HomeOwners Alliance logo

Become a member today to access our home helpline, discounted conveyancing, expert advice & legal service

bad survey

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.

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.

Have you received a bad survey report? Become a member of the HomeOwners Alliance to speak to our friendly Home Helpline team about your next steps

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. 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 and fixed 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 therfore 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
Subsidance This occurs when the supporting soil moves away from the foundations of a proeprty, 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.

Can I reduce my offer as a result of the survey?

Yes. You need to argue that the house, plus the improvements required, is now unaffordable and that you need to reduce your offer as a result.

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 and comes down to negotiation. If you’re buying in a market where properties are in short supply, your seller is in a better position, so 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.

The final deal will come down to whether you can afford the house at the price acceptable to the vendor, with everything that needs fixing.

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.

So in summary:

  • Don’t panic when you read the survey report – your surveyor should answer any questions you have at no extra cost
  • Get 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

If you would like to discuss your survey concerns with us, become a member of the HomeOwners Alliance and we’d be happy to help

Leave a comment

* required


  1. 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/join-us/

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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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

Sign up to our FREE newsletter for latest advice, services and money saving offers

Sign up now