It sounds incredible, but when you buy a home you’re pretty much on your own, legally speaking.

Imagine if, on the day you move in, the toilet refuses to flush, the foul drains overflow or the sofa sinks into the rotten floor. Unlike buying a new TV, or even a box of muesli, you haven’t got a leg to stand on in terms of consumer protection.

You can’t take it back to the estate agent or the person who sold it to you and demand a refund!

This is how it works;

When you agreed to pay the price you assumed that all the important stuff – the foundations, electrics, heating, drains, walls and roof etc – were fit for purpose.

OK you probably had a bit of a haggle to cover the cost of replacing the tired old kitchen units and peeling wallpaper or misted windows. But most buyers don’t get much of a chance to look behind the scenes.

Estate agents certainly won’t go out of their way to point out the serious damp problem lurking under the floor boards.

So here are just a few examples of things that surveyors look for:-

  • Has the owner made any dangerous illegal structural alterations, like knocking through internal walls, cutting out roof timbers or chimney breasts, or dodgy DIY electrics?


  • Did the original builders botch the construction, such as leaving out firebreak walls in the loft or perilously thin rear addition walls?


  • Is there a hidden backlog of neglected maintenance? If so it may be causing hidden leaks, damp problems and timber decay.


  • If the roof is nearing the end of its life the cost of replacing it could set you back £10k or more. And if old ceilings have lost their key is there any risk of collapse, perhaps in a child’s bedroom?


In a typical house survey, surveyors identify a number of potentially costly, and sometimes dangerous defects.

listing them all here, it would be good to know that the place you’re buying is free from nasties like asbestos, radon gas, subsidence, beetle infestation, fungal decay, damp and mould.

If there are problems, who can you trust for independent advice? You really need someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in drumming up business.

That’s where chartered surveyors come in useful.

But it’s not all about delivering bad news. They can reassure you they’ve looked at the whole property and given most of it a green light. And things look worse than they are, like old sloping floors where a surveyor can use their experience to determined if the movement is ‘historic’, or that cracking is just seasonal movement.

It’s a no brainer really – without a survey you’re risking being lumbered with a ‘money pit’ that could cripple you financially with a long list of expensive repairs!

Best of all, there’s every chance that you’ll get your survey fee back, and more, by renegotiating the price if it turns out there are significant defects.

Think of it like this: when the estate agent originally valued the property they weren’t aware of the defects the survey has flagged up. So it’s only reasonable that the price should be adjusted to reflect the cost of putting things right.

Compared to risking buying your home ‘blind’, a survey could save you many thousands of pounds in expensive repairs.

So what’s the right survey for the house or flat you’re buying? The truth is, nine times out of ten a relatively inexpensive RICS Homebuyer report (a.k.a. a Homebuyer survey) is perfect.

The surveyor will report on the whole property where accessible from the loft down to the drains, including the building’s structure. You don’t need a more expensive ‘full structural’ building survey unless the house is very old (pre- late Victorian) or very big (5 bedrooms or more) or obviously very dilapidated (perhaps a development project).

To be sure you’re not paying over the odds for your survey, it makes sense to use a price comparison site like Rightsurvey. Our panel of local surveyors will charge you less than it would cost booking a survey without first comparing prices.

To see a range of Homebuyer survey quotes at low prices for free just click here.