How to Interpret a Survey

12th Jul, 2017

Buyers clearly need to make informed choices when it comes to deciding which property to buy and at what price, although only about one in five people in England and Wales commissions a survey (source: RICS).

However, we find that buyers can be unnecessarily disappointed by the survey report simply because they are not familiar with some of the terminologies used.
Increasing litigation and a massive rise in professional insurance premiums means that surveyors are understandably becoming very cautious as to how they describe their findings.

For example, a survey might read, “We found no evidence of woodworm or rot, but would recommend further investigation by a specialist timber treatment company”. Very few, if any, timber specialists will provide a clean bill of health along with a 20-30 year guarantee unless they have actually been commissioned to carry out a timber treatment programme – at a price.

Such caveats can apply to the causes of damp, wall fractures, etc. and to some extent render some surveys irrelevant. Ultimately it usually comes down to a matter of common sense, and even an acceptance of various imperfections as part of property ownership, especially in respect of older homes.

A basement flat might not be quite as dry as a second floor flat; but does this make it uninhabitable? A crack that has existed but not expanded for 50 years may look unsightly, but does it really mean the property is falling down? Some woodworm is not uncommon, and is easily treated.

Ultimately, unless the results of a survey express grave and clear concerns, then it is up to you the buyer, not your surveyor, to decide whether any alleged flaws are really likely to significantly affect your enjoyment of the property. So, as they say on Crimewatch… don’t have nightmares!