What to do after a ‘bad’ home survey

If potential or significant problems get uncovered in a survey, it might leave you feeling unsure about which direction to head in next.  

A ‘bad’ home survey – as most people think of them – can completely demoralise you, whether rightly or wrongly. In this article, we’ll be exploring the steps you should take when this happens. 

What common problems do home surveys find? 

Although a home survey will always be thorough and conducted professionally, they are limited to visual inspections. Surveyors can’t go around tearing plasterboard down or ripping carpets up. 

That being said, some of the most common problems home surveys find are: 


Damp problems are thought to affect up to 20% of properties in the UK. Moisture settles in the building due to things such as poor ventilation, failed damp proof course, a leaking roof or plumbing problem. Although it looks awful, most forms of damp are treatable. Of course, the real issue here is finding the cause of the damp. Once that’s fixed, the damp shouldn’t return. The primary forms of damp are rising, penetrating and condensation, with the repair cost varying depending on the scale of the problem. 

Rot to structural timber  

Structural timber can be affected by both dry rot and wet rot. Dry rot is a living, constantly growing fungus, spreading through airborne spores, that feeds on wood. It’s more destructive than wet rot (a naturally occurring fungus in damp, humid conditions) and, as a result, costs more to treat. 

Old wiring  

More homes than you might think need a complete rewire. If the wiring is out of date, below industry standards, or installed by a less-than-honest electrician, the home is at serious risk of an electrical fire. Household members could also be injured in an electrical accident. For an average house, a complete rewire will probably cost a few thousand pounds. 


Subsidence is the soil movement away from the property’s foundations, causing it to sink. Aside from it occurring naturally, common causes include burst pipes or the soil shrinking and expanding. Qualified professions can usually fix subsidence, but it might be harder to find insurance for the property. 

Japanese Knotweed 

With extremely long, powerful roots, the Japanese Knotweed plant is the bane of many properties. It can destroy foundations and gardens, and even find its way into houses themselves sometimes. That being said, with a treatment plan, you can keep it at bay effectively. 

What are my options? 

If your RICS-registered surveyor has found significant problems – or perhaps what looks like significant problems – in the home survey, your first step should always be to consult them. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on points they raise in their report and ask as many questions as you need to. You may like to: 

  • Clarify what a particular issue is 
  • Double-check how serious a noted risk is 
  • Ask whether you can easily fix a certain problem 
  • Check how much the repairs or replacements are likely to cost (approximately) 
  • Address any concerns you have over the property’s safety 

You might find that the issues noted in the surveyor’s report aren’t too unusual and can be safely repaired at a low cost. In this case, even if the report seems ‘bad’, you are likely to want to continue with the purchase as you were. 

However, if the surveyor believes the risks discovered in the home survey are more serious, you should follow a different path. The issue in question will need to be addressed, one way or another. Again, your chosen surveyor should recommend what they think is the safest course of action. Unfortunately, this might not always translate to the most cost-effective. 

Consider the surveyor’s advice and call out vetted and reliable tradespeople to examine the problem. It’s worth getting quotes from at least two or three different businesses – potentially more – so you’re more likely to choose the worker that’s best for you. You should avoid using tradespeople that the seller or estate agent recommends… keep it impartial. 

If the problems are significantly expensive to repair, you’re perfectly within your rights to lower your offer. The price you have initially put forward is subject to contract, meaning you aren’t legally bound to go through with the purchase until the exchange occurs. 

Alternatively, you could withdraw your interest from the purchase. Ideally, this wouldn’t be the case, but you might decide you have no other choice. 

Should I continue with the purchase? 

Ultimately, this decision is up to you. If the home survey report finds problems and risks with the property, you are still perfectly entitled to buy it. Just know that you may have to put a substantial amount of cash into it at some point in future. 

When a home survey uncovers a substantial and costly problem, you are perfectly entitled to reduce your offer on the house. However, keep it reasonable and bear the interests of all the other parties in mind, too. An unreasonable offer is unlikely to be accepted, but most people are flexible and willing to work with you to some extent. 

In summary, even if a home survey is ‘bad’, don’t panic! Keep focused. You might decide to go ahead with the purchase – you might not. Take your time and consult your surveyor in detail, and the rest will fall into place. 

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