Why You Must Get a Structural Survey When Buying a Second Hand House

Thinking about buying a second hand residential property?

Yes, you’re bound to be excited.

But there is no excuse for making this stupid mistake when you are buying a property.

Caveat Emptor

Because you must understand that when you are buying a second hand property the legal principle of ‘caveat emptor’ applies. This means that you are buying the property in the condition in which you find it.

There is no going back to the vendor and trying to engage about faults you have found with the property after you have bought.

It is too late then.

How do you protect yourself against any faults with the property and avoid buying a dud? Get a structural survey carried out.

Structural Survey

One of the most important things you need to do is to have a structural survey of the property carried out.

And when I say “structural survey” I mean a proper survey by an engineer or surveyor who has professional indemnity insurance.

I don’t mean a well intentioned friend or relative who does a bit of building having a look and telling you, “yes, it looks fine”.

Don’t confuse a structural survey with the valuation report/survey which the lender will want carried out either.

Your surveyor needs to do a number of things when preparing his/her report:

  1. Give you a professional opinion on the structural integrity of the building and flagging up any issues which might occur later; this would include any signs of further investigation being required to establish that there is no pyrite in the building

  2. Check that the property on the ground corresponds with the map of the property with the title deeds/on the Land Registry folio. In other words, that you are actually buying what you think you are buying and there won’t be any disputes with the neigbours about boundaries

  3. Check that the services such as water and sewerage are entirely contained within the boundaries of the property if it is a one off house in the country. This type of house will almost certainly have its own well for water and a sewerage treatment system for treatment and disposal of sewerage. This leads to a ‘declaration of identity’.

Declaration of Identity

This declaration that all of the necessary services-for example septic tank and water well- for the property are located within the boundaries of the property.

You don’t want to discover that your septic tank is located in a neighbouring field after you have moved in.

4. Planning/building regulations: your surveyor should be able to flag up any obvious problems in relation to non compliance with building regulations of, for example, an attic conversion. He should also be able to draw your attention to any development that may have been carried out on the house since its original construction and tell you to have the planning checked out, if planning is necessary.

Money well spent

A surveyor’s report will probably cost you up to €500 plus VAT and you will get them done for less.

It is money well spent, however, which can help you avoid a much more costly mistake which could come back to haunt you in later years and ensure that you rest easy in avoiding a bad buy.