What Survey Do I Need for a Victorian Home?​​
Posted on: 26 Apr 2022 by James Brook, MRICS

Victorian homes – a term that generally refers to any house built between 1837 and 1901 – can include a variety of architectural styles, from gothic revival to arts and crafts, and properties from this period come in a whole range of shapes and sizes. Their features, such as sash windows, high ceilings, decorative brickwork, and ornate tiles, continue to be popular with homebuyers. As some of these properties are approaching 200 years of age, it’s important to ensure you get a thorough survey before investing.

Best survey for a Victorian house

The best – probably the only – option when deciding on a survey for a Victorian property will be a RICS building survey. This comprehensive offering will thoroughly check all aspects of the home, internal and external. A building survey is essential for older properties, and as your Victorian property may have undergone renovations or extensions during its lifetime or may have been left in a state of disrepair, you must have a clear picture of its true condition.

A Building Survey will highlight both significant issues and wear and tear defects and explain the implications of these faults. It will examine structural integrity, property build and construction materials in detail and highlight any repairs that have already been made or work carried out. If you have any specific concerns or questions about the property, you’ll also be able to raise these with your surveyor to be confident they’ll be thoroughly assessed.

Remember, even the most beautifully presented Victorian home may not have been looked after all its life, and problems could be hiding out of sight. A building survey will make sure you don’t receive any nasty – and costly – surprises after you move in and could give you the power to negotiate if issues are found in advance. Either way, you’ll be able to proceed with the purchase, confident that you’re making a sensible investment.

Victorian flat conversions

London, in particular, has a large number of Victorian houses that have been converted into flats. While the conversion may have been carried out relatively recently, it’s still important that you have a detailed survey to check the underlying structure of an old building and assess the overall build quality of the conversion. This is particularly important if the flat is run down or needs repair.

Would a HomeBuyer Report be sufficient?

It can be tempting to settle for a HomeBuyer Report to save a few hundred pounds at what can be an incredibly expensive time, but remember, your Victorian home has been around for many, many years. You have no idea what could be hiding behind its wallpaper, on the roof or in the loft, even if it’s presented immaculately. While a HomeBuyer Report will give you some basic information on your home and assess the general state of the property, it simply won’t provide the detail you need when buying a Victorian house. Saving money now could potentially cost you thousands in repairs further down the line.

What to ask for from a surveyor?

A RICS-qualified surveyor with experience in Victorian properties will know exactly what to look for during your building survey and will ensure your potential home is thoroughly checked. However, if you have particular areas of concern, be sure to raise these in advance. At Novello, for example, we’ll speak to you ahead of the survey to understand all your concerns; we’ll also contact your solicitor to see if they have any questions that need answering. We’ll then make sure we carry out a comprehensive assessment to uncover the true state of the property. Working in this way will take the confusion and complexity out of the house buying process and make sure you have all the information you need to make the best decision.

Also, when looking for a surveyor, don’t be afraid to ask for a sample report to ensure it provides the level of detail you need and double-check they have experience with Victorian homes.

What is included in a building survey?

A RICS Building Survey is the most in-depth and comprehensive report available and provides a detailed picture of the property’s construction and condition.

A Novello+ RICS Building Survey is designed to help you make an informed decision when it comes to buying a property. It will provide in-depth advice on the home’s condition, highlight any defects or issues, explain the likely cause and, crucially, offer major defect costing estimates.

It will look at a minimum of 20 internal and external areas of the property, including cellars, lofts and behind furniture. Your RICS qualified surveyor will conduct a condition and moisture check around windows, doors and external walls, check insulation and dampness, and investigate outside areas and outbuildings. At Novello, we’ll even offer a camera survey of the roof and other hidden areas. We’ll also assess the visible areas of available services such as gas and electricity and check energy efficiency and any environmental issues, such as flood risk. This will ensure we discover every possible defect and can provide a truly accurate valuation.

Common problems with Victorian houses

While Victorian houses can be beautiful, they can also be prone to several problems. This includes:

Damp

Victorian properties can be particularly vulnerable to damp, especially those that haven’t been extensively modernised over the years. Damp proofing systems will inevitably degrade over time, causing further issues. While not ideal, it can be rectified relatively easily; you just need to be clear on the cost and that it hasn’t caused any structural damage – something a building survey will be able to confirm.

Subsidence

As with any old property, it’s essential to check for subsidence when considering buying a Victorian property. You may also notice hairline cracks in the walls and ceilings as you view the property, and your surveyor will be able to tell you if these are anything to be concerned about.

Roof degradation

A building survey that thoroughly checks the condition of the roof and its associated elements is also crucial. There may be wear and tear the current owner is unaware of, or that tiles have cracked or need replacing, which can be an expensive job. Don’t forget; you can also get a specific roof survey if this is a particular area of concern.

Walls

Depending on the age of your Victorian property, it may have been constructed using less durable red bricks. It may also be the case that any repointing may have been done with materials such as cement that could decay more quickly. It’s therefore essential that the condition of external walls is assessed and moisture readings are taken.

The Novello Approach

At Novello, we offer a building survey partnership. We don’t just deliver a report and leave you to figure out the rest; we’re here to guide you through each house buying process step. Our expert advice, thorough survey reports, follow up guidance and experience in negotiations means we can ensure you don’t overpay for a house. The property you buy will be as expected when you move in, removing the fear of costly repair work in the future.

We’ll listen to you throughout, investigating any concerns you have, clearly explaining the results we find and their implications, and even sharing our contacts if further investigations or quotations for work are required.

We’re here to make sure you have all the information you need to make the right decision, pay a fair price and bring true peace of mind. Find out more by contacting us today or requesting a free consultation.