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Beginners Guide Residential Advice Tips

Common Issues: an essential guide for homebuyers

We all know buying a house can be stressful, and it’s the biggest purchase we’ll make in our lives, so you need to know your time and money is being put into a sound investment. Whilst some buyers may be tempted to forego a building survey in the hope of saving some money, gaining a full understanding of your property and being made aware of any issues from a Chartered Surveyor is so important, and likely to save you a lot more money in the long run with research finding that 20% of buyers who don’t have a building survey pay £6,000 in unexpected repairs.

Damp

This is a common one and something we see in a lot of properties, but it’s not to be feared. There are a number of different types and causes of damp, but there are also plenty of remedial options.

Rising damp is often found in walls at ground floor level whilst penetrating damp can be located anywhere on a property, usually in an exposed location on the elevation or in close proximity to a rainwater pipe or other water source.

We’ll conduct moisture tests as we investigate the cause of the damp and will always explain your options. If damp is severe and we can’t gain access to enclosed parts of the construction which we suspect are at risk of decay, we may advise a further intrusive survey is undertaken by a specialist damp and timber surveyor.

Rot

You may have heard of some rot horror stories, but we believe there’s always a solution. Dry rot is able to form anywhere where you have timber, high moisture levels and air, and if untreated can develop into a costly issue. It’s one of the most feared types of rot for home owners as it has the ability to spread and develop across materials such as brick and in its final stages spores become airborne to other areas of the house not previously affected. Wet rot is usually confined to the timber where high moisture levels are present, typically rafter feet, joist ends and poorly maintained external joinery such as fascia’s or soffits. Building Surveys are non-intrusive so if we believe the issue needs a further intrusive investigation, we’ll recommend this within your report.

Our reports will highlight any rot issues we find, guiding you through your options and providing budget costs so you understand how much the issue may set you back. However, with any big  hidden issues found, it may be time to negotiate with your vendor on the costs of repair.

Failed pointing & spalling brickwork

We’ve seen this one in a lot of properties. When external walls comprising a traditional brick or stone are repointed using a modern cement mortar rather than an original lime mortar, moisture trapped in the walls has to escape via the bricks themselves as cement does not provide the porosity and flexibility needed. This can result in deterioration of the mortar and damaged or spalling brickwork. It’s not one to worry about too much, provided its dealt with in a timely manner to prevent further damage to the masonry, but it’s really important to use the right materials and budget for this in future repair works.

Structural integrity

Small cracks are often nothing to worry about and usually just a sign of historic movement or deferential settlement, and many localised settlement issues can be related to other defects we’ll identify, however your surveyor will highlight and explain any potential signs of more significant structural movement or subsidence.

The vast majority of structural cracks can be identified and diagnosed by our surveyors within our initial report without further investigation. However, If we do identify anything potentially more serious, we’ll recommend an investigation be undertaken to assess the severity of any issues on the structural integrity of the property.

Roof condition

A roof is designed to last for a number of years, and when repairs are needed, some key elements can likely be retained. We’ll highlight any visible issues with the roof, from slipped or damaged tiles and vegetation build up, to leaking joints and repairs needed to the underlay, and outline how much repairs are likely to cost. Your roof might not be leaking now, but it might be nearing the end of its useful life and soon become a headache, our surveyors provide advice around the approximate age of the covering and a guide on its expected longevity, so you know what you might have to deal with in the long term.

Trees & invasive species

We don’t just look at the building, we also take a look at external areas such as the garden, boundary walls and fences, gates, patios and outbuildings. We’ll include any issues and remedial works needed to these areas within our reports, and will also make comment on potential for issues caused by large trees in close proximity to the building where the roots could cause damage, and if we spot invasive plant species such as Japanese Knotweed or Giant Hogweed. These can be difficult and costly to get rid of, and can cause damage to buildings and gardens if not dealt with, so are important to be aware of before purchasing the property.

Asbestos & deleterious materials

Some issues just can’t be seen to the untrained eye, and especially not on a 15 minute house viewing, but our surveys will highlight materials that can be dangerous to health if not dealt with correctly, such as asbestos, lead pipework and horsehair plaster reinforcement. Although these materials haven’t been used in homes for many years, they are still in place in many older properties and it’s important to understand how they should be dealt with. Managing or removing deleterious materials can be costly and detrimental to the enjoyment of your new home.

Vermin & insect damage

It’s not a nice one to think about but at some point a property may have had a few visitors, be that rats and mice, bees and wasps, or wood boring beetle. We’ll highlight any areas where vermin and insects may have made a home, and if there’s an active infestation we’ll provide the advice you need to get it sorted

Radon risk

The bubble bath we hear you ask. No, that’s Radox. Radon isn’t an issue a lot of homebuyers think of but areas of high radon can be harmful to health and increase the risk of lung cancer. We’ll include the radon risk for your property within your report, and highlight any testing needed and your next steps if there’s a high concentration noted.

What to do if these are highlighted in your survey?

Don’t worry, it’s good to have these issues uncovered now and we’ll be here every step of the way. If we find any issues during your survey, we’ll explain the cause of this in full and thoroughly guide you through the remedial options, providing costings and detailing your next steps.

The Fourth Wall standard

Fourth Wall Building Survey reports are bespoke, developed with you in mind and designed to ensure you fully understand your property and can move forward with your purchase with confidence. We’re passionate about cutting the jargon and making property accessible, so you’ll be met with an honest personal service throughout your property journey.

Our reports provide a unique insight into your property which other types of report don’t, including mobile and broadband speeds, noise and disturbance data, and budget costs as standard, and we provide it in a format which is easy to understand with photographs throughout.

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Beginners Guide Tips

The House Purchase Process

After weeks spent scrolling Rightmove and Saturdays spent on house viewings, you’ve finally found a property you LOVE so it’s time to get that offer accepted and move forward with your purchase.

If this is your first home or it’s just been a while since you last sold, we’ve put together a guide to the process of buying a new home to make things a little clearer for you and take some stress away.

  • Search for your new home

Before you begin searching, make sure you’ve saved enough for your deposit, have checked how big a mortgage you can borrow from the bank, and are sure you’ll be able to afford the repayments.

Speaking to a mortgage advisor can really help you understand how much you can borrow, and aid you arranging an agreement in principle from a suitable bank so you understand what price range you can view and how much you can offer.

  • Make your offer and have the house taken off the market

Give as much detail as possible when making your offer. The estate agent will want to know you can definitely afford the offer you’re making, and other factors may be of interest to the seller such as if you’re a first time buyer or if you’re in a chain.

Some agents will do it automatically but others may not so make sure to ask to have the house taken off the market as a condition of your offer. If not, you could end up ‘gazumped’, where another buyer offers more money than you and the seller backs out of your deal.

  • Instruct a conveyancer (solicitor)

Once your offer has been accepted it’s time to instruct a conveyancer and really get the purchase moving. A purchase is typically advised to take 8 weeks but there may be holdups along the way that can make the process longer by a fair few months. We’d advise keeping in regular contact with your solicitor to make sure you know what’s happening and when.

  • Apply for your mortgage

You should already have your mortgage in principle but it’s now time to apply for the real thing. If you’re using a mortgage advisor, they’ll prepare you and ask for the relevant documentation, but if not, ask the bank you’re applying with what you’ll need such as bank statements, pay slips (or accounts if you’re self-employed), identification and proof of deposit.

The bank will very likely carry out a valuation survey at this point, but remember this is not a building survey and will not highlight issues beyond high level observations which might affect the value. The valuation surveyor here is working on behalf of the bank so to get a thorough overview of the property from someone impartial, make sure to instruct a Chartered Building Surveyor.

  • Instruct a building surveyor

Make sure this one is on your list early on. It’s so important to really understand the property you’re buying, this is probably the biggest purchase you’ll ever make. Instruct a Chartered Building Surveyor accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to conduct a homebuyers report or a full building survey. We have a full guide to which survey is best for you here but do get in touch with any questions.

A Chartered Surveyor will be working for you and only you to ensure you fully understand the property you’re buying and any issues it may have. They’ll spend time at the property conducting a visual inspection of all internal and external areas so they can explain any issues and advise on remedial works. We want to support you as much as we can, so we’ll always offer follow up calls to talk any questions through and advise on your next steps.

Our report may also raise additional queries for your solicitor, or may help them when setting out their enquiries for the seller, so it could be beneficial to instruct your surveyor when you’ve instructed your solicitor. Unlike other reports, Fourth Wall’s bespoke building survey reports include an Executive Summary that can be sent straight to your solicitor so they can see the key findings quickly and raise any necessary enquiries.

  • Discuss the findings of your survey and searches with your solicitor and make necessary enquiries to the seller

Your surveyor may suggest some further enquiries for your solicitor to make, such as boundary walls, historical party wall disputes and planning permission. Our bespoke building survey comes with an executive summary that can be sent straight to your solicitor so they can see issues, remedial works and necessary enquiries quickly and clearly.

  • Hire a removal company

It’s time to get packing! With your survey and searches done, start prepping for exchange and completion by contacting some removals companies. The property market is extremely busy so don’t leave this until the last minute!

  • Pay your deposit, exchange contracts and arrange completion

Once you’ve exchanged, you’re legally bound to the purchase so make sure you’re happy with the enquiries and your understanding of the property before you say yes at this point. This is also a good time to look at buildings insurance as you’ll now have responsibility for the property.

  • Complete on your property, pay your solicitor and stamp duty if necessary, and collect your keys

When you exchange contracts all parties will agree a completion day. This is the most exciting part as you count down the days to the move into your brand new home. The less exciting bit is seeing all that money leave your account, but it’s all worth it!

  • Give yourself time to settle in, and then instruct a surveyor or architect if you’re looking to make changes to your new home

You’ve moved in and started unpacking, but now your mind is racing with all the exciting updates you can make to your new home. Give yourself some time to settle in your home and understand what you’d like from the space, and then get in touch so we can help you design your dream home!

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Tips

10 Tips for House Viewings

Have you been spending time scrolling on Rightmove and finally have some viewings booked in? It’s so easy to just glance around a house and like what you see without really looking, so we’ve put together a few tips on what you should do on viewing day…

1. Ask Questions

This may seem simple but so many people don’t actually do it. Make sure you’re asking plenty of questions of the seller and estate agent. Think of what you really want to know to save you a headache in the long run, such as how old the boiler is and when it was last serviced? Are there any rights of way or shared access arrangements with the neighbours? Have the sellers had any work done on the property recently? Have there been any issues with vermin?

2. Get in the roof void or loft

If there’s a ladder there, get in the loft! Have a good look at the beams to check for damp or rot, look for signs of leaks or vermin, and check the roof covering is in a good state of repair from inside. Any staining or wet timbers are a clear sign you need to have things looked at more closely. There’s a lot of hidden clues in the roof void so if you can, make sure you check it out.

3. Look at exterior areas

Don’t just head straight in, step back and take a good look at the property from the outside. Check for any obvious defects that could be costly in the future. Your surveyor will look at these in more detail but it’s always good to be aware of potential issues.

Is the brickwork above the bay window sagging? This might indicate overloading of the window lintel which could lead to the lintel needing to be reinforced or replaced.

Are any roof tiles missing? Many people don’t look at the roof, and we’ve seen a fair few where we’ve had to recommend repair or full replacement, so make sure you’ve had a good look.

Are the boundary walls or fence panels in a good state of repair? So many people don’t look after these to keep them in good condition, so have a look to see if there’s a job you’ll be needing to do there.

4. Check for damp

Keep an eye out for signs of damp in key areas such as corner junctions, ceiling joints and external walls. There could be flaky paint, peeling plaster, water marks or even an obvious smell.

If a room has recently been re-painted, keep in mind that it could be a sign of covering something up.

5. Test water and electric

Turn the taps on and even ask if the vendor or estate agent can turn the shower on to check the flow. Knowing that key services like water are working as they should is essential, and is often overlooked on viewing day. Whilst you’re at it, switch lights on to check the electrics are in order and go have a look at the fuse box to see if it’s a modern consumer unit or not.

6. Keep an eye out for recently decorated areas

Sellers will usually be trying to make the house look as beautiful and inviting as possible to get some good offers, and they may even re-decorate to make the property seem fresh and modern. However, keep in mind which areas have been redecorated and if this could be hiding any issues such as damp or cracking.

7. Keep an eye out for cracking

Hairlines cracks are common as some natural movement occurs in houses, but there are some key areas to look out for cracks. Check by windows and doors, and joins in walls such as where new extensions join to the original building. If there are big cracks or a lot of them, keep in mind that there could be a bigger issue your surveyor will need to check.

8. Check the rooms work for you

Rooms may be staged beautifully but always think if it would work for you. Are the rooms big enough? Is there enough storage space? Are there enough plug sockets and where are they located?

It sounds obvious, but don’t be fooled by staging and really try to imagine yourself living there and bringing in your existing furniture and belongings.

9. Check which way the house faces

We all love some sun, and where the sun rises and sets is important to know if the rooms will work for you. When does the garden get the sun? Which room has the light in the morning and which in the evening? Try to view the house more than once, at a different time of day to see where the light falls.

10. Test windows and doors

Are all the windows and doors working and do they all still have keys? Is the double glazing still in order or is condensation visible between window panes? Do windows and doors have a safety mark? It’s easy to overlook on viewing day but windows and doors are pricey to replace, and if they’ve been kept in good order it could be a sign that the rest of the house has too.

These are just some key pointers that many people miss on viewing day, but to be sure of the condition and structural integrity of your property, always get a Chartered Building Surveyor to conduct a survey – it could save you a lot of time, money and hassle in the long run. Get in touch with us here.

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Beginners Guide

Which building survey is right for me?

Intro //

When buying a home, you should be advised by your estate agent and solicitor to get a building survey. We’re hoping you already have and that’s why you’re here! All our surveyors are members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) so are qualified and experienced to conduct a thorough survey for you.

RICS has done research that found home buyers are often confused by the products on offer and many are not aware of what survey they’ve paid for and what it should include. They’re introducing a new home buyers survey standard to simplify the process and language used in surveys and standardise their format to ensure they are all clear, honest, upfront about costs, and provide definitive value to clients. We’re proud to already adhere to these standards with our Level 2 and Level 3 surveys.

Choosing which survey is right for you and your property can depend on many things, such as if you need detail on costs, the age of your property and its general condition. It’s essentially a health MOT for your house.

What is a Level 2 Homebuyers Survey //

Level 2 surveys, also known as a homebuyers survey, involve an inspection of easily accessible areas of the property and will highlight serious issues relating to the building fabric and services such as gas and electric. This level of survey highlights defects identified but will not provide a detailed analysis, explanation of potential remedial options, or predicted costs.

In our Level 2 surveys, we provide an overview of the condition of the property, what repairs are needed, and guidance on further issues your solicitor should investigate. If your house is a fairly new build, a Level 2 survey should be sufficient as there are unlikely to be significant or historic defects, but in older properties we always recommend a level 3.

What is a Level 3 Full Building Survey //

If you’re looking for something more in-depth with full cost guidance, if the property was built pre-war, or is in a general poor state of repair, we’d suggest getting a Level 3 survey, also known as a full building survey. This survey is much more thorough, will access all areas of the property if possible, and will identify significant repairs and defects outside of routine maintenance. A Level 3 survey will give full details of what the issue is, why it’s an issue, why it’s occurring, what will happen in future if it’s not dealt with, timescales for work to be done, and costs of the work to repair, so you will have full peace of mind of the condition of the property you’re buying.

We think our full building surveys are free, because we’ll provide you with a comprehensive survey from a RICS chartered building surveyor, with clear advice on the property’s condition and costs associated with any defects, so you can negotiate with your vendor on the price of the property, or even help you decide whether to go ahead with the purchase. Have a look at an example of our Level 3 full building survey here.

Why use Fourth Wall //

We guide you through the process, not just provide you with a one-off report. Our small team of knowledgeable surveyors are always at the other end of the phone so you can discuss the findings directly with your surveyor.

Our bespoke reports provide risk ratings and a traffic light system so you can immediately understand what you need to worry about. We remove the jargon and talk to you in a language that everyone understands, and provide photos throughout your report so you can easily reference any issues without any hassle.

Check out our full list of services here or get in touch for a chat.