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Found your Perfect Property? – The Hidden Dangers you may have Missed!!

Friday, 17th June 2011 | by: Peter Barry

In speaking the words ‘I don’t quite see why they need a more detailed report, surely a Valuation would have been sufficient’, I was setting myself up for fall, and inadvertently volunteering to write this upcoming post.  This happened on a Homebuyer Survey I accompanied two weeks ago, where the property in question gave the initial impression of requiring little or no work having been recently refurbished.

It could be called a typical first time buyer’s property. A 2 bedroom ground floor flat, built in the early 1900’s and recently refurbished throughout, with newly painted and plastered walls with a clean white finish, new doors throughout, bathroom newly tiled from top to bottom, new carpets, new heating system and, of course, a newly installed integrated kitchen. A single storey extension which now housed the kitchen had been constructed to the rear of the property around the 1970’s or 1980’s.

Closer inspection revealed that the finish to the paintwork, joinery and tiling around the bathroom was not the most professional that I had seen. I also noted that the radiators where not sitting exactly plumb with the adjacent walls. So no real serious problems so far, but a few items that would probably niggle you once you moved in. It wasn’t until later in the inspection that a tell tale sign of mould growth under the kitchen sink and the taking of damp readings revealed a very serious damp problem.

IMG_9125Very high damp readings where found on every external wall at low level. It is always worth noting that newly plastered walls will continue to dry out in the short period after they have been done, so a surveyor is therefore wary of potentially false indicators of damp. However, in this instance the readings where only found at low level suggesting Rising Damp, possibly as a result of a defective or non existent damp proof course (DPC).

This type of defect is ultimately an amateur and foolish mistake for a builder or contractor make. To install a chemical DPC early in the refurbishment works would have required only a small financial outlay; whereas now you would be looking at an expensive and disruptive job involving the removal of some of the internal plastering, skirtings and possibly some of the kitchen fittings.

IMG_9123The external inspection revealed a poor detailing around a number of the windows and doors with poorly finished render. (See the photograph to the left.)

The lack of an external cill to one of the windows could cause dampness to the external walls of the property. It will be necessary to provide a new external cill to this window to prevent any future problems.

The new front door step was also constructed, in all likelihood, above the level of any DPC in the external walls and the air bricks that ventilate the void under the timber ground floor.

IMG_9121(Generally a Surveyor carrying out a Homebuyer Survey will inspect flat roofs from a ladder, if they are not more than 3.0m above ground level. Alternatively, if it’s not possible to use a ladder, the Surveyor will try to inspect flat roofs from the upper floor windows.)
So, from no work to thousands of pounds worth of work in the time it took our Surveyor to do a RICS Homebuyer Survey. Our resulting valuation reflected the need for these works and, not surprisingly, we suggested that the prospective purchaser renegotiated the price.

Critically, a standard bank or building society valuation would have, in all likelihood, missed many of these crucial points and defects that would, once the purchaser moved in, reveal themselves in one way or another.

The very next week I attended another Homebuyer Survey that again on the face of it appeared to be in very good condition. Located above commercial premises on the first floor we found a small but well decorated and refurbished 1 bedroom flat. Not much to report internally apart from some poor finishing details and we also recommended electrical and gas testing. Once outside on the flat roof, however, a few issues where raised that where certainly of concern.

The flat roof itself had several patchwork repairs and, like the previous property, would in the near future need overhauling. The fall of the roof was too shallow, which resulted in pooling of water to the front, and the guttering was of an insufficient standard to allow for drainage. Render detail to windows was breaking away and in very poor condition. We also noted cracked parapet walls with evidence of damp penetration and blown cornice detail that were in urgent need of repair.

CorniceThat’s quite a lot of repairs in one paragraph, but ones a buyer would have not seen unless they had ventured out onto the roof during previous visits! As this was a leasehold flat, the purchaser could have received a substantial, and unexpected, bill for their share of the works. If the repairs were not carried out soon the property would deteriorate further potentially reducing the value of the flat.

As you can see there are many potential horrors that can, without a more detailed inspection, pass you by.  So, if you are buying a property and want peace of mind, consider having a Homebuyer Report or Full Building Survey. If you contact us by by phone on 020 8360 7615 or by email and we can advise you on the best course of action.