Thoroughly inspecting or surveying a new home is an essential step for buyers – and it’s key to do it before you sign any paperwork. Knowing as much information about the property's current condition saves you from making bad investments.
However, it’s not always easy to spot defects or snags, especially if you’re not an expert yourself. For many buyers, hiring a professional surveyor to perform the inspection makes sense. Depending on the size of the property, this could set you back as much as £600. If money is tight, or you’re confident that you have the necessary skills, you can carry out the inspection yourself.
In this article, we answer important questions about the inspection of log houses and show you how you can use the following inspection checklist to give yourself a quick overview of the overall condition of the building.
Building defects are a part of life
No building – whether it’s a new build or an older home – is entirely without snags and defects.
The most frequently cited snags include leaking pipes, faulty guttering and damage to brickwork. Left unresolved, these can cause bigger problems over time.
The problems and defects that occur aren’t necessarily violations of building codes. Not all snags are so major that you decide not to buy a house. Basically, a defect is said to exist if the actual condition deviates from the originally agreed construction work. If something is broken, if it doesn’t work as it should, or if it’s poor quality workmanship, you might want to note it down as a snag.
This means that even a broken light switch or a leaky window can constitute a defect.
What would an expert surveyor do?
An expert surveyor will visit the property you’re moving into and conduct a thorough inspection from top to bottom. They might bring specialist equipment with them to conduct aerial photography, thermal imagery and laser measuring.
That being said, the appraisal process is non-invasive. This means that no changes are made to the building or its equipment during the inspection (e.g., drilling or removal of technical equipment). The surveyor won’t open the walls or lift the floorboards – if there’s an issue there, they will simply log what they can see and measure and recommend the next steps.
They tend to record data digitally using specialist snagging apps. In the app, they can collect together notes, photos and video evidence in a single place. Their inspections are extremely thorough – every single homeroom will be inspected, and every appliance and the quality of different installations will be double-checked. They’ll also check the attics, basements, and exterior of the property to ensure that it’s all up to the standard described in the contract.
At the end of this process, a professional surveyor will send you a complete report of all snags
discovered. You can use this report as evidence when negotiating with the seller.
How should you carry out your own survey?
- Make a structure for recording the snags you find. Whether it’s pen and paper notes or you’re using a digital option, create an outline for how you’ll document what you find. Make sure that you have a way to connect photos that you take with your notes.
- Divide the home into distinct zones. This could be room by room, then each additional exterior area. If you’re doing your survey with another person, you can split the zones between you to speed things up.
- Move through the home one zone at a time. Check everything in one room before moving on. Document each snag as you find it so that you’re collecting information as you go.
- If there is something that you think isn’t right, but you don’t have the expertise to confirm your hunch, then take plenty of photos and write down your thoughts. You’ll be able to consult an expert later to see if it’s a big concern.
- Once you’ve inspected every single zone thoroughly and completed your notes, compile everything you’ve found into one document. This is your completed snagging list, which you’ll be able to share with the seller or the contractor you hire to remedy the snags.
- Keep a copy of the snagging list safely in your files. You never know when you might need to use it as evidence in a legal dispute.
What should you look out for?
It’s all well and good saying, “inspect each zone”, but what exactly do you need to look at? Here’s a list of everything that you can inspect. These elements should not only be correctly installed and fully functional, but they should also be of the quality that is listed in the contract:
- Building structure – foundations, exterior walls, etc. These should match the building plan and show no signs of damage or subsidence.
- Electrical systems – wiring, light switches, outlets, technical equipment. Make sure all outlets and equipment work.
- HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) – cooling, heating and ventilation equipment, distribution and control systems. Again, check that they function in every room, with no leaking or other signs of damage.
- Plumbing – fixtures and faucets, piping, water heating systems, etc.
- Insulation – attic and exterior insulation. Missing insulation is a common issue, so check as thoroughly as you can.
- Roof – trusses and flashings, gutters, etc. Guttering should be completely connected and free from cracks.
- Interior – partitions, interior doors, false ceilings, floors, etc. Make sure all doors have been properly installed and painted.
- Exterior – windows, doors, cladding, balconies, garages. Double-check that doors and windows close and open easily, whether horizontal sliding or fixed glass rooflights. Don’t forget to check on any exterior buildings included in the contract, it’s easy to overlook these!
- Garden – fountains, green areas, driveways, etc.
What to do if you find defects
What are your options if you find many snags in your potential new home? Essentially, you have the following options:
- Demand that the owner (or the company responsible for the defect) rectifies the defects found.
- Ask to reduce the purchase price if the owner cannot or does not want to have the snags repaired. Then you can hire a contractor or handyman to fix everything with the money you saved on the purchase price.
- Decide not to buy the home. If the snags cost a lot to repair, the owner doesn’t want to be responsible, and they won’t lower the price, you may be better off searching for another property.
If the seller agrees to repair the defects, be sure to conduct a new inspection of the property before buying. This is the only way to determine whether the defects have been corrected properly.
If the defects have not been remedied, you should ask the seller to provide you with documents and other information relating to the warranty for the building and its technical equipment. This is because the warranty can last for several years, depending on the part concerned and the type of defect that has occurred, which allows you to have it repaired at the expense of the original installer.
With time pressure from estate agents, stress about the amount of money you’re spending and rose-tinted glasses from finally having found a property that you really like, it’s easy to rush into a purchase. However, you must go into the decision with a clear understanding of the work a property might need to get done
It is possible to conduct a snagging survey as an amateur. You have to be methodical about it. But it will have been worth it if your snagging list gets the housebuilder or homeowner to make some improvements before you buy. And if not, then at least you know how much to budget for small repairs over the first year post-purchase.