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Q&A special: are surveys for sellers as well as buyers?

7 months ago

Sellers? Commission a survey? It’s not as silly as it sounds. Issues identified in a buyer’s survey are some of the most common reasons why a sale collapses, asking prices are negotiated downwards and delays occur. Sometimes it pays to be forewarned and sellers can do this by ordering their own surveys. Here are some helpful Q&As for those concerned about the condition of their property or who want to avoid the unexpected.

Q. Who usually requests a survey?

A. Buyers are encouraged to instruct a registered surveyor to undertake a survey of the property they want to buy. They can choose from a condition survey, a HomeBuyer survey or a full structural/building survey. The buyer is also responsible for the cost of any survey.

Q. Why should a seller commission a survey?

A. A poll of its accredited surveyors conducted by Legal & General found damp, asbestos, electrical issues, flat roof problems and Japanese Knotweed were all common issues that were undetected by property sellers and only picked up by the surveyor. It is prudent for a seller to know if such issues exist before they sell their property, otherwise they may compromise the security of a sale and the value of their home.

Q. What type of survey should a seller order?

A. A HomeBuyer or a full structural/building survey isn’t usually necessary. Instead, a seller can choose a condition survey for a general property overview, or choose to focus on areas they are most worried about. This could be inviting an electrician, plumber or structural engineer in to carry out an inspection. Sellers can also commission a damp or Japanese Knotweed specialist to inspect areas and file a report.

Q. What happens if faults are found by the seller ahead of a sale?

A. Knowing about faults upfront gives the vendor the opportunity to take action and it reduces the chance of any surprises coming back in the buyer’s survey. The most common course of action is for the seller to rectify the problem themselves. In this case, it’s wise to get proof of the work, together with a guarantee – this will put any buyer’s mind at ease. An alternative is to get estimates for the work and reduce the asking price to accommodate the cost to the buyer.

Q. Can I ask to see the buyer’s survey report?

A. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors states that ‘a seller doesn’t have any right to see a copy of the [buyer’s survey] report unless the buyer chooses to disclose them.’ In addition, it says ‘the surveyor must not discuss the report’s actual or likely contents with the seller without the buyer’s knowledge and consent.” This doesn’t mean a buyer won’t share the contents of a survey report with the vendor, so it’s always worth asking. Bear in mind that seeing a buyer’s report so late in the transaction may lead to haggling over the property price or the purchaser pulling out of the sale.

Q. Can I be sued if a buyer finds defects once they’ve moved in?

A. Sellers are usually covered by caveat emptor – let the buyer beware – and sellers do not have to disclose unknown property defects. Trouble can arise if a buyer feels the seller covered-up known issues or used fraudulent documents to disguise defects during the sale. A buyer may also try to prove misrepresentation by the seller or their agent to reclaim costs.

Q. Will surveys ever be part of an ‘upfront information pack’?

A. Not for now. When the now defunct Home Information Packs (HIPs) were launched in 2007, the Government initially wanted a seller-commissioned and paid-for survey to be a compulsory component but the idea was quickly scrapped. In 2022, National Trading Standards announced that more upfront ‘material information’ would need to be disclosed by sellers at the point of listing but at present, this will not include the results of a survey.

If you are thinking of selling a property you own and would like advice about its condition and how any defects may affect its value, please contact us.

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