Buying an Old House? Get a RICS Building Survey

Look Twice to Avoid Surprises Down the Line

An old house has character and charm. But it can also have damp, rot and subsidence. A full survey will tell you exactly what you are getting.

They don’t make houses like they used to. It’s a phrase you hear often, and on initial analysis it sounds like a statement of the blindingly obvious. They don’t make cars, televisions or telephones like they used to either, and unless you are a collector of old technology, that is probably a good thing.

Where buildings are concerned, though, it is a little different. Old houses were over engineered and made to last. Go through any town or village, and you will see street after street of properties that were built more than 100 years ago, and will still be standing long after we are long gone.

All the charm, with modern convenience

An old house also has character, something that is severely lacking in modern construction. You could say the same about an old car, but while a 1955 Morris Minor might look charming, it will also be unreliable and a nightmare to drive on modern roads. An old house, however, can have all the modern comforts of central heating and technology inside, while retaining its old world charm.

It can also retain some less desirable aspects, however. Professional providers of property preservation services say that damp and rot problems are a common feature in old properties, particularly those that have never been renovated. That in itself doesn’t have to be a problem – the damage can be repaired and future problems eliminated – but only if you are aware of the situation in the first place.

Benefits of a full survey

When you are buying a modern home, the main point of the survey is to confirm the overall condition to satisfy your mortgage lender. This is known as a condition report, and while it will identify any glaring defects, it will not go into any kind of detail.

A homebuyer report is the “standard survey” that many buyers go with. This identifies subsidence or damp issues, provided they are visible when walking around the property, while a building survey goes into more details still and outlines different repair options and probable costs.

Spending a few hundred pounds now on one of the more in-depth survey options will pay for itself in the long run when you are buying an older property. Damp and rot are part and parcel of the old house experience and should not be cause for panic. However, getting them put right needs expertise, and of course, there is going to be a cost associated with that.

By having this information to hand before you commit to buy, you can have a pragmatic conversation with the seller and agree on a number that will ensure you remain on budget, while the vendor is still getting a fair market price.

Enjoy the old house dream

There is nothing quite like a period property, and the sheer choice available is one of the things that makes living in the UK so special. Just ensure you are fully informed as to what you are buying – that way, the dream will not become a nightmare.