The house survey is one of the most important parts of the house buying process. If yours has identified problems, you don’t need to panic. But it might be time to negotiate with the seller.
And even if you get the all-clear, there are still a few steps to take before you get the keys.
In this guide, we’ll take you through everything that needs to happen after a house survey, all the way to completion.
How long does a house survey take?
The waiting time depends on the type of house survey you’ve paid for. There are four different types of survey, and they range from basic to complex:
Level 1 survey
- This is a basic survey, best for new builds or modern houses that appear to be in good condition. It uses a traffic light system as a grading tool to show which parts of the property need attention, but doesn't contain much detail.
- Average survey time: A couple of hours
- Average report time: 3-5 working days
Level 2 surveys
- This more detailed survey is a good idea for slightly older homes that still appear to be in reasonable condition. You can choose just to get the survey or choose a survey with a mortgage valuation, which can help you if you have to renegotiate the price of the property later.
Home Condition Survey
- This is similar to the HomeBuyer report but is provided by either the RPSA or Sava rather than RICS. Your survey goes through an independent checking process for quality assurance purposes.
- Average survey time: 90 minutes to 4 hours
- Average report time: 3-5 working days
Level 3 survey
- This full structural survey is ideal for older properties that you plan to renovate due to poor condition, and those with visible signs of disrepair.
- Average survey time: Around 8 hours
- Average report time: Up to 8 days
Read our house surveys guide to learn more about which survey is best for your property.
What happens after a bad house survey?
Step 1: Understand the results of your house survey
If your property survey has thrown up some issues, there’s no need to panic. Most surveys will come back with a few problems, especially if the property is older. The results could help you renegotiate the price of the property. Or, you could even ask the seller to fix any defects before moving forward.
But first, it’s vital to ensure you fully understand the survey results. The surveyor will usually be happy to chat through the final report and answer any questions.
Common problems identified by house surveys include:
- Damp: A lot of damp can be easily fixed, but it’s worth checking the underlying cause.
- Structural problems: Cracks in ceilings and walls can be a sign of structural damage.
- Subsidence: This is when the ground beneath a property sinks and causes the foundations to sink too.
- Japanese knotweed infestations: This invasive plant can cause damage to buildings and is notoriously hard to kill.
- Roofing problems: This could just be broken tiles or a major issue. Your survey might find damage to flat roofing on extensions or garages.
- Faulty drain pipes: This might show sagging pipes, wall and roof leaks and a lack of overflow from the downpipe.
- Insulation problems: Ask for the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to see how well the house is currently insulated.
The advice you get from the surveyor will depend on which type of survey you have carried out. If you just choose a Condition Report, you won't be able to seek additional advice from your surveyor to follow on from their report. But a full Building Survey includes advice on repair works, estimates of how much they’ll cost and how long they’ll take, plus what might happen if you ignore the property’s defects.
Step 2: Establish the cost of repairs
Once you fully understand your future home’s problems, you should consult impartial tradespeople – not those recommended by the seller or their estate agents – to find out how much the repairs will cost. The type of contractor you choose will depend on what work needs to be done – an electrician for electrical problems or a roofing specialist for your roof.
It’s important to get at least two quotes and compare. The contractors can also tell you whether the work will need to be done quickly or over a longer period, which will help you decide whether you can afford it.
Let the seller know that you’re investigating the cost of repairs but make sure to hammer home that you’re still interested in the property. You’ll also want to try and get quotes back quickly so they don’t get impatient and try to find another buyer.
At this time, there is always some risk that the seller will accept an offer from someone else, but you may want to take that risk rather than roll the dice on a house with serious defects.
Step 3: Decide whether you still want to buy the property
Any house offer is ‘Subject to Contract’, meaning you’re not legally bound to buy it until the point of exchange (when you exchange final contracts). This gives you the option of pulling out of the sale if the problems identified by the survey could have a long-term impact, prove too expensive to repair, or just change the way you feel about the property.
There are certain problems where if they arise, even if you were happy to go ahead that your lender wouldn’t be. Your lender can refuse to lend you the money until the problems have been fixed (i.e. by the seller before you complete your purchase).
Step 4: Negotiate with the seller
Any renegotiations are usually handled by the Estate Agent. At this point, you have a couple of options:
1) Ask the seller to fix any survey problems
Talk to the seller to see if they’re willing to commit to fixing any issues before you exchange contracts. If they’re keen to keep the sale going ahead, they might agree. You can even have your solicitor put this requirement in the contract itself.
Make sure you get evidence that the work has been carried out to a good standard and in line with regulations. Talk to your contractors about getting this proof.
2) Renegotiate the property price
If the seller is unwilling or unable to fix the property’s problems themselves, you might be able to renegotiate the overall asking price.
There are no hard and fast rules on how much a discount you can get. How much the seller is willing to knock off the purchase price will depend on their eagerness to complete. If the property was originally in high demand, they might refuse entirely.
It’s best to be upfront with the survey results and the expected costs of repairs. You can use this as a basis for your negotiations.
What happens after a clear house survey?
If your house survey comes back with no problems – or once you’ve decided what to do about any issues – you’re one step closer to completion. Congrats! Here’s what’s next.
While you’ve been concentrating on your house survey, the conveyancing process will have also been ticking along. Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring a property from one owner to another, and it happens while your mortgage application is in process. It usually lasts around eight to twelve weeks.
Because your survey results are not legal matters, in general, your conveyancer will not be able to comment on the survey results. There’s just one section for the conveyancer’s attention which they will review for you.
The aim is to look out for slightly different problems to your house survey. Your conveyancer or solicitor will make sure your property is connected to water and sewage mains and that the land isn’t contaminated from any previous use. They will also make sure it isn’t on a flood plain or in a conservation area.
Mortgage agreement checks
Once your conveyancing checks and house survey are complete, it’s important to go over everything in your mortgage agreement with a fine-tooth comb. Your solicitor can help with this. Even a small error can create weeks of delay. During this time, your solicitor will check that all the conditions of your mortgage agreement have been met and you haven’t gone bankrupt since then. Your solicitor will also set a date for the contract exchange.
Contracts and deposit
You can pay your deposit by making a BACS payment or CHAPS (Clearing House Automated Payment System) same day payment. You’ll usually send the money to your solicitor, who will pass it on to the seller’s bank.
Once this has been transferred, your solicitor will get you to sign and swap contracts with the seller, and you can agree on a date for completion.
There are a few final pieces of paperwork and things to pay for before your completion date.
You’ll need to pay your solicitor for the fee they’re owed, any outstanding money you are putting towards the purchase price in addition to your deposit, and the money for the stamp duty tax. They’ll contact you with a breakdown of these costs.
Your solicitor will also get you to sign the paperwork that updates the land registry and puts the title deeds in your name. They will then contact your mortgage lender to have the cost of the property transferred to the seller.
Check out our quickfire guide to the house buying process for more detail.
And there you have it – everything you need to know about what happens after a house survey.
Want a helping hand with the homebuying process? We’ve got you covered. Habito Plus is our complete homebuying service. We guide you through the mortgage application, surveys, and legal stuff, and we’re with you every step of the way. Get started here.