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Red flags on a house survey

& How to deal with them

A house survey is a critical step in the home-buying process, offering an in-depth assessment of a property’s condition.

While primarily for the buyer’s benefit, sellers can also benefit from understanding the red flags that could arise during a survey. This knowledge allows you to proactively address any issues, ensuring a smoother transaction and minimising the risk of the sale falling through. 

The level of detail in a survey report depends on the type chosen, with Level 2 (Homebuyer Survey) being the most common. This uses a traffic light system to highlight issues, with red indicating the most serious concerns. 

The Level 3 (Building Survey) is more comprehensive, and recommended for older or poorly maintained properties, providing detailed findings and recommendations. Regardless of the survey type, major red flags will be clearly highlighted, potentially impacting the buyer’s decision and the sale’s success.

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What are the red flags to look out for on a house survey?

While a house survey is primarily for the buyer’s benefit, as a seller, understanding potential red flags can help you prepare for negotiations and potentially avoid last-minute surprises that could derail a sale. Here are some of the major red flags that can occur:

Structural Problems

  • Large cracks in walls, uneven floors, or doors/windows that stick can signify settlement or subsidence, requiring an evaluation by a structural engineer.

Japanese Knotweed

  • An invasive plant that can affect property value and mortgage eligibility, but can be removed by specialists. 


  • Peeling paint or wallpaper, a musty odour, water stains, or tide marks on walls could indicate dampness. If untreated, damp can weaken the structure.

Roof issues

  • Missing or broken tiles, worn-out roof covering or damaged chimneys can result in leaks and internal damage.

Electrical systems

  • Outdated wiring (like old fuse boxes), insufficient sockets, or a lack of safety devices (RCDs) pose fire hazards and are costly to update.

Plumbing problems

  • Leaks, low water pressure, or outdated systems with corroded pipes and poor drainage can lead to costly repairs and water damage.


  • Signs of infestations, such as droppings or gnaw marks, can cause structural damage and health risks.

Asbestos or lead

  • These hazardous materials, often found in older properties, require specialist removal.

Poor ventilation

  • Inadequate ventilation can cause moisture buildup, leading to mould and dampness, especially in kitchens and bathrooms.

Environmental risks

  • Be aware of potential issues like flood risk, unstable ground, radon gas presence, or nearby trees that could affect the property’s foundations. 

While not as critical as the major concerns, these common issues can also impact your decision to purchase or allow you to negotiate on the price:

  • Boundary disputes: Can arise if property lines are unclear.

  • Cracks: Small cracks might be minor, but larger ones could indicate structural movement.

  • Drainage: Faulty gutters or drains can lead to water damage if not repaired. 

  • Dry rot: Usually a consequence of dampness and requires professional treatment.

  • Missing certification: Ensure the property has up-to-date gas, boiler and electrical safety certificates.

  • Lack of safety alarms: Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are essential for safety.

  • Unapproved building work: May require retrospective permission and could affect the property’s value.

  • Woodworm: An infestation that can waken timber, but is usually treatable. 

By proactively addressing any potential red flags before putting your house on the market, you can enhance the appeal of your property, address any issues upfront and can help avoid delays, as well as potentially achieving a higher sale price.

Remember a house survey is an opportunity for both buyers and sellers to gain a clearer understanding of a property’s condition. By being aware of potential red flags, you can take proactive steps to ensure a smoother, more successful sale.

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The most common house survey problem?

Damp is the most common issue found in UK house surveys, particularly in older properties. While precise statistics vary, some estimates indicate damp affects up to 50% of surveyed homes. This high frequency is largely attributed to the age of the UK housing stock, with a significant portion built before modern damp-proofing standards were established.

Older homes, unless renovated, often lack adequate damp-proofing measures, making them more susceptible to moisture related problems. Penetrating damp, caused by water entering from outside sources like leaking roofs, and rising damp, which originates from the ground are common culprits. However, condensation resulting from poor ventilation is also a frequent cause. 

Dampness can have a domino effect, leading to wet rot (both externally and internally) and dry rot, typically found in cellars and basements. If your house survey uncovers damp, it should ideally pinpoint the cause to determine the necessary repairs.

Here’s a breakdown of the key factors contributing to damp’s prevalence:

  • Age of properties: Older properties often lack modern damp-proofing techniques.

  • Building materials: Traditional materials like brick and stone are porous and prone to absorbing moisture.

  • Climate: The UK’s humid climate exacerbates moisture issues.

  • Poor ventilation: Inadequate airflow allows moisture to build up, leading to condensation. 

How do you fix damp in a house?

Addressing damp in a house requires identifying the specific type of damp and its underlying cause, as each type necessitates a tailored approach.

Condensation, the most common type, is caused by excess moisture in the air, primarily due to inadequate ventilation. Solutions involve increasing ventilation by opening windows, utilising extractor fans and ensuring vents are unobstructed. 

Dehumidifiers can reduce moisture levels, while lifestyle changes like drying clothes outdoors and covering pans while cooking can help prevent its recurrence. In more severe cases, installing ventilation systems or positive input ventilation (PIV) units may be necessary.

Rising damp, another prevalent type, occurs when groundwater rises through walls due to a lack of a compromised damp-proof course. Rectifying these issues involves installing or replacing the course, often through a chemical injection into the wall. Additionally improving external drainage to prevent water accumulation around the property and replacing damaged materials with damp-proof alternatives are essential steps. 

Penetrating damp arises from water leaking through walls or roofs due to structural problems. To fix this, identify and repair the source of the leak, whether it’s a cracked wall, damaged roof tile or blocked gutter. Enhancing external waterproofing and ensuring proper ventilation to dry affected areas are crucial.

Other types of damp, such as lateral damp and interstitial condensation, require specific solutions like improving drainage and insulation, respectively.

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Should you be nervous about a house survey?

It’s completely natural to feel anxious about the results of a house survey. Even after multiple viewings where everything seems perfect, a trained eye might uncover hidden issues. While a survey report can significantly impact a property deal, even a less-than-ideal outcome doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the road. 

Here’s a step-by-step approach to navigating a potentially concerning survey:

Be Proactive:

Before the survey takes place, consider conducting a pre-listing inspection. This allows you to identify and address any potential issues beforehand, demonstrating transparency and potentially fetching a higher asking price.

Understand the survey types:

Familiarise yourself with the different types of surveys (Home buyer Report or Full Building Survey) to understand their level of detail and potential outcomes. This can help you anticipate the areas a surveyor might focus on.

Engage with the surveyor (if possible):

While the surveyor primarily communicates with the buyer, you can request a copy of the report. If any issues are raised, don’t hesitate to seek clarification from the surveyor. Understanding their perspective can help you gauge the severity of the findings.

Prepare for negotiation:

If the survey reveals concerns, be prepared for the buyer to request a price reduction or ask you to fix the issues before the sale. Consider obtaining quotes for repairs from reputable professionals to have a clear understanding of the potential costs involved.

Negotiating after a survey:

Based on the survey results and repair estimates, you will have several options. The first, is to negotiate the price by agreeing to a lower selling price with the buyer that reflects the cost of repairs. The second is to fix the issues yourself, which is ideal if the problems are minor.

The third option is to meet the buyer halfway and offer to cover a portion of the repair costs by taking a smaller price reduction. And, the last is to walk away. If the buyer’s demands are unreasonable or the repairs are too costly, you have the right to decline their offer and seek another buyer.

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My buyer wants to reduce price after survey, what do I do?

When facing a price reduction request after a house survey, sellers can easily navigate the situation. First and foremost, it’s important to obtain the buyer’s revised offer in writing, ensuring clarity and avoiding misunderstandings. 

Additionally, requesting a copy of the survey report allows you to assess the validity of the buyer’s concerns and determine whether the proposed reduction aligns with the actual repairs needed.

Be mindful of the possibility of gazundering, a tactic where buyers attempt to lower the price just before the contract exchange. Don’t feel pressured to accept an unreasonable offer. Instead, carefully analyse the survey report, differentiating between urgent repairs that could affect the property’s safety or value and minor maintenance issues. 

During negotiations, consider prioritising significant repairs before the sale to potentially maintain your original asking price. If that’s not feasible, explore alternative solutions and share repair costs or offering a credit towards future repairs. Leveraging recent market data can be a valuable way to justify your position if the buyer’s offer falls significantly below market value. 

Throughout the process, maintain open and transparent communication with the buyer and their estate agent. Explain your perspective, address their concerns, and work towards a mutually agreeable solution. 

How do you respond when someone asks for the lowest price?

When a potential buyer inquires about your “lowest price”, it's important that you navigate the conversation strategically. Begin by acknowledging their interest and express your understanding of their desire for the best value. This establishes a positive rapport and opens the door for a productive discussion. 

Avoid immediately revealing your rock-bottom price. Instead, gently steer the conversation by asking them to share their perspective on a fair price, considering the property’s condition and the current market. This encourages them to reveal their budget, by providing you with valuable insights for negotiation. 

Invite the buyer to present a counteroffer, demonstrating your willingness to negotiate while also gaining a starting point for further discussions. During negotiations, highlight the unique features and recent upgrades of your property, emphasising its value and justifying the asking price.

If reaching an agreement on price proves challenging, consider offering alternative incentives such as covering closing costs, including appliances or contributing towards necessary repairs. 

Maintain a firm but fair stance throughout the negotiation process, using market data and the property’s condition to support your position. Remember, you have the right to reject an offer that doesn’t meet your expectations. 

How do you decline a lower price offer?

Declining a lower price offer can be a delicate situation, but with tactful communication and a strategic approach, you can protect your interests and potentially reach a mutually beneficial outcome. Here are some top tips on how to handle such a situation:

Express gratitude & acknowledgement

Begin by thanking the buyer for their interest and their offer. Acknowledge that you’ve considered their proposal carefully.

Politely decline

Clearly state that their offer doesn’t align with your expectations. Avoid being overly negative or critical. Instead, use phrases like “Unfortunately, the offer doesn’t meet our current needs” or “While we appreciate your interest, we’re seeking a price that better reflects the property’s value.”

Provide justification (optional)

You can briefly explain your reasoning, citing factors like recent comparable sales, the property’s condition, or improvements you’ve made. However, avoid getting into lengthy debate or disclosing your bottom line.

Counteroffer (if applicable)

If you’re open to negotiation, present a counteroffer that reflects a price you’re willing to accept. This shows your willingness to compromise while still maintaining your position.

Maintain a professional tone

Throughout the communication, be respectful and professional. Remember, you might want to leave the door open for future negotiations or a different buyer.

Consider alternatives

If reaching an agreement on price seems unlikely, explore other options. Perhaps you can offer concessions on other aspects of the deal, such as covering closing costs or including appliances.

Be prepared to walk away

If the buyer’s offer is significantly below your expectations and they’re unwilling to negotiate further, don’t be afraid to walk away. There will be other buyers who are willing to pay a fairer price for your property.

Here are some example responses:

“While we appreciate your interest we’re seeking a price that unfortunately does not meet yours. We wish you all the best.”

“Thank you for your offer. While we appreciate your interest, we’re unfortunately not able to accept it at this time. We’ve received other offers that are closer to our asking price.”

“We’ve considered your offer carefully, but it doesn’t quite meet our expectations. We’re confident in the value of our property and believe it’s worth [your counter offer amount].”

“Thank you for your offer. We’re open to negotiation, but we’d like to see if we can find a price that works for both of us. Would you be willing to increase your offer to [your counter offer amount]?”

What percentage of buyers pull out after a survey?

While various factors contribute to failed house sales, surveys play a significant role. Our research indicates that approximately 33% of all property transactions fall through, with around 7.5% of these failures attributed to issues uncovered in home surveys. 

This translates to roughly 2 to 3 out of every 100 house sales collapsing due to survey-related problems. Applying this percentage to the 1,374,050 houses sold between 2021-2022, it’s estimated that around 35,712 sales fell through specifically because of survey issues.

These figures show the importance of both buyers and sellers understanding the potential impact of a house survey. For buyers, it states the need for thorough surveys to uncover any hidden problems before committing to a purchase. 

For sellers, it emphasises the importance of being proactive in addressing any potential issues before listing their property, potentially reducing the risk of a sale falling through.

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How to negotiate house price after the survey?

While a smooth home buying process is ideal, survey results don’t always paint a perfect picture. As a seller, understanding how to handle a buyer’s request for a price reduction after a survey can ensure a smoother transaction. 

Open communication is key

When a buyer requests a price reduction after a survey, it can be a nerve-wracking experience for the seller. However, understanding the situation and approaching it strategically can lead to a successful outcome.

First and foremost, engage in open communication with the buyer. Obtain the survey report and discuss the findings in detail, this helps you understand their concerns and assess the validity of the requested reduction. 

Prioritise and assess

Remember, not all issues are equal. Some might be minor cosmetic fixes, while others could be major structural problems, which is why you will need to prioritise and address them accordingly. 

Obtain professional quotes

If the survey reveals issues that warrant repairs, consider obtaining multiple quotes from reputable professionals. This will allow you to understand the potential costs involved and negotiate from an informed position. 

Explore negotiation options

You have several options when negotiating: reduce the price, offer to fix the issues before completion, share repair costs with the buyer, or explore indemnity insurance for specific legal or structural matters. 

It’s important to avoid ignoring the survey finds or being inflexible in negotiations. Remember, the buyer is likely to be invested in the property but also wants to ensure they’re making a sound financial decision. By demonstrating a willingness to work together and find a solution, you increase the chances of a successful sale.

Know your limits

Be prepared to negotiate, but also know your bottom line. If the buyer’s demands are unreasonable or the cost of repairs is prohibitive, you have the right to decline their offer and seek another buyer.

Ultimately, a house survey is an opportunity for both parties to understand the property’s condition fully. By approaching the situation with transparency, understanding and a willingness to negotiate, you can steer potential hurdles and ensure a smooth transaction. 

Is it normal to negotiate price after survey?

Negotiating the price of a property after a survey is a common and accepted practice in the UK housing market. The survey serves as an assessment of the property’s condition, often revealing issues that could impact its value. After reviewing the survey findings, buyers may reassess their initial offer based on the need for repairs or other concerns.

While some sellers might perceive this as a tactic to lower the price, it’s important to note that renegotiating after a survey is not considered gazundering. Gazundering refers to the unethical practice of reading the offer just before the exchange of contracts, when the seller has limited options. 

Negotiating based on survey findings is a legitimate way for buyers to ensure they’re making a sound financial investment. If the survey uncovers significant issues that weren’t apparent during viewings, it’s reasonable for the buyer to adjust their offer to reflect the potential costs of repairs.

As a seller, it’s important to be prepared for the possibility of renegotiation after a survey. Approach the situation with an open mind and be willing to engage in constructive discussions with the buyer.

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My buyer has pulled out after survey, what should I do?

When a buyer pulls out of your house sale, it can be very disheartening. While failed sales are more common than one think, with 31% of house sales falling through before completion in England and Wales in the first quarter of 2-24, there are steps you can take to address the situation.

In England and Wales, neither party is legally bound to complete the sale before contracts are exchanged. This means the buyer can pull out for any reason, and you, as the seller, have limited recourse. 

If this does happen to you, you should:

1. Investigate the reasons

Reach out to your estate agent or solicitor to understand why the buyer withdrew. While they might not be obligated to disclose details, they can often provide some insight into the decision. 

2. Address survey concerns (if applicable)

If the survey revealed issues, consider offering to complete necessary repairs before the sale completes, or be open to negotiating a lower price to reflect the cost of repairs.

3. Remarket your property 

If the buyer’s decision is final, relist your property promptly. You will be able to utilise previous marketing materials and any feedback from the initial sale to optimise your listing.

OR. Consider alternative routes to sale

If you need to sell your house fast, due to personal circumstances or you need to buy an onward property, then you could consider selling your house to a cash house buyer instead. Here at The Property Buying Company, we are one of the UK’s leading cash house buyers, and we can help you sell in as little as 7 days, helping you get your house sale back on track.

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House survey FAQs

What should I worry about on a house survey?

As a seller, the major concerns to watch out for in a house survey include structural problems (cracks, subsidence), damp, roof issues, electrical or plumbing problems, pest infestations, asbestos or lead presence, poor ventilation, and environmental risks. 

Additionally, be aware of common issues like outdated heating systems, insufficient insulation, or missing safety certificates, as these can also influence a buyer’s decision.

How to sell house after a bad survey?

If a survey reveals issues, you have several options when selling a house. The first is to address the problems directly, by obtaining quotes for repairs and either fix the issues yourself before re-listing or factor the repair costs into your asking price.

The second is to lower the asking price and negotiate with potential buyers. The third is to be transparent and disclose the survey results upfront to potential buyers, demonstrating honesty and building trust.

Can a survey stop a house sale?

While a survey itself cannot legally stop a house sale, it can significantly impact a buyer’s decision. If the survey uncovers major issues or extensive repairs, the buyer may withdraw their offer or attempt to renegotiate the price. However, in most cases, the sale can still proceed if both parties can agree on a solution.

Can a surveyor devalue a house?

A surveyor doesn’t directly devalue a house, but their report can influence its perceived value. If the survey identifies significant problems, buyers might lower their offer to account for the cost of repairs or the perceived risk. However, the surveyor’s role is to provide an objective assessment of the property’s condition, not to determine its market value.

Can a house fail a survey?

There’s no pass or fail in a house survey. The surveyor provides a detailed report on the property’s condition, highlighting any defects or potential issues. It’s up to the buyer to decide whether the finds are acceptable or if they warrant further negotiation or withdrawal from the sale.

Do you buy any house in any condition?

Here at The Property Buying Company, we can buy any house in any location, in any condition. We are a cash house buying company and actively seek out properties that are in need of a little TLC. It doesn’t matter if you have a leaky rough, minor subsidence or Japanese Knotweed, we will either buy your property directly or find an investor for you.

Tom Condon

Tom Condon, one of our content writers, has fascinating expertise in sustainability in the property industry. Tom thoroughly understands the market and has experience in both residential and commercial property. He enjoys attending conferences and staying current with the most recent property trends.