In most cases, it is not a requirement to have a survey complete when buying a second-hand home. The bank will request one in some cases which means you will not be able to draw down without one. Then in all other cases, your solicitor will recommend one, but you can simply acknowledge their advice, confirm you have understood the risks, and proceed without one.
But what are the risks? Is buying a home without a survey really that big of a deal? What could possibly go wrong?
Let's look at some stats first!
In about 8% of surveys (or 1 in 12 properties), there are issues identified that would lead the buyer to reconsider purchasing or reconsider the price they offered. These issues range from structural issues to dampness, or just a very large number of undisclosed less serious issues.
But there are also items identified in about 25% of surveys where the surveyor notes something related to planning or the boundary which your solicitor needs to be aware of to ensure you are fully covered legally when you buy the house.
Who can survey a property?
A surveyor is someone who is an expert in the design of properties, construction of properties, construction materials, upkeep and maintenance of properties along with residential planning requirements.
They should also have extensive experience with residential surveys and be familiar with the house-buying process and solicitor requests.
They usually come from a background in Building Surveying, Engineering, or Architecture.
Although many builders and construction professionals may be very proficient at some elements of a survey, they are not likely to possess the knowledge of an experienced surveyor and are not likely to carry sufficient professional indemnity insurance in order to advise you.
What are the different risks?
There are hundreds of potential risks associated with not having a property surveyed before buying, but we'll attempt to list the most likely and more common risks here.
Missed Structural Issues
Not all structural issues present as large cracks on walls, others are more subtle and may simply present as minor cracks, windows and doors sticking, slight heaves on downstairs floors etc.
A surveyor is an expert in identifying all different kinds of structural issues from signs of pyrite damage to subsidence, defective blocks, and much more.
Some structural issues can end up costing 10s of thousands of Euro to repair. So it is vital you hire someone who knows the difference between minor settlement cracks and something more serious!
Any damage or mold caused by dampness can be cleaned and/or repaired. If this is done without the original cause being addressed, damage can still be happening to the property and the dampness issue will reappear.
Surveyors know the most likely problem areas in a property for various kinds of damp and come armed with a moisture meter they can use to check. If they find any dampness, they will advise the likely cause or if any further investigation is recommended.
Depending on the type of damp found, the cost to fix can range from several hundred to thousands of Euro. So it is vital you hire someone who knows where to look and what to check for!
Full Post: Damp, what is it and how serious can it be?
The roof forms an important part of the structure and much like the walls and foundations can develop serious issues.
From the moment a survey steps out of the car, they are looking at the line of the roof and for damaged titles etc. They'll pay close attention around a chimney and get into the attic to see as much of the internal structure as they can.
Even if the roof is in good condition, the surveyor can often recommend improvements to ensure it lasts a lifetime - these could be as simple as adding collar ties to the roof.
If the surveyor does spot any issues, they will be noted along with a recommended course of action. Even minor roof issues can end up causing serious issues if left untreated. So if there are any minor issues noted and you chose to continue with the purchase, they should be addressed as soon as possible.
Full Post: Will the surveyor check the roof?
Certificates of compliance or exemption
If there have been any alterations to the property since it was originally constructed. Those alterations may require certificates of compliance with planning or certificates of exemption from planning.
A surveyor will give their opinion on the requirements of any certs and your legal advisor can then ensure these are in place.
Examples of these could be rear extensions which need a certificate of exemption if under 40sq m or front porches which need a certificate of compliance with planning if over 2sq meters.
In most cases, your solicitor will be able to get the correct cert from the vendor, however, if on the small chance a property does not have correct planning permission for an alteration, you need to be aware of this before the contracts are signed so you can make an informed decision on whether or not to 1: Wait on planning, 2: Pull out of purchase or 3: Continue with the known risk.
There are very few boundary issues that are not resolvable, however, because the small number which can not be resolved can lead to such complex legal issues, it is best to be aware of any potential issues beforehand so that your solicitor can ensure they are in order before you sign contracts.
Examples of boundary issues could be encroachment, overhang, unclear boundary markings, services not contained within the boundary (e.g. septic tank on neighboring property), etc.
Your surveyor will be looking out for any potential issues like these and will include any on the written report for the attention of your solicitor.
Your solicitor may also request that the surveyor checked the physical boundaries against the land reg map. In this case, the surveyor will visually inspect the boundary against the map provided by your solicitor and flag if anything looks incorrect.
Full Post: Does the survey cover boundary checks?
Incorrect number of bedrooms
This might seem like a strange one, but for a bedroom to be classed as a bedroom or "habitable space". It must meet certain criteria including entrance, window size and location (for means of escape), ceiling height, and size.
Occasionally, a property might be listed as a 4 bedroom, however, one of those rooms does not meet these criteria. This means the best case would be you are actually paying for a 4-bed house, but only getting a 3 bed which would decrease it's resale value.
Or worst case, you or a family member end up sleeping in a room that is not suitable as a bedroom and could be a serious risk.
Full Post: What is a bedroom?
There are countless other issues ranging from health and safety issues that could put you and your family at risk if not known and addressed to issues that may need costly repairs.
Get an informed, professional opinion!
The purpose of a survey is to give you a professional opinion on the condition of the property so that you can make an informed decision on whether or not to continue with the purchase and sign contracts. Surveyors are experts in giving this opinion.