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Free Damp & Timber Survey Required

Posted by: on 02/05/2017

Damp in Buildings

I received an interesting phone call on Friday from a large established Established Estate Agency in Durham. The lady that called me asked if I was able to carry out a pre-purchase Damp & Timber Survey on a large 3 storey house that a client was looking to purchase.

I said that I was happy to do so and quoted a cost of £350-00 inclusive to do so. This would include a comprehensive report supported by photographic evidence and sketch plans of the building. My report would detail any defects relating to damp and the appropriate remedial work as well as a very accurate indication as to the cost of any potential remedial work.

She nearly choked on her cup of tea when I said that I charge for my survey. 'I want a free survey' she replied. The buyer wants a quote for damp proofing he does not need a survey'. Really!!!

Without an accurate survey, how does the buyer know that they need a damp-proof course? The average pre-purchase Damp & Timber survey will take me around 2 hours on site. I then have travel expenses and another 2-3 hours writing the report as well as my PI insuranceto pay etc. And it is expected that I will provide all of this for free.

I have been in this industry for over 30 years and nothing has really changed. Estate Agents are keen to make a sale and they will shop around to find someone daft enough to provide a 'Free Survey' whilst carrying all of the liability that goes with a survey. She said she would get back to me. I very much doubt it.

She said her regular 'Damp Expert' generally does the survey for free because he always gets the work when the sale is complete. I suspect that last week he was on holiday and she is looking to use another company to move the sale along.

I find the whole process very distasteful. The agent recommends their 'Damp Expert' who does the survey for free on the pretext that he can then quote for and almost be assured of getting the damp-proofing work.

Many of the companies that Estate Agents recommend are the smaller companies that are totally unregulated and unqualified to be advising clients on what will potentially be the biggest single investment they will ever make. Is there not a duty of care on behalf of the agent to provide the best advice to their clients?

Is recommending someone with no qualifications and no regulation really in the best interests of the client? Obviously not, but they often recommend the company who will provide a 'Free Survey' and submit the cheapest quote in order to move the sale along with no regard given to the quality of the Survey or the standard of the work eventually carried out.

The vast majority of the properties I survey have had damp-proofing work carried out in the past. The occupiers regularly present me with a Guarantee saying the work is covered for 20-30 years only to be told that the company that issued the Guarantee ceased trading many moons ago and the Guarantee is worthless (i am sure most surveyors have been in this situation).

No-one can afford to work for free and until all involved in the property business accepts that as a fact we will continue to see the horror stories that regular appear with worthless Guarantees and massively disappointed property owners who are affected both emotionally and financially.

The satisfaction of the 'Free Survey' is long forgotten when reality hits home.

Partial floor collapse The floor had been overlaid with plywood to hide the fungal decay/woodworm.
Sub-floor inspection a sub-floor inspection can reveal a number of concealed defects that could prove costly if not detected early.
Survey of Timber roof sections Unidentified water ingress in a roof can prove very costly. A detailed and thorough inspection of the roof timbers is essential.
Fungus on skirting board The fungus (Peziza) is harmless but indicates an underlying defect resulting in very high moisture levels.
Corroded Guttering A Pre-Purchase Damp Survey will flag up any issues related to damp inside and out.
Common Furniture Beetle Woodworm discovered during a pre-purchase timber inspection.
Rising Damp? The wall is damp but it takes a competent surveyor to determine the cause.
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