Is It Really Worth Getting a Survey Done on a Doer-upper?

By Dean Merryman AssocRICS on and updated on

If you buy a house that clearly isn’t in great condition, intending to renovate it, you may think getting a survey is a waste of time. If you’re going to gut the home, replace all the fixtures and fittings, and fix it up from top to bottom, do you need to know everything that’s wrong with it? But, while you may be able to see plenty of cosmetic issues with the house just by looking, a property in poor condition could also be hiding severe defects that aren’t immediately visible. And they could end up costing you thousands of pounds to rectify.

Why get a survey on a doer-upper?

When buying a doer-upper, the plan inevitably will be to bring the home up to a standard you can enjoy living in. To do this, you’ll likely be working to a budget, and while it may be relatively easy to estimate how much you’ve got to spend on a new kitchen or bathroom, if you unexpectedly have to replace the electrics, fix the roof or contend with serious structural issues, your budget will soon disappear before you even get to the fun part of fixtures and fittings. By getting a survey you can be clear on any work that needs doing and have an estimate of the costs involved. That way, you can start preparing a realistic budget to ensure you can complete all the necessary work.

It’s also essential that before you start any major work, you’re clear on the state of the original structure. If you’re planning extensions and renovations, the original building needs to be able to cope with this and while you may not need a survey to tell you that there are cracks in the walls, finding out in advance whether this is a sign of a severe structural flaw or more of a wear and tear issue is essential.

A survey will also pick up the presence of other things that could impact a renovation, such as asbestos – which can be very costly to remove if found in areas such as roofing slates or ceiling and wall finishes.

A survey, therefore, will not only ensure you can adequately budget for any work, but it’ll also ensure you pay the right price for the property in the first place. By getting a survey once your offer has been accepted, you’ll be made aware of any significant issues, giving you the opportunity to renegotiate your offer based on this information. You can then either ensure you’re able to pay less to cover the unforeseen work, or decide that the property is no longer suitable for you and walk away. Either way, a survey will help you to make an informed decision rather than being hit with a nasty surprise further down the line.

What survey do I need on a doer-upper?

While there are a couple of options for home surveys, the only choice for a property in poor condition is a comprehensive Building Survey. This Level 3 survey is the most in-depth available and will give you a detailed description of the property’s construction and condition – all essential when planning major works.

During a building survey inspection, your surveyor will delve into the detail of the building, specifically looking for defects and flaws such as rot and dampness that could add thousands to your renovation budget.

Not only will a Building Survey highlight any significant issues, but it’ll also explain the implications of these, including repair options and costs. Some surveyors, including Novello’s RICS-qualified team, even utilise technology such as Pole Cams and drones to get clear views of hard-to-reach areas such as roofs and chimneys, so nothing gets missed. It’s also possible to speak to your surveyor in advance to let them know your renovation plans so the survey can be tailored more closely to your needs.

Novello offers timely, accurate and cost-effective building surveys by expert RICS-qualified surveyors. To find out more, contact us or arrange a free quotation now.

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