What Are Common House Survey Problems?

Martha Lott
Written by Martha Lott
29th November 2019 (Last updated on Friday 29th November 2019)

Compare My Move explore the common issues found on property surveys, and what they mean for home buyers. You may have booked your surveyor, or you may still be in the planning phase, but it's good to know exactly what you can expect from a survey.

You shouldn't underestimate the importance of getting a property survey. A study by RICS revealed that 1 in 5 homeowners bought a property without having a survey. This resulted in the buyers spending upwards of £5,750 in unexpected repair work. 

It is not uncommon for house survey problems to be found in houses, especially older properties over 50 years of age. With this in mind, it's worth being prepared for the issues you may encounter. We'll highlight the most common issues that surveyors will find, associated costs involved with remedying them and what to do if the house survey missed problems.

10 Common Issues Found in a Property Survey

1. Asbestos 2. Structural Movement 3. Damp 4. Japanese Knotweed 5. Electrical Issues 6. Faulty Drain Pipes 7. Roof Issues 8. Risk of Woodworm 9. Insulation 10. Flat Roofing House Survey Problems - Who Pays? What if the Survey Failed to Pick up a Problem? Save on Your Survey

1. Asbestos

When you're buying a house, make sure you compare surveyors with Compare My Move so can have peace of mind on the house. They will be able to uncover hidden defects and damages such as asbestos. 

The word ‘asbestos’ sends shivers down many people’s spines. At one time praised for its durability and applicability to a number of building materials, it has since been discovered to create life-threatening health issues for humans. Due to these issues, this material was banned in the UK in 1999 and specialists have been working to remove it from buildings all together since.

In the case that asbestos is highlighted in your survey, you will need to talk to an asbestos specialist to tackle the problem. In cases where it is easy to do so they will look to remove the asbestos all together, although in some cases this is not possible and preventative measures will be used instead.

The cost of removing asbestos varies widely on the type of asbestos used and the way it has been applied to building materials. The specialist should be able to give you a much clearer idea of how much your surveying costs are.

2. Structural Movement

One of the most concerning issues to see highlighted on your report is suspected structural movement. This type of movement can result in walls collapsing and can be a serious danger to inhabitants. These are usually made apparent by cracks that appear in structure of the building. However, on occasion small cracks are natural and should be of no concern.

In the case that structural movement is highlighted within the survey you will need to speak to a structural expert as soon as you can. Although there is often little you can do beyond bracing the area in question this type of movement will need continuous monitoring to ensure it doesn’t increase to a potentially damaging level over time.

3. Damp

Damp is a very common issue that turns up on many homebuyers report, especially in older homes. This issue really can vary from concerning and inconvenient through to very damaging to the structure of the building. 

Although there are a lot of steps that can be taken in order to prevent damp in older properties, this is not particularly useful when your survey report has already highlighted that damage has been caused or that damage will be caused imminently.

In these cases, you will need to talk to a damp specialist and have them come and conduct a deeper survey into the areas of concern in your new home. We've put together a guide on damp surveys so you're fully informed ahead of any issue. They will be able to give you a much better idea of the extent of the damage and what will need to be done to fix it. In some cases, this may be as simple as a treatment, although in more extreme cases it may see whole walls being ripped down and rebuilt.

When it comes to cost, this depends on the extent of the damage and the repairs required. Usually minor causes of damp can be remedied on your own with special damp proofing, however for more series cases a tradesman may charge between £200 for a single wall with minor damage to £2,000 for full houses with more serious damage.

4. Japanese Knotweed

Japanese knotweed is the one plant that strikes the most fear into anyone who has anything to with buying or selling houses, whether that is the buyer, seller or mortgage provider. This is because it has the ability to grow unnoticed and its roots can cause serious structural damage to the property by which it grows. 

If this has been identified in your survey you will need to gain some specialist help immediately. This is so important as there is a possibility that any mortgage you are hoping to take out on the property may be void as a result of its location. A specialist will be able to offer a further examination of the plant and will be able to give you better information on the potential or actual damage it has had on the property.

The cost of remedy can vary widely depending on the type of fix required. For example, for a relatively small patch of Japanese knotweed you could look at paying £2,000 - £3,000 for herbicidal removal, or anything up to £5,000 - £20,000 for full excavation and disposal. For further information, we've put together a guide on plants that can damage properties.

5. Electrical Issues

Electrical issues that appear on a property survey can vary from small and un-concerning issues through to potential issues that will lead to the full rewiring of the whole property.

If the issue is highlighted as urgent you will need to get in touch with an electrician that is able to give you an idea of exactly what will need to be done to remedy the issues. This is likely to be done by undertaking an Electrical Installation Condition Report.

Costs vary depending on the extent of work that needs to be undertaken, however to give an indication to fully rewire a typical three-bedroom house you would be looking in the region of £3,200 and up to 10 days-worth of effort.

6. Faulty Drain Pipes

Faulty drain pipes can cause any number of issues within a building. These include the backlog of water, water pooling, water damage being caused to nearby elements of the building and horrific smells caused by stagnant water and other materials that have been put down the drain but is unable to clear away properly.

If you have undertaken a building survey, it is likely that there will be details on the drainage in the house as well as details of any concerns. The traffic light systems and the details included in the report should give you an idea of the severity of the issue and whether it needs remedying immediately or whether it simply need to be monitored over time.

In the case that the issue needs tackling immediately you should first contact a specialist drainage company. You should explain the findings from the report and they will be able to advise on the best next steps. Likelihood is that they will send a professional to the house to take a more detailed CCTV inspection of the drain and then advise you on the severity if the issue and the potential fixes they can undertake.

It is difficult to give an average cost on drain repairs as it widely depends on the severity of the issue as well as the solutions the drainage company is able to offer. However, to give an indication of price you will be looking at around £250 for the initial CCTV survey of the drains to identify and assess the severity of the issue. For the actual repairs, you could be looking at between £500 to £1,500, although this does vary widely depending on the length and the damage to the pipe.

7. Roof Issues

Issues with the roof are often spotted as part of a property survey. House survey roof problems often vary in severity from one or two cracked tiles, faulty or blocked guttering, right through to the overall structure of the roof being completely unstable and needing replacing.

In the case where tiles are broken and need replacing, this can usually be done by any handyman or DIY-er who is suitably qualified and experienced at working at heights. For more serious problems you may need to talk to a specialist roofing contractor that will be able to look deeper into the problem and offer an expert opinion on what work needs to be done and how much that work will cost to execute.

In the case of more serious issues the roofing contractor is likely to send out a professional to undertake a survey of the roof both from the inside and the outside. It is important to communicate with the roofing company to make sure that the survey has all the access that they will need to get comprehensive results.

In terms of costs this widely varies depending on the depth and urgency of the issue. To give an indicator you should expect to pay roughly £50 to £100 to replace up to 6 broken tiles, £40 to £75 for professional gutter cleaning and £4,000 to £7,000 to completely retile the roof (based on the average for a 3-bedroom house).

8. Risk of Woodworm

Woodworm or other wood boring insect can be a major issue in properties, especially those than lend the majority of their structure to timber such as period properties or barn conversions. Luckily, as long as the issue is caught early on in the process it can be relatively easy to remedy and treat.

If woodworm have been identified as a risk on your property survey you will want to get this looked at with relative urgency to prevent it spreading any further. To do this it is recommended that you should get in contact with a competent timber treatment specialist who will be able to come and inspect the area of concern. They will be able to ‘open up’ the structure where necessary and give a full inspection getting a much better idea of the issue and give potential options to fix it.

For common furniture beetles, a simple process of coating the wood with a special treatment should work to fix this issue. However, for more complex and aggressive beetles such as The House Longhorn Beetle and Deathwatch Beetle it is likely that a more complex and costly process will be needed in order to generate a fix.

The specialist should be asked to provide an estimated cost of treatment and any necessary repairs that need to be made in order to make the structure safe again. The quote they will give you will vary widely based on a number of factors including the treatment required, the size of the house and the extent of the infestation. However, to give an indication you should expect to pay between £500 - £1,000 for these repairs.

9. Insulation

All homes should have a good level of insulation as part of an effort to keep in heat, limit your heating bills and protect the environment. The government are attempting to increase the use of insulation for these reasons and all buildings are expected to have at least 275mm of insulation as a minimum requirement. Pipes should also be well insulated in areas where they are exposed to cold in order to stop any possibility of freezing.

Homes are now required to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which will give interested purchases an initial understanding of the thermal capabilities of a structure before they move ahead with a purchase.

Within your survey report there may be any number of potential issues with the insulation of the property, such as areas that require insulation that is missing or where the insulation has been moved or been damaged in some way so that it is no longer fit for purpose.

In many cases, where the area is easy to access you will be able to fix this on your own with rolls of roofing insulation in the £10 to £20 region. However, in cases where extensive insulation is required, where the area is difficult to access or you simply don’t want to deal with the itchy and unpleasant task of insulating yourself then you could be looking at around £200 to £400 for the insulation or a typical three-bedroom home.

10. Flat Roofing

Flat roofing is a cheaper alternative to traditional pitched roofs. However, they will also typically last a lot less time. This is due to the material used, although some newer flat roofing materials are thought to last for much longer, older materials will usually last 10 to 15 years with alternatives such as asphalt and polymer single ply lasting anywhere up to 15 to 20 years.  

If your survey highlights that there is damage or considerable wear and tear to the roof then it is a relatively simple process of getting it replaced. However, this must be done by a specialist and should come with a worthwhile warrantee to protect it against immediate issues.

The cost of replacement flat roofing depends on the size of the area and the type of material used. Usually flat roofs are used on small extensions and garages as a cost saving measure, to give an indication of price to replace this type of roof you would be looking in the £1,000 mark.

House Survey Problems - Who Pays?

There is no specific rule or requirement dictating who pays for the repair work highlighted after a survey. Usually, the buyer would discuss the repair work with their surveyor so that a general price can be determined to raise the issue of whether the property is worth the current asking price. Once this is calculated, there are a few options the buyer can choose from. They can either use the survey results to negotiate the house price down, continue with the transaction or pull out of the sale altogether. 

If the buyer decides to continue with the sale, then they would be expected to pay for the repairs once the transaction is complete. It’s not often that the seller will offer to pay for the repair work, especially if any major issues are highlighted. The most common result would be for the buyer to ask for the asking price to be reduced by the cost of the repairs. This isn’t always accepted but many sellers will compromise and lower the price.

What if the Survey Failed to Pick up a Problem?

You may be eligible for compensation if a surveyor failed to pick up on a problem during their inspection. But, if the surveyor had no way of knowing about a problem, i.e if they didn’t have access to a certain area, it is not their fault.

All verified surveyors will have a complaints procedure in place that you should go through straight away. If things get out of hand and you don't get a genuine response from your surveyor, you can take things up with RICS, who will step in and help.

Save on Your Survey

We hope this guide has highlighted some of the at-risk areas to look out for ahead of your property survey, and given you some insight into combating any issues that may occur. For further reading, we've also put together a guide on how to deal with bad survey results, covering the next steps to take after receiving a survey report filled with structural issues.

When you're ready to arrange your property survey, we can help you save time and money by connecting you with up to 5 RICS accredited surveyors. We will compare surveyors for you, giving you the best possible deal for your homebuyer report or building survey.