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How investing in a Building Survey can save buyers thousands in remedial works

By Nicholas Oltarzewski

When looking to buy a house, for many it will be the biggest investment decision of their lives. Calling upon the professional services of a building surveyor means that the individual will be receiving an objective and holistic professional opinion on the external and internal condition of the proposed investment.

In many cases, a survey can save people thousands of pounds in remedial works. A perfect example of this was when I was instructed in 2007 to survey a late Victorian terrace property in De Beauvoir Town, London for a prospective buyer. It was freshly decorated externally and internally, had the original sash and casement windows, chimneys, cast-iron gutters, render bands, ornate detailing, etc. All the elements that you would look for in a period character property.

During the inspection it was noted that that the external wall was curving (beyond a tolerant rate) and the adjacent floor was uneven, causing the reception room door to stick. The external gable wall was then inspected and there was a clear indication of bowing to the masonry.

Survey 1


The leaning/bulging of the external wall could have been a result of decreasing wall stability, and the defects are often a symptom of prolonged vibrations from heavy traffic or plant machinery and/or an increase in the floor loads (for example where additional floors have been added to an existing building or overloading of floors by tenant furniture).

As a result of this defect (which was picked up during the survey), I was able to provide commentary on the existing condition of the building to the client. I recommended a structural engineer undertake further investigation (at an extra cost); a trial hole was dug to the side of the gable end to assess the condition of the existing footings and a report detailed the construction, design and noted that foundation rotation had occurred in this instance. Foundation movement can occur for many reasons but the most common relates to the movement of clay soils (swelling and shrinking). Due to moisture content changes in the soils was the cause.

This gave the client the opportunity to negotiate the asking price with the vendor. In this instance the client pulled out of the sale due to the costs associated with remedial works. I estimated that cost of the remedial works would be in the region of approx. £40,000 – £50,000.

Survey 2

Now in 2016 it is clearly evident that the foundation movement has caused further damage to the right side elevation and to the front lintels and window openings over time. Today the remedial works would be in excess of £60,000 – £70,000. Considering that a survey costs in the region of £950 – £1,050, the advantage of having a Building Survey done prior to purchase is clear.

The Advantages of a Building Survey

Any residential or other property, in any condition can be custom made to the client’s individual needs. A surveyor is able to provide the client with an assessment of the construction/condition of the property and technical advice on defects, remedial works and associated costs.

Generally, a surveyor assists the client to make an informed judgement on whether or not to proceed with the purchase of the property, decide whether or not the property is a reasonable purchase at the agreed price and to assess urgent and significant matters such as defects (externally and internally) before exchanging contracts.

To summarise: Finnegan Property Services is able to offer a wide range of professional services. These include building surveys, inspections, planned maintenance programmes, licence to alter services, party wall services, major works consultation, project and development consultation, design and architectural services and dilapidations assessments.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.


Posted on 10 May, 2016

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