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  • Selling a House - How to Pass the Buyer's Survey

    5th September 2018

    Selling a House – How to Pass the Buyer’s Survey

    If you are selling your house and have agreed on an offer your buyer may well get an independent survey conducted on the property following the mortgage valuation and mortgage offer. Remember, a mortgage valuation is done by the lender to check that the value of the property is sufficient to enable recovery of their loan should your buyer default. It considers obvious structural defects only and can even just be a desktop valuation or quick drive-by where the external / internal house condition is not even seen (or if it is, not in any detail). A far more detailed survey such as a homebuyer report or building survey is often commissioned by the buyer to provide them a more in-depth report of visible and suspected hidden defects. Why? Ultimately so they can proceed with the purchase in full confidence and remove any worries or hesitations that may be holding them up.

    It can be a dreaded moment when you hear a surveyor is coming particularly if you don’t know what condition your property is in or if there are issues that are likely to get flagged up. Will the report prevent the sale your so close to making? A surveyor isn’t in the business of collapsing sales – they want their buyer to be able to go ahead. The surveyor is helping the buyer to understand everything they need to so they can go ahead without any worries or concerns. Unless you know you’ve been hiding something menacing, it needn’t be something to fear.

    You will likely find that your surveyor is unable (not unwilling) to tell you what they have found. They have a duty of care to the buyer – they are working for them and have been paid by them. Their rules say they can’t disclose their findings or report to anyone other than the buyer, unless they have been told they can. So, as much as they may want to advise you what they found, they can’t.

    You may even wish to have a building survey for your ongoing purchase so you are also 100% sure about what level of work needs doing when you buy your next property. As a property purchase is an investment, you want to make sure you don’t end up forking out lots of money on repairs putting yourself straight into negative equity (where you have spent more buying and repairing the property than it is worth) after moving in.

     

    So, how can you pass your Buyer’s Survey?

    Let’s be straight… There is no point in trying to do cover-ups. A good surveyor will be able to spot recent work, guess what might have been repaired by considering its location and check to see if the cause of the issue has been repaired. Painting over that stain but not fixing the brick work on the other side won’t go unnoticed! Equally doing a complete cosmetic refurb to make the property look good will cause many surveyors to stop and wonder if the property has just been upgraded to help make it more saleable or if there is something sinister being covered up. What are your options then?

     

    Option 1: Keep on top of maintenance throughout your ownership

    The best way to come up trumps on a property survey is to keep on top of your property maintenance. A large number of the issues in survey reports centre around maintenance issues. Rotting joinery, eroded or missing pointing, damaged roof tiles, leaking taps. All of these are things your potential buyers will notice and if they don’t will have highlighted in their survey. They will be considering how much it will cost to get the property ship shape again.

    A stitch in time saves nine. This is just as true for issues around the house. If you don’t replace the damaged sealant around the bath and you allow water to keep seeping down the back of the bath, don’t be surprised that you have water staining and damp plaster on the ceiling below that gets added to the list of issues found. Keeping on top of all maintenance work that needs doing is cheaper in the long run that waiting and repairing a bigger problem and reduces the number of issues that could get picked up in a survey.

     

     

    Option 2: Rectify any maintenance issues before selling

    You could opt to rectify maintenance issues just before putting the property on the market or before the surveyor comes to visit. This is perfectly fine too – there will be fewer issues to note down as you will have fixed them. However, there will be some symptoms that take time to disappear and could get flagged up on the report.

    For example you could repoint any areas on the external walls where the mortar between the bricks has heavily eroded or is missing. However, it will take time for any of the water that has been absorbed into the walls and caused some damp patches to evaporate and dry out. A good surveyor will be able to note that repointing work has recently been done to prevent the issue but they will still note that damp is currently present in the property and that there may be an alternative cause. It will be an issue highlighted that needn’t have been noted if the repairs were done earlier.

    Upgrading bathrooms and kitchens completely is not often advised as often buyers may look at the kitchen or bathroom and decide it is not to their taste and want to replace it anyway. It is simpler to allow your property price to reflect the need for any upgrades and allow buyers to make their own choices once they have moved in! Just keep on top of leaky taps, damaged sealant and any other issues. Having good ventilation in place is always useful.

     

     

    Option 3: Ignore everything

    The final option is to leave all maintenance issues – the right buyer will be willing to do all the maintenance work themselves but do remember not everyone will. Expect all these maintenance issues mentioned in the report to be used to renegotiate the selling price – your buyer will want the price dropped to cover the cost of the works. To achieve top market price, your property needs to be in top condition. This is no different to a second hand car. A car that has lots of dents and scratches is not going to achieve the same sale price as one in good condition.

     

     

    Issues that are harder to resolve

    There are some issues that may get flagged up that are out of your control but these are rare. Non-standard or non-traditional construction methods can make a property un-mortgageable and will certainly affect whether or not a buyer is willing to go ahead with their property purchase. In some cases remedial works can be done to rectify the structure which is mentioned in our non-traditional houses guide. Of course, you may not realise the house you have is an unusual construction until you are told otherwise.

    One other example of and issue that is more costly to rectify are old electrics. It is a more costly and invasive job to upgrade the wiring, sockets and consumer units. However, if you do go ahead with a rewire, consider checking that there are enough sockets in each room  – a lack of sockets is something that can be flagged up.

     

    Overall

    The majority of issues in a property are things that can be repaired or easily prevented by keeping on top of general maintenance in the first place. Keep receipts and a record of all works done so you can provide evidence, if needed, that the property has been well looked after.