More than one in five homebuyers who bought a home without having it checked out by an independent surveyor say they would never have bought the property if they had been aware of its true condition. Buyers who proceed without a Surveyor's advice face an average of £5, 750 in unexpected repair bills following their home purchase.
These are some of the findings of recent research carried out for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). A survey of recent property purchasers found that while most agreed a building survey was important, more than a third still failed to have one carried out. Of those who did commission a survey, the majority said it provided them with peace of mind and was value for money.
This research highlights the worrying fact that many people are making the most expensive purchase of their lives without having any idea of the real condition of the property they are buying. They will be buying a home to live in but could then discover too late that the property will be essentially uninhabitable without expensive repairs. Defects giving rise to serious health or safety concerns, such as mould, asbestos or structural weakness, can be expensive, but absolutely necessary, to resolve before moving in.
Purchasers risking a potential home-buying "time bomb"
Peter Bolton King, RICS Global Residential Director, commented:
“Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions most people will ever make and yet many consumers are doing so blind to the facts. Serious faults are difficult to identify and costly to repair. By not being aware of them consumers are risking a potential home buying time bomb. This can cause extreme stress and financial strain on homeowners who are often stuck with a property they no longer want but cannot sell. ”
The RICS is concerned that too many buyers still think that the mortgage lender’s valuation is an adequate survey, despite the fact that it is often nothing more than a basic assessment of the property's value for lending purposes.
Surprisingly, the research also shows that many buyers mistakenly believe that estate agents act equally for buyers as well as sellers, or even that they act for buyers. Nothing further could be from the truth – agents act for sellers, and do not have to give buyers information about the condition of the property.
Negotiating a lower purchase price to pay for repairs
Not having an independent building survey performed means that buyers are left ignorant of issues with the property, such as structural defects, dry and wet rot, subsidence and many other faults, only for these to become serious matters at a later date. The new homeowner will then face the cost and disruption of having repairs carried out.
If owners are unable to afford to fix the faults they may be left with a property they no longer want to live in but are unable to sell to recoup their losses.
Purchasers who do have a survey carried out often find that if defects are revealed they can secure a reduction in the purchase price. If a survey highlights major problems then buyers are likely to pull out altogether, but at least they will have saved themselves the headache of buying a property that needs expensive repairs. If the survey shows that the property is in good condition, the buyer will know that they have nothing to worry about.
Buying without a survey puts consumers at risk
Homebuyers should always be aware of the principle of 'buyer beware' – or ‘caveat emptor’ as it is still often called in its Latin form – meaning that it is up to the buyer to check everything before buying a home. It may be possible to sue a seller or agent for misrepresentation after a purchase, but this is notoriously difficult, so it is much safer to rely on having a proper survey as well as having your own chosen, independent Conveyancing Solicitor to do the legal work for you.
RICS argue that the lack of understanding about the home buying process is putting consumers at increased risk as many fail to take out further independent, expert advice. The cost of a survey can be a small price to pay for this knowledge and peace of mind.