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What are Red Flags on House Survey?

Adele MacGregor

Written by

5th Jan 2023 (Last updated on 24th Jan 2023) 6 minute read

As part of the home buying process in the UK it is highly recommended that you arrange a survey before the sale completes.

Property surveyors can identify issues that may impact a buyer’s decision to continue with the purchase. These red flags could include structural damage, unapproved extensions or subsidence.

Below we look at the most concerning red flags found in a property survey and top tips for what you can do if they are found in yours.

This article will cover the following:
  1. Common Red Flags on House Survey
  2. 1. Subsidence and Structural Damage
  3. 2. Roof Problems
  4. 3. Unapproved Extensions
  5. 4. Old Wiring
  6. 5. Mould
  7. Is Damp a Red Flag?
  8. Typical Costs to Repair Red Flags Found in a Survey
  9. Who Pays for Issues Found in a Survey?
  10. What Should I Do If Red Flags are Found in the Survey?
  11. Advice for Sellers

Common Red Flags on House Survey

The level of survey you opt for will determine how detailed your survey report is. Level 2 is the most common, previously known as a Homebuyer Survey. This has a traffic light system for reporting issues, with red being the most serious.

Above Level 2 is Level 3, which is recommended for older homes and those in poor condition. This is a far more thorough survey, with a more detailed report on the surveyor’s findings.

However, regardless of the detail of the survey, major red flags found by the surveyor will be highlighted in the report. Below we look at the main concerns that can be found and what they mean for the property.

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1. Subsidence and Structural Damage

Subsidence is one of the biggest red flags which can be found in a survey.

This is the result of the ground beneath your property compressing or sinking. This then creates an unbalanced foundation, causing the property foundations to become misaligned. Ultimately, this impacts the structural safety of the home, causing multiple issues.

If structural movement or subsidence is found in your survey, it is worth thinking carefully about whether you want to continue with the purchase. The damage it can cause can be significant and very costly to repair, running into thousands of pounds, If your surveyor suggests a structural engineer, this is usually a tell-tale sign that the issue is a significant concern.

For more information on Subsidence and how to spot it see: What is Subsidence?

2. Roof Problems

Roof issues are one of the dreaded issues a prospective buyer can face when buying a house. Depending on the severity, it can be a costly and time-consuming process to rectify. As a result, you may want to reconsider the purchase if significant issues are found with the roof of a home.

Minor defects such as cracked or missing tiles can be fixed by any qualified handyman without breaking the bank. For more serious problems, you’ll need a specialist roofing contractor.

3. Unapproved Extensions

Extensions or work completed without building regulations or planning permission can be a serious red flag. If work is carried out without approval, the homeowner could be prosecuted and fined. This means that a buyer could be liable once they own the home.

Additionally, unapproved works could be dangerous and cause further problems for the home and its owners.

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4. Old Wiring

Old electrical wiring in a home can not only be expensive to replace, but it can also be dangerous. Your surveyor may suggest consulting an electrician if it appears there are significant issues with the wiring. Having an Electrical Installation Condition Report may be advised.

5. Mould

Mould can cause health issues for those living in the home. According to the NHS, moulds produce substances that can cause allergic reactions or irritants. Sometimes they can produce toxic substances. Those most at risk are babies and children and the elderly. This can affect those with a weakened immune system, respiratory problems or skin conditions

The NHS states; “Inhaling or touching mould spores may cause an allergic reaction, such as sneezing, a runny nose, red eyes and skin rash. Moulds can also cause asthma attacks.”

Is Damp a Red Flag?

Damp is a concern in a home, however, it can be quite common. This is especially the case in older homes. Whether it is a red flag will depend on the severity of the damp and the damage it has or could potentially cause.

Additionally, damp can be one of the main causes of mould, which can lead to health issues.

If a concerning amount of damp is found in the home then your surveyor - or even your mortgage lender - may recommend a damp survey.

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Typical Costs to Repair Red Flags Found in a Survey

The costs to repair issues found in a survey will depend on what the issue is and how severe the problem is. Below we look at the average costs for red flag issues found in a survey:

Structural Issues and Subsidence

According to CheckaTrader, the average structural engineer cost is £700, plus the cost of the site visit (around £300.)

If subsidence is confirmed, in extreme cases it may require underpinning. My Job Quote found that the average price for traditional underpinning is £12,000, taking an average of 4 weeks to complete.

Roof Repair

If your surveyor suggests you need an independent survey on the roof, you will need to factor in the cost. A roof survey for a single-storey property could cost anywhere between £150 - £250. If scaffolding is required, it could be up to £1,000.

In terms of repair costs, you can expect to pay around £100 to replace up to 6 broken tiles or for professional gutter cleaning. Retiling the entire roof, however, could cost between £5,000 and £7,000 (based on the average for a 3-bedroom house in the UK).

Electrical Wiring

Costs will vary depending on the extent of the work that’s needed. However, to rewire an average 3-bedroom house, the cost could be in the region of £3,200 and up to 10 days' worth of work.

Damp and Mould

A damp survey can cost anywhere between £150 - £300 on average, so make sure you factor this into your costs. Remedy for damp can vary in price, depending on the damage it has caused and the reason for the damp.

It could be a matter of fixing a leaking window or being down to cracks in the exterior render of the home. Costs could vary from the £100s to the £1000s depending on the cause and recommended solution.

Who Pays for Issues Found in a Survey?

When issues are found on a survey, it is up to the buyer if they want to continue with the purchase. If they do, they can try to negotiate the agreed price of the property with the seller to compensate for the cost of repairs.

Alternatively, a buyer could ask for the seller to pay for the repairs before the sale completes.

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What Should I Do If Red Flags are Found in the Survey?

Once you receive your survey report, you must ensure you read it thoroughly. If any major issues or red flags are highlighted, you should first ensure you understand the severity of the issue.

Your options from here are:

  1. Get a second opinion from a specialist tradesperson in the area of the problem. Your surveyor may suggest further surveys or the opinions of specialists in a particular aspect, such as a structural engineer or electrician. Keep in mind that these additional surveys will need to be factored into your overall costs.
  2. Negotiate the property price to cover the cost of the work
  3. If the issues are so severe that the property is unsafe or likely to lose its value, you may want to consider pulling out of the sale.

Advice for Sellers

If your buyer has had bad results following a survey, you do have options when it comes to the sale.

You can negotiate the price, accepting a lower amount to account for the work required. You could also pay to have the work repaired yourself, to appease the buyer. If the buyer pulls out of the sale, this may be something you will have to consider with future buyers in mind.

Adele MacGregor

Having worked at Compare My Move for over four years, Adele covers topics such as the conveyancing process across the UK, property surveys, home moves and storage.

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