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The Estate Agents says
that the building problems are already
allowed for in the price
This is what we do as surveyors
1stAssociated can provide help and advice with regard to buying a property, estate agents, valuations, building surveys, structural surveys, property surveys, structural reports, engineers reports, specific defects report, home buyers reports or any other property matters. As you can see from this article we use lots of sketches and photos in our reports as the feedback we have from our clients is that the sketches and photos help them understand the reports.
We would recommend that you meet the Building Surveyor at the property during the course of the survey and speaking to them about what they have found and again speaking to them when they have completed the report.
Please call us on free phone 0800 298 5424 for a friendly chat with one of our surveyors.
Trust me I'm an estate agent
We have just had a long, almost unbelievable discussion with an estate agent. We say discussion but it is more of a disagreement or difference of opinion shall we say. We were advised that the new roof that the property needed was identified in our structural survey, that had never been mentioned before and had been allowed for in the price of the property when it was being marketed.
Victorian property with its original roof
Just to explain a bit further, this is a Victorian property that still has the original roof. Over the years the slates have slipped and been replaced with a variety of different slates. Many of the repairs have been sub-standard where they places have been nailed back by non-ferrous metals (they rust), and also some had been fixed back in the more traditional method with a lead tingle. Here's a typical sketch that we put in our building survey to show this type of problem, along with the definition.
Lead Tingles or Lead Slaps Defined
These are strips of lead usually about 25mm wide which are used to secure slates where they have slipped.
Building survey shows problems with roof
We think it was fairly evident from our building survey that there was a problem with the roof. Most estate agents are unlikely to see this problem and even the experienced estate agents who should be able to see this problem often does not want to see this type of problem. Let us explain why.
The reasons why estate agents don't see building problems and don't allow for building problems
The reason estate agents don't allow for such problems as this is because when they are invited to come and value the price of a house before it goes on the market. They are well aware of several things:
So, what tends to happen is that most estate agents value slightly high or very high. They do know the sort of properties that have sold in the area and what their real sale price was, however, and more importantly, the estate agent may know the prices that other properties are on sale for in the area, which is what the owners will tend to have seen in newspapers or on RightMove, Property Finder or Zoopla, or other similar Internet sell your house websites.
Estate agents will tend to look at the sale prices and equivalent houses and also look for houses that are better for sale prices above these (it can be argued why we get a forever rising house price market usually).
If an estate agent will say to the owner that we think you have problems with your roof and they will have to put the price on lower than the owners thought because of this problem it is unlikely that the owner would go with the estate agent, and after all estate agents without houses to sell is an empty shop.
Victorian slate roof, slipped slates and lead tingles
Back to our scenario with the Victorian roof. An experienced estate agent with property knowledge could have seen the roof problems, But most experienced estate agents have sales knowledge and know that a property sells from the inside out, as well as on things like location, good local schools and on the price. It is only in the latter stages that customers often think about possible property problems, we would say with one exception.
When buying a house you don't normally think of property problems until the last minute
We have mentioned above that customers don't normally think about property problems until the final stages when they have a building survey carried out. We would add that there is one group of people that thinks about property problems very early on; we find these are customers who have had problem properties before, when they have bought a property naively without having a building survey carried out and then discovered all sorts of problems which always take more time and cost more money than you ever expected.
Estate agents don't want to know about property problems
So a typical property scenario from an estate agents point of view is the property is marketed and the estate agent finds someone who can afford the house and wants to buy the house, using what's known as a proceedable position (where they have a mortgage in place) and then as it gets closer to the sale date the purchasers of the house start to think about having a survey carried out and a valuation and if they don't think about it then most, if not all, solicitors would recommend they have a building survey. For obvious reasons the estate agent and solicitor may or may not recommend a survey, and of course the estate agents won't think about having a survey, in fact they will do their upmost to persuade people not to have a building survey.
The difference between a building survey and a valuation
Whilst we are on the subject, we would just comment that regardless of what an estate agent tells you, a valuation is not the same as having a building survey. Even the valuation report itself says that this is not a survey and recommends you have a building survey.
Common sense prevails and the purchaser has a building survey
For whatever reason, common sense prevails and the purchaser has a building survey. This then identifies problems, for example in this case roof problems. Our survey will show the problems, take photographs of the problems and explain how to resolve the problems under the Action Required section and the Anticipated Cost section give you the approximate cost.
With health and safety and today's building techniques scaffolding is usually required, including covering the entire property with a roof (known in the trade as a tin hat) in case it rains. This has a two fold effect:
The estate agent has said he doesn't think there's anything wrong with the property
Along with the roof issues, which were the main problems on this property, we also found various other issues; some of them very basic requirements, like the need for the re-wiring of the electrics to a few other DIY type problems.
The purchaser then approaches the estate about these and the estate agent of course doesn't want anything to affect the sale and they advise the purchaser they don't think there is anything wrong with the property.
Remember, estate agents get paid on commission
The estate agent saying there is nothing wrong with the property is an interesting comment and we think it is driven by the estate agent being paid on a commission basis and without the sale he/she won't get his commission.
We have lost count of the number of times that estate agents have said that they don't believe there's a problem. We normally say to the estate agent to put it in writing that they don't think there's a problem and most estate agents won't do this. In our decades of being a surveyor and carrying out surveys we have only seen an estate agent put in writing their comments once and we have also spoken to a semi-retired surveyor who advises that he has only seen estate agents put their comments in writing a few times. Often they use the quotes of their own local contractors to verify their comments. Over the years we have come across all sorts of problems where estate agents claim there aren't any problems.
The semi-retired surveyor made the interesting comment that estate agents sell and only sell and do almost anything to sell.
Does a structural survey save you money?
In the instance that we have described about the roof the purchase price has now been reduced by over £10,000, which is a saving on the original purchase price, albeit that you will have to do some work. However, in this particular instance we only carried out a building survey and we have not carried out a valuation the property so it could be that the sale price being reduced is a price that was too high anyway; we simply don't know for certain without carrying out our investigations and research to produce a valuation.
Is there any value in alterations being carried out without planning permission or building regulations?
We have had a few scenarios recently where work has been carried out without planning permission and building regulations and we can honestly say that it does depend on each specific case. In this instance, to give you an example, the owners had opened up a window at first floor level and put French doors in and then a decking, which gives a very nice sitting out in the sun spot at first floor level and is very nice for the owners. Unfortunately due to the configuration of the back gardens on one side it over looks one neighbour's garden and on the other side it overlooks five neighbours' gardens. If planning permission had been applied for on this it's unlikely it would have got permission due to the intrusion into other people's space, however it had now been there so long that the neighbours commented that it's always been there since they had been in the property and could be argued that it's an accepted feature.
However, we can also see the work has been carried out without building regulations as the doorway is bowing. Given the age of the property we would have expected there to have originally been a wooden window in place which was then replaced with plastic French doors, which simply don't have the same strength as wood unless they are reinforced and this has given a bowing top of the door.
This roof garden is on the estate agents particulars and these particulars have the usual very small print on the back. In this case the sales brochure is generally done in a font size 12 and the exclusions are at least half of this and you would literally need a magnifying glass to read. The exclusions basically say that they take no responsibility for anything they say or do. They are over 6 lines, which equates to approximately 100 words, and remember at the end of the day the legal system is caveat emptor, which means buyer beware.
Estate agents will do almost anything to sell a property, as does any good sales person
We don't want this article to in any way reflect badly on estate agents because we are very aware that they are sales people and as such they are selling very hard in some cases and they are only able to sell what they've got to whoever walks through their door. We would say it is very under estimated how very good a sales people estate agents are; many of them get the buyer to truly believe that they are helping them but it's nothing more than sales talk.
To give one further example of this from a surveyor's point of view, we looked at a post-war property which on the face of it looked in superb condition, both to the estate agents, the average buyer and the surveyor. It was only when the surveyor went in the roof as he was carrying out the building survey (if you are not aware, some surveys don't require you to go in the roof) and could see that it was still the original roof and the property had a clay nibbed tile without any protective underlayer (also known as sarking felt or under felt) and this had resulted in wind driven rain over the years getting through under the tiles and deteriorating the nibs that hold the clay tiles on to such an extent that we thought there five to possibly ten years life left in the tiles before re-roofing work was needed. The way that clay works often is that it has a harder outer shell and a softer inside, very much like a hard boiled egg, so once the harder outer shell has deteriorated (which can take many decades) then the deterioration process accelerates and this is the stage we were at. Tell tales signs of red dust in the roof indicated deterioration of the nibs were well on their way.
When we presented this fact in the survey our client showed the photographs to the estate agent and the estate agent argued very strongly (our client actually said threateningly) that there was nothing wrong with the roof and he had seen it with his own eyes, although we had photos and the report that shows there was a problem. You may have heard of selective hearing, this was very much a case of selective vision. We really can't understand the estate agent's problem (other than his commission being reduced) as we had clearly shown there was a problem by photographic evidence, as well as explaining it and what needs doing.
The client obtained a quote for the work (remember you should get the owner's permission), in fact the client had got two quotes, both of them showed that the property needed re-roofing, yet still the estate agent argued on for his client / commission. To some extent the estate agent will change their tune over time, on other cases they just can't negotiate because the vendor won't allow them to for whatever reason, it could be anything from:
Remember, a house can be improved way above the value of the road.
Hints, tips and recommendations on how to deal with estate agents
Our recommendations are:
You can see this process of estate agents talking people into something they don't want and people changing their mind as they get to understand what properties are available on many good property programmes.
Here's a link to some of the articles we've carried out on property programmes:
Independent Surveyor's Advice
If you truly do want an independent expert opinion from a surveyor with regard to valuations, structural surveys, building surveys, structural reports, engineers reports, defects report, including things such as cracks, dampness, condensation, foundation problems, etc, dilapidations, homebuyers reports or any other property matters please free phone 0800 298 5424 for a surveyor to give you a call back.
Independent Commercial Property Surveyors
If you have a commercial property, be it leasehold or freehold, then you may wish to look at our Dilapidations Website at www.DilapsHelp.com and for Disputes go to our Disputes Help site www.DisputesHelp.com .
We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have put is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human).
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