What are the Red Flags to Look Out For on a House Survey?

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What are the Red Flags to Look Out For on a House Survey?
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A house survey is one of the most important processes involved with buying or selling a house. It can usually be completed in a single afternoon, but it often has a big impact on the price a potential buyer is willing to pay and whether they want to proceed with the purchase at all.

If you’ve never had a house survey completed on your behalf before, you may feel slightly uneasy. After all, what are you supposed to be looking out for? Although the surveyor should be able to guide you on any major issues, there are certain red flags that you should also keep an eye out for yourself.

In the blog below, we have outlined some of the major red flags to look out for on a house survey.

Structural Issues 

Problems with the structure of a property are arguably the most significant because they can put the people living there at risk. Common examples include a damaged roof or foundation. 

If this problem is highlighted on a survey, you should find out where the problem is, how severe it is, and how much it would potentially cost to fix. Keep in mind that not all structural issues can be remedied quickly, cheaply or even at all, since if the foundation of the house needs to be looked at, this is a challenging thing to do.

Your surveyor will hopefully be experienced at looking at lots of houses, and can therefore provide you with guidance on the severity of the situation. You may choose to get a specialist in to look at the problem further, or you may want to pull out of the house sale altogether. 

Lots of people choose to reduce their price offer after finding a structural issue with a property, to reflect the costs that would need to be spent to fix it.

Unapproved Extensions 

If a homeowner has not received planning permission from a local authority, they are unable to get an extension completed on the property. Therefore, if your survey reveals that has a previous extension did not have approval, then this needs to be taken seriously.

Lots of people choose to walk away in this situation because there is always the chance of retrospective action being taken by the local authority further down the line. 

Furthermore, there could be extra legal fees involved, as you may need to consult with an expert who can advise you on what to do. For example, some lawyers advise that you do not try to get retrospective approval and instead keep quiet about what has happened. 

Either way, a lack of approval on an extension can open up a realm of difficulties that you may want to avoid – both for financial reasons and for peace of mind. 


Subsidence is often considered as another form of ‘structural issue’, as it involves the ground under your property sinking. This may cause the foundation of your property to become unstable and make it unsafe to live in the house.

There are different things that can cause subsidence, so you may choose to bring in a specialist to assess what is causing it. Some instances can fixed, but others may be much more difficult, and this will probably impact the choice you make.

Not only does subsidence devalue a property, but it also often requires you to take out insurance. Combined with the safety issues involved, lots of people decide to drop out of a property transaction once subsidence rears its head.

Neighbour Disputes 

Some neighbour disputes are far more severe than others, so getting details about the nature of the argument is an important first step. 

For example, perhaps the neighbours only had a problem with the house owners themselves and will be perfectly pleasant to you once you move in. On the other hand, if the dispute is about land, borders, or overlapping trees, then this may be a headache that will carry over to you.

Find out what the problem is, and then decide whether it will cause you any issues. The most severe neighbour disputes can cause people to walk away from a deal, but on other occasions, it may not affect you at all.


Unfortunately, dampness is extremely common in United Kingdom property, so it is difficult to find a house that has none of it whatsoever. However, the severity of the dampness, where it is in the house, and whether any attempts have been made to fix it.

A damp specialist can take a look at the house and provide guidance on the best route forwards. You may want to reduce your price offer on the house, as a result of the damp.

Roof Issues 

One of the most common problems found in a house survey is issues with the roof. After all, this part of the property is out of sight most of the time and is not regularly maintained, meaning that faults tend to build up.

There is a wide variety of issues that occur on a roof – from foliage growing around the chimney or a couple of cracked tiles, all the way up to an unstable roof structure that needs to be replaced.

Gutters, satellite dishes, chimneys, insulation, and solar panels (where applicable) should all be looked at for your house survey, too.


You will usually need an asbestos expert to carry out an inspection of the house and assess how serious it is. This expert should also be able to provide guidance on what can be done to manage the risk if you decide to move in there.

Listen carefully to the feedback you receive from the inspection, and decide whether you are still willing to live in the house. You will undoubtedly want to reduce your offer or perhaps even walk away (depending on the circumstances).

Pest Problems 

Infestations of bugs are not desirable, and if you were not away of these before the survey was completed, it will usually cause you to reduce your offer. 

Some pest problems are more serious than others, and getting an exterminator in to assess how easy the problem would be to fix – and whether it could be sorted out permanently – will impact how you proceed.

Even if a pest problem is fixed for the time being, your house may be positioned in a ‘susceptible spot’ (i.e. due to the animals that live in the area, your proximity to a forest or river, and so on). Details like this can be provided by the expert you bring in.


There is a wide range of electrical problems that can exist with a house, from small repairs to a rewiring needed for the entire property. You should get in touch with an electrician who can assess the danger, and give information on what needs to be done to fix it.

If remedying the situation is expensive, you will usually want to reflect this in your price offer. Furthermore, if the electrical problem is likely to happen again, then this may create a safety concern, especially if you have any young children in the house who may put their fingers in places they should not.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with the problems flagged up in your house survey, but getting an expert to provide additional guidance and then reflecting this in your price offer is usually a good place to start.

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