Buyer Beware

Historically the principle of Caveat Emptor (buyer beware) has applied when purchasing property. The principle effectively means that the buyer is responsible for uncovering any negative issues that may affect the house they are purchasing.  However, this principle has been recently modified by legislation where a seller or their agent must disclose any information they are aware of that would reduce the value of the property (or else face criminal sanctions).  In addition, they must also disclose as much information as possible in the Property Information Forms, including any unregistered matters which affect the property.  These changes do not however account for any matters that are not within the actual knowledge of the seller.  Therefore, the principle of Caveat Emptor in property transactions is effectively still in full force.

We, as your legal representatives, are only able to pursue lines of enquiries based on the information available to us.  Therefore, the more information we have, the better we can assist you throughout your transaction in ensuring that your purchase is in your best interest. This means that as a buyer you must take every avenue available to you in respect of ensuring that your purchase is a sound investment, as it will most probably be the most expensive thing you will buy in your life.

However, often the opposite is the case in respect of buyers when they choose property to purchase. One in five buyers rely solely on their mortgage valuation report as confirmation of the condition the property is in, failing to realise that often mortgage valuations are merely a confirmation that the property is worth the amount you are paying for it and often does not reveal structural problems or matters that require repair. It is not surprising therefore, that many buyers are then faced with repair bills or, in the worst case scenario, structural work to tackle once they take occupation of the property.  It is therefore essential that as a buyer you obtain a survey to ensure that you are fully aware of the state of the property. The types of survey available to you are:


Avg. Cost – £250.00

A basic survey set out in the form of a traffic light system showing areas of concern as red and matters that do not require attention as green. This report however does not provide advice on repairs required nor does it provide a valuation.


Avg. Cost – £400.00.

A more in depth survey which provides advice on whether there are any structural problems, damp and also highlights areas that require immediate work or will require work in the future. The report also often provides an estimate of the cost of undertaking any highlighted issues that require attention, which allows buyers to negotiate price changes or allowances on the basis of the work recommended. The report also includes a valuation.

This type of survey however does not look beyond the walls and floorboards – so does not highlight if there are timber issues, for example.


Avg. Cost – £400 – £500

This is a report in an easily accessible and comprehensible format and reveals anything that requires urgent attention or is likely to require attention in the future, including any exceptional maintenance you may have to take into account. The survey can tell you about building condition and defects, structural movement, damp rot and woodworm.


Avg. Cost – £600 or above

This is the most comprehensive survey you can commission and is especially suited to older properties or properties that are clearly in need of major repair.  Again the survey does not look behind walls or under floorboards but will provide a report on all accessible areas including loft spaces and service installations. Again this type of survey can be used as leverage to renegotiate price due to require remedial works.

The decision as to which survey you obtain is at your discretion but should be dependant on the type of property you are purchasing. Remember that any survey is better than none, and with a survey we, as your legal representatives, are better equipped at ensuring that all issues affecting the property are resolved prior to you being committed to your purchase and also helps us in assisting you in negotiating allowances for work that may be required to the property you are purchasing.

If you require assistance in respect of a property transaction please do contact our Property team on 0345 20 73 72 8 or email

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