How to deal with a bad survey

publication date: Dec 18, 2018
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

How do you deal with a bad survey?

Choosing a surveyor and type of survey checklist

A common misconception among homebuyers is that the mortgage valuation is the same as a survey. In actual fact, it is merely a check by the lender to ensure the property is worth the amount you are asking to borrow, even though you have to pay for it.

To find out the true condition of the property, you need one of the following:

  • Condition report: a basic survey highlighting major defects. It is suitable for newer properties in good condition.
  • Homebuyer Report: this is more in-depth and will look for structural problems, subsidence and damp. It may include a valuation.
  • Building Survey: this is the most comprehensive inspection and is advised if buying a large property, or one which is older or unusual, or if you are planning major work.

Each of the above may highlight issues with the property, potentially halting your sale or purchase.

If you receive a bad survey on a property you want to buy

If possible, ask to meet the surveyor at the property at the end of the survey so they can talk you through any potential problems, then send a copy of the survey to your legal company as soon as you receive it. While it can be disappointing to receive a bad survey on a property you had set your heart on, there are options for you to consider:

Get estimates for any work

Price up the cost of any urgent repairs play anything else which will need repairing or replacing in the next few years, such as the roof or windows.

Identifying and solving condensation, damp and mould.

Negotiate with the vendor

If the survey reveals the need for expensive, or extensive, work, you can use this as a negotiating tool. You could ask the seller to:

  • reduce the asking price. You could ask them to reduce it by the full cost of the repairs or offer to meet them halfway.
  • have the work done on the property as a condition of sale. This could be carried out before exchange or you could agree to exchange on the condition the work is carried out before completion. Depending on the extent of the work, bear in mind this could delay your moving date by several weeks or months.

Walk away if necessary

If the problems are extensive and you are not prepared to take on the challenge, don’t be afraid to walk away, however much you wanted the property. Buying a property should be done with the head, not the heart, and there will be others available.

How to organise refurbishment finance.

If your buyer receives a bad survey on a property you are selling

The buyer’s survey may flag up issues you did not know about. Take a look at the survey to learn what these problems are. Once you know what you are dealing with, you have several options:

Do nothing

There is a small chance the buyer will not reduce the offer or pull out, but this is a big gamble on your part. And bear in mind that, if this buyer does pull out, the next surveyor will almost certainly flag up the same problems, so you will be faced with potentially losing the sale all over again.

Have your own survey done

If you are sure the issues highlighted have already been dealt with or are not a problem, consider having your own specialist survey done so you have evidence to prove this.

Have the work done

Consider paying to have the work done on the property to satisfy the surveyor. You can do this before exchange, or make it a condition that you have it carried out between exchange and completion.

Identify and solve rising damp.

Reduce the price of the property you are selling

Get a quote for the work required, then offer to reduce the property price. You can offer to reduce the price by the full amount or agree to meet the buyer halfway.

What happens if the mortgage lender values a property less than the sale price?

The mortgage valuation allows the lender to assess the risk if they lend the money for a property. If the valuation is lower than the sale price agreed, this presents a problem for the buyer. Here are some options if this happens to you:

Mortgage valuation problems for the seller

Do nothing

This is a gamble but it could pay off; the buyer could find a bigger deposit so they don’t have to borrow so much for the property.

Get the problem fixed

If there is a specific issue with the property, you could get it fixed, or pledge to sort it before exchange.

Reduce the property price

One mortgage valuation is likely to be very like another so, unless you make changes to the property to increase its value, the problem will not go away and your best option may be to reduce the price accordingly to secure a sale.

Mortgage valuation problems for the buyer

Find additional funding

If your heart is set on the property, can you find additional funding which will enable you to put down a large enough deposit to satisfy the mortgage lender?

Ask the vendor to reduce the price

If the mortgage lender does not believe the property is worth the asking price, or the amount you are asking to borrow, the seller may have to accept this and reduce the price. A second mortgage valuer is unlikely to come to a very different conclusion so the vendor is likely to face the same issue with the next potential buyer.  

Learn the art of negotiation.

Ask the vendor to make repairs

Bear in mind, if the vendor agrees to carry out work to increase the property’s value, this will slow down your purchase. They may even end up adding too much value, putting the property out of your reach.

If you have a received a bad survey, whether you are buying or selling a property, and would like some advice, do get in touch with We are a small company but will do our best to help.


All our information is brought to you by Kate Faulkner OBE, author of Which? Property books and one of the UK's top property experts.
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