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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 (26)* Required

  1. 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?

    Comment by ann — November 27, 2020 @ 11:24 am

  2. 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

    Comment by Moira Willis — November 9, 2020 @ 12:33 pm

  3. 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.

    Comment by Beth Marchant — October 30, 2020 @ 11:54 am

  4. 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

    Comment by Helen Louch — October 8, 2020 @ 8:30 pm

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

    Comment by Carole West — September 22, 2020 @ 11:34 am

  6. Hi Peter. Take a look at our guide: https://hoa.org.uk/advice/guides-for-homeowners/i-am-buying/how-to-complain-about-your-surveyor/
    All the best, Angela

    Comment by AKerr — September 21, 2020 @ 10:28 am

  7. 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


    Comment by Peter Bates — September 20, 2020 @ 8:22 am

  8. 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?

    Comment by Phil — March 14, 2020 @ 6:30 pm

  9. 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?

    Comment by Oliver Hague — February 17, 2020 @ 6:32 pm

  10. 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.

    Comment by HomeOwners Alliance — December 2, 2019 @ 4:07 pm

  11. 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.

    Comment by Amanda — November 30, 2019 @ 12:21 pm

  12. 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

    Comment by HomeOwners Alliance — September 5, 2019 @ 11:08 am

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

    Comment by Maureen — September 3, 2019 @ 1:51 am

  14. 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.

    Comment by HomeOwners Alliance — August 12, 2019 @ 11:46 am

  15. 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

    Comment by Cat — August 10, 2019 @ 10:19 pm

  16. 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

    Comment by Chandni Sahni — February 28, 2019 @ 10:45 am

  17. 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,

    Comment by emma — February 16, 2019 @ 6:10 pm

  18. Hi Julie
    Check out our guide https://hoa.org.uk/advice/guides-for-homeowners/i-am-buying/how-to-complain-about-your-surveyor/

    Comment by AKerr — October 12, 2018 @ 1:59 pm

  19. 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.


    Julie Martin

    Comment by Julie Martin — October 11, 2018 @ 10:44 pm

  20. Hi Sonia, Speak to your solicitor about the fact you can’t find the certificate and ask for alternative solutions. Indemnity insurance may be an option: read more about it here https://hoa.org.uk/services/ask-an-expert-2/ask-an-expert-i-am-selling-questions/selling-without-building-regulations/
    I assume you’ve tried contacting Tarmac direct to check their records – see http://www.tarmac.com/contact/
    Good luck. If you need to speak to us about this or any other homeowning issue for you or your Mum, do consider joining https://hoa.org.uk/homeowners-alliance-membership/

    Comment by AKerr — October 12, 2018 @ 2:09 pm

  21. 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

    Comment by Sonia Gibbs — October 9, 2018 @ 10:54 pm

  22. 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.

    Comment by AKerr — November 20, 2017 @ 3:57 pm

  23. 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

    Comment by Tamara — November 20, 2017 @ 2:21 pm

  24. 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.

    Comment by AKerr — September 11, 2017 @ 10:06 am

  25. 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

    Comment by J Wilks — September 1, 2017 @ 7:25 am

  26. 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?

    Comment by Chris Louie — May 17, 2017 @ 2:21 pm

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