A property survey is an on-site inspection carried out by a qualified surveyor. They will record any problems with the building and surrounding land before you commit to buying it.

A survey is not mandatory, but it can flag minor problems as well as serious causes for concern – anything from blocked drains to roof damage.

Here are some common red flags:

Asbestos

Asbestos is associated with buildings from the 1950s and 1960s, but any building built before 2000 could contain asbestos. It can be found in various spaces: gutters, insulation, water tanks and old heating units. When disturbed and the fibres are airborne, the inhalation has been linked to various cancers. If your surveyor sees common signs of asbestos, they may recommend further investigation by an asbestos removal specialist.

Damp

Damaged plaster, mould from condensation and rising damp are likely to lead to costly repair works. Your surveyor will look for warning signs and differentiate between penetrating damp to rising damp and condensation.

Japanese knotweed

This invasive, non-native plant species is notorious for damaging property in a big way.

Structural movement

Your surveyor should spot early signs of subsidence (sinking or collapsed ground beneath a property), heave (the upward movement of ground), or bowing (the leaning or bulging of external walls).

Be on the lookout for things like cracks in doorframes or brickwork, as well as tree roots which could cause structural problems in the future.

Timber defects

Buying a historic timber building? Keep in mind that untreated timber is susceptible to rot, woodworm and the House Longhorn beetle. A good surveyor will check for potential issues with wooden floors, panels and cladding.

For further information on surveys, here is a useful guide.

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