is no foundations at front of house either it’s going to cost 30 thousand just to fix front of house and to top it all I’ve no money left

  4. Stephen SmithStephen Smith

    Our Mortgage lender recommended and engaged a company to do the full survey on the property we were looking at purchasing.
    This property has a flat roof and therefore we were eagerly waiting for the surveyors report to guide us into either purchasing the property or walking away.
    The report came back as satisfactory and that no repairs were required. We signed the deal as we held the report in good faith – however we have just moved in and the roof has been comdemned.
    We have had two roofing contractors look at it and both had stated the roof is beyond repair and needs to be replaced in its entirety. This will cost in excess of £40k. Can I sue the surveying company as they have given false information regarding the roof condition.

  5. Samira FellowsSamira Fellows

    I had a Survey Done in Aug 2020 by my mortgage lender. I have since sold my house for the same price as it was valued in August. My buyers lender arranged for a valuation, the same company called i arranged the survey, they didn’t turn up, it had been cancelled and i hadn’t been notified. I arranged another survey and again had problems and i made a complaint. The 3rd attempt they came and did the valuation, but devalued the house by £10k. How can they give me one valuation and 4 months later devalue it. I can only presume it is because of the complaint! Can someone offer any advice please.

  6. Mariana PittebMariana Pitteb

    We have just had a survey back and the chimney and roof were raised as serious issues. Now two roofers have said it needs a new roof and one of the chimneys needs to come down. Can we insist they rectify as redoing the mortgage offer will drag on and we all have a deadline?

  7. KatKat

    Hi
    We are looking to buy a property where a sale has previously fallen through. Are we entitled to access the home buyers survey that has already been carried out? It seems silly to have to pay for this to be carried out again or like in previous comments just to be ‘reprinted’ for us without further inspection now the property is empty.
    Many thanks

  8. Rebecca JanmanRebecca Janman

    I see a lot of comments on here about wanting to see the survey if you are the vendor. The survey is for the client only and the contract is between those parties only, you have no contract with the survey to claim damages. You may request to see a copy of it but this will be up to the survey (the estate agent has no right to pass on any of this information although they have been known to).

    Hope this helps

  9. BenBen

    We have just had a bad survey on our property. But from what we have seen of it, many points on it are false. The surveyor somehow managed to miss a massive drain to name one of the many faults in the report.

    Off the back of that report our buyer has now pulled out and we are massively out of pocket and may even have to send our son to a school in another county. Is there a way to complain/appeal a survey?

  10. alan kytealan kyte

    i am e selling a dormer bungalow with a separate annexe built in 1930 buyers say it will cost 346thousand pounds to put right will only tell our estate agents there is a leak nroof and garage and will not let us see the survey what shall i do / my wife and i are in our eighties want to sell as spon as possible

  11. Lynne PorterLynne Porter

    Hi I have agreed to buy a house and the survey report stated that there may be drainage problems. Also the seller stated that he had paid for replacing the fascias and this would still be done. I agreed to buy in November but the fascias have still not been done and although there was a drainage inspection on 15th Dec I have still not got the report. What can I do to speed things up. My solicitor has sent letters to the sellers but it still seems to be dragging on . Thanks

  12. Manuel SalzbergManuel Salzberg

    Thanks, I have been searching for info about this subject matter for ages and yours is the best I have found so far.

  13. CarolineCaroline

    Hi we’re in process of buying a property in ireland we have signed contracts and had engineer survey done however the engineer has flagged a problem with the extension saying it has no planning permission but it is under the square footage and is except another engineer totally disagrees with him and say it is fine and is exempt what do we do in this situation

  14. Christine cavanaghChristine cavanagh

    Hi ,I was selling my 1930s house and had a very keen buyer ,however the survey came back saying it needed £230,000 of work to be done ,the reasons were foam insulation in the roof which was there when we moved in 20 years ago and never had a problem,the boiler is old but in good order ,the garage roof is old but no problem ,it’s a garage and the utility door which is outside is scruffy which we have now painted and fine ,we have lost our buyer and have asked him if we can buy the report off of him but he hasn’t got back to us ,we offered him the money that he paid for it ,As far as we knew we have a lovely house,well kept,and well maintained.,but from one person we have lost our buyer and cannot believe it needs £230,000 of work ,but there is nothing we can do as it’s frightened the buy off .

  15. annann

    HI our survey flagged up roof leaks and damp and we are asking the seller to fix this prior to exchange of contract. Would you recommend sharing whole survey with them and to make other issues right or just extracts?

  16. Moira WillisMoira Willis

    Is it usual for a buyers surveyor to ask who estate agent is for the house we want to buy? We are suspicious that he may be in cahoots with them and may try to cover problems up

  17. Beth MarchantBeth Marchant

    On selling our house the buyers surveyor flagged an issue in our loft. Loft cross joints have evidence of bowing require reinforcement braces. We’ve had 3 builders to look at this issue and non of them can identfy what has to be done. Our property is 40 plus years old, we can’t fix the issue if we don’t know what to do. We relayed this back to buyer to ask his surveyor what needs to be done explain plus drawing of some sort. Next thing we know he’s pulled out of the purchase. How do we get this rectified. All
    our builders we asked are checkatrade checked.
    Thanks
    Beth

  18. Helen LouchHelen Louch

    I am not well and dont want as to put me in a home the back wall of my house looks as if it is wrongly built and one bedroom and the dining room are cracked on the ceilings how much would it cost to just have the backwall surveyed

  19. Carole WestCarole West

    I cannot believe they can put it back on the market when some of the faults are dangerous

  20. Peter BatesPeter Bates

    Thank you for a very helpful web site.

    I have just had a survey done on a flat I wish to purchase (BH49DB).

    It is clear that the Homebuyers report was prepared several months before the date given on the report (14/9). The report says the flat was occupied, with furniture and carpeted ( which meant some areas could not be checked). The flat is totally empty and has no carpets or furniture !!

    So I am not happy to pay the £550 Bill for the report, as it does not seem to be accurate.

    The surveyor, [Ben Russell RICS #6487133 of Coast and Country Surveys], was recommended by the selling estate agent [ Fahren].

    What advice can you offer me ?

    Many thanks

    Peter

  21. PhilPhil

    What about the seller? If the seller was sent in good faith a copy of the Home Buyers Survey by the prospective purchaser, and the seller believes the survey has been overly negative without supplying any specific evidence, just conjecture – what recourse is there?

  22. Oliver HagueOliver Hague

    I recently purchased a house off the back of the sellers house survey report showing only minimal maintanence advice around a flat roof repair and guttering issues, along with the mortgage company completing there own survey. 3 months in we have lost several roof tiles on more than one occasion. Roofer is now saying that the full roof needs replacing and the house survey report was incorrect. Do we have any case for compensation given two surveys haven’t highlighted the immediate issues?

  23. AmandaAmanda

    Good afternoon. We paid for a comprehensive survey to be carried out for the house we were going to purchase. The agents tried putting us off doing this, saying the bank sends their own surveyor. The bank wouldn’t give us the report (we were offered the mortgage, so the bank’s surveyor did not flag anything wrong with the property), so we got our own and the report showed that there were a lot of serious problems with the property. We spoke to two builders and our solicitor, all of whom confirmed we would be unwise to proceed with the purchase. Can I ask the sellers to pay for the survey? I am willing to give the report to them if they do. Thank you.

    • HomeOwners AllianceHomeOwners Alliance

      Hello Amanda, it’s often wise to get your own survey and by the sounds of it, you were definitely right to do so! You will need to check with your surveyor that they are happy for you to sell the report on (assuming that the buyer would agree to pay for it – they’re under no obligation to do so). Best of luck.

  24. MaureenMaureen

    Our house sale failed building report how do we find out what’s wrong

    • HomeOwners AllianceHomeOwners Alliance

      Dear Maureen – Do you mean that it had a bad survey? If so, try and see if the potential buyers will share the survey report with you or at least some of it so that you can see what the issues are yourself and how they were rated by the surveyor. If you would like some more detailed advice on this, please consider being a member of the HomeOwners Alliance

  25. CatCat

    We are looking at buying a new property but on the survey by the mortgage company they noticed structural problems which they say need fixing before thay would lend the money. The estate agent says we now need to pay for an extensive survey to be done on the property. I don’t understand why we should be paying any money for this when we are the ones looking at backing out because the house is structurally unsound. Are we within our rights to demand they pay or the seller pays due to the fact that our surveyor has already highlighted problems. We want to know if they can fix it before we buy or lower the price accordingly, we don’t want to spend money confirming the house isn’t safe. We have no guarantee if we pay the money for the survey they will even do anything about it

    • HomeOwners AllianceHomeOwners Alliance

      Hi Cat, you should certainly negotiate that the seller should pay. As you’ll have seen from our page, there are no hard and fast rules, and in a buyer’s market, it’s definitely worth asking the seller to pay.

  26. emmaemma

    Hi,
    Im a seller who received a survey back , lost sale of house, while I’m agreeing to some of the survey reports findings and willing to get the work complete to stop any further survey fails.
    I’m confused why surveyors don’t ask questions when home survey is being done from, Where water stop tap is? When was boiler last serviced? So this gets put as major defect, seems unfair?

    I will be seeking legal advice as some couple of points on report are wrong completely.

    Many thanks for your assistance in these questions.

    Kind regards,
    Emma

    • Chandni SahniChandni Sahni

      Hello Emma, I think you are doing the right thing by getting further advice on this issue. If there are results that you deem completely wrong then those do need to be addressed. You could try to contact the surveyor directly for more information as well. Have a look at our article on how to complain about a surveyor here

  27. Julie MartinJulie Martin

    Hi,
    My Son purchased a house and completed on 14/09/2018. He had a survey costing 850 pounds as I advised him to make sure that it was thorough. However, since then he has paid nearly four thousand pound on dormer roof and ‘capping’ repairs. Do you think there would be any ‘comeback’ on this ?
    I would like to try and recoup some of my Son’s money and I would appreciate some advice.

    Thank-you,

    Julie Martin

  28. Sonia GibbsSonia Gibbs

    My mum is trying to sell her property but she needs proof of certificate of the walls being brick up back in 1988/1989 this work took place before my mother brought the house in 2002 she can’t find the paperwork for this from people she brought the house from and now solicitor has said sale can’t go ahead think certificate is a pva/pvd /pdv I’m really not sure where what it is and where to start to find this paperwork it a Cornish house I know the company was tarmac and it was 1988/1989 but that’s it Any help please

  29. TamaraTamara

    What course of action do you have when an inexperienced surveyor uses categorical language regarding faults that do not exist? I got the badly written survey, it is basically lazy surveying insinuate
    There are faults/problems with everything ! Luckily in our case the idiot made unequivocal statements that are FALSE! We lost our buyer
    He told our buyer do not buy this house it is unmortgageable! A buyer less than a month from date of this survey had managed to get a mortgage on our property but found one he likes better before the exchange!
    A polite but comprehensive complaint to Countrywide
    Ignored! Forwarded complaint to Rics

    • AKerrAKerr

      Hi there. Without the details it’s hard to comment. You should indeed challenge the experts – see this experience our consumer journalist had, but coming from a slightly different angle to you. If you need to discuss next steps and options to avoid this happening to you again, please consider becoming a member and speaking to our Home Helpline team.

  30. J WilksJ Wilks

    We have lost a sale due to a poor report. The prospective purchasers don’t want to discuss report with us. Can we obtain a copy of the report, not to argue against it but to give us an opportunity to put any faults right.
    I would be grateful for any help you can give us.
    Jackie Wilks

    • AKerrAKerr

      Hi Jackie, It’s unlikely the surveyor will give you a copy of the report as they have conducted it for their paying client. But you’ve nothing to lose in asking how much it would cost for a copy of the same report, rather than paying for them to come out again and conduct the exact same survey which of course would be a nonsense. If they won’t budge, then you’ll need to get them or another surveyor to conduct a survey so you can see what the issues might have been. First though, can your estate agent not shed any light on why your purchasers pulled out? The survey may not in fact be the issue? It is in your estate agent’s interests to help you get to the bottom of this.
      Angela

  31. Chris LouieChris Louie

    I have a house survey report. Now, I don’t know how to fix the findings.
    Can you tell me how to find the tradesman?

 
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