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THE BUILDING - Surveys and Valuations

A message to Estate Agents – I ask you all to review your Buyer’s Advice.

99% of those that I read on the web or in the brochures stress all the important matters concerning the acquisition processes, but so very few mention the house, the thing that all the money is being put into and which is to be the answer to all the hopes and dreams of the buyers. Once it’s bought, people are unlikely to be sitting over the years thinking of the pleasures that a proper legal process gave them. No they want to be enjoying the house, the ‘bricks and mortar’ that they have bought. To ensure that they can do so and don’t just have a trail of troubles and possible litigation they should know what they are buying.

A prospective client asked recently why he should get a survey of a relatively new house when he could just depend upon the 10-year structural warranty insurance. As I explained to him, if there were faults he would just be taking over somebody else’s problems and many problems are not structural. Life really is too short to have the stress of pressuring the agent, the lawyer, the developer and the insurance company to live up to what he imagined as a comprehensive policy that would cover all the repair costs. Nothing compensates for the worry and uncertainty at the beginning; and the hassle of dust, noise and discomfort when the work, eventually, is being carried out. Surprises like this can be avoided by having the building surveyed prior to buying. At least then the buyer knows what he is taking on. If there is nothing there, he has the satisfaction of knowing that. Usually though, there are some matters that need attention and these can be taken into account in the whole ‘dream buying’ experience.

So why is a survey needed when, as I mentioned before, there are insurances that cover ‘eventualities’? Incidentally, in addition to the 10-year structural warranty, the developer of a new property also has liability for generally everything that goes wrong or defects found in the first year. For the next two years, making three in all, the developer also has a duty to repair matters that affect the quality of living in the property, such as water penetration, bad electrics, etc. Even the seller of an older property is liable to the buyer for at least 6 months and some authorities state that it can even be for up to 4 years, for defects that are hidden at the time of purchase. So caveat emptor doesn’t apply absolutely.

Surveys are a way of avoiding other’s problems. Even the best intentioned developer is at least going to query any claim that is made and insurance companies appear to survive increasingly these days by making the claim process so difficult that some claimants give it up as not being worth all the hassle. It’s better for the buyer to know and plan for a problem, either by getting the buying price reduced in compensation or budgeting for the cost when calculating the offer that is to be made. Or alternatively, deciding that they are buying to enjoy a property, ‘What it can do for me rather than what I can do for it’, and will walk away to look for something trouble free.