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white residential property

This four bedroom country house, with a deceptive uniform external appearance, is an 18th Century stone built gate keeper’s lodge which has been extended on four separate occasions over the last 100 years. A property of this age and constructional diversity may have a number of problems that potential buyers should be aware of.

Home Condition Surveys

An option for both sellers and prospective buyers

What is it?

The Home Condition Report (HCR) was intended as a core component of the Home Information Pack. It has been carefully designed after lengthy consultation with surveyors, mortgage lenders, and the Consumer Association representing the interests of home buyers and owners.

How is this different from other surveys?

As the name suggests, the report focuses on the condition of a property at the time of inspection. It is not a structural survey, nor is it a valuation. Instead the report provides a systematic summary of the condition of each element of a property - roof, walls, doors and windows, etc. - indicating where repairs or replacements are necessary. The report includes health and safety risks, such as asbestos or faulty electrical services, an assessment of the flood risk for the property location and other environmental issues such as land contamination.

The report avoids technical jargon and is presented in clear, plain English.

What are the advantages for a buyer?

A recent survey of home buyers found that some 60% encountered unexpected faults or bodged repairs after they moved in to their new home. The Home Condition Report will forestall these unpleasant surprises, allowing a prospective buyer to secure an estimate for the cost of repairs, negotiate an adjustment to the sale price, seek additional finance from their mortgage lender for essential repairs, or to withdraw from the purchase altogether.

Are there advantages for a seller?

The seller has an objective, independent report on which prospective buyers can depend on. Statutory guarantees bind the Home Inspector to be diligent and honest in compiling the report and redress can be obtained if he or she fails to meet these obligations.

If the report does highlight problems the seller can obtain quotations for rectification work, or have the work undertaken at their own expense. Either way the prospective buyer knows exactly what the situation is.

There is evidence from other countries, where similar systems operate, that sales are completed faster where an HCR is available to purchasers – particularly when there is a slow-down in the housing market.

How is Condition assessed?

A standard fourfold classification is used for all property elements:

  1. Not present, or not inspected (e.g. where there is no access)
  2. No repair required (but routine maintenance may be advised)
  3. Repairs that are necessary but not serious or urgent
  4. Repairs that are serious or urgent

The report will describe the fault that leads to a condition rating of 2 or 3.

What type of fault is reported?

Obvious problems such as cracks in walls, timber decay, woodworm, and damp penetration are all included. Less obvious faults such as windows that cannot be opened, DIY electrical installations, unventilated chimneys, or extractor fans that have no duct to the exterior will be reported also.

Some examples:

“There are built in cupboards in the recess next to the chimney breasts in both living rooms. One of these houses the cold water cistern. The interiors of these cupboards are in very poor condition. Plaster has broken away and walls are damp. Support for the cold water cistern is flimsy. Some repairs or replacements are required but these are not considered serious or urgent.” (Condition Rating 2)

“There is an electrical supply and the meter and consumer unit [fuse box] are located adjacent to the front door. The installation has been added to in a piecemeal fashion. Many of the fittings are obsolete and in a dangerous condition. This is considered serious and in need of urgent repair or replacement” (Condition Rating 3)

“The floors are of timber construction. There are damp sections in several areas. This is likely to be due to a combination of factors including the relatively high ground level outside, the absence of a damp proof course, faulty exterior render and inadequate sub floor ventilation. Further advice should be obtained.” (Condition Rating 3)

“There is evidence of an extensive infestation of mice in the attic, and damage to pipe lagging and other insulation material has been caused. It is likely that the faulty mortar joints in the NE wall provide a means of access. Some repairs or replacements are required but these are not considered serious or urgent.” (Condition Rating 2)

How is Quality Control addressed?

The work of Home Inspectors is subject to rigorous and systematic audit in order to maintain the highest professional standards. This includes detailed examination of field notes and photographs, telephone follow up calls to clients, and re-inspections.

How does a buyer commission a Home Condition Report?

If a seller has not included an HCR in the Home Information Pack a buyer may commission a report independently. This must be with the agreement and cooperation of the seller and/or their agent. The report is compiled and processed in exactly the same way and lodged with the national HCR database. Access to the report is restricted and copies provided exclusively to the person commissioning the report (and their agent when requested).

A Home Condition Report prepared for a prospective buyer will include a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate, notes on interpretation, and a CD with a copy of all the photographic evidence collected during the survey.

What happens if another buyer also commissions a Home Condition Report?

Assuming that there are no reasons to justify a second inspection, and with the agreement of both parties, the survey fees will be adjusted on a pro-rata basis.

What will it cost?

Fees are determined by the age, size and complexity of a property, and will be agreed in advance. As a guide, for properties valued at up to £200,000 a fee of £300 would be typical. (VAT is charged at the standard rate.)

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