Structural (property) Survey:
This is a detailed inspection of the property that you consider buying. The surveyor will
- establish the extent and possible cause(s) of any building and constructional defects (e.g. the structural integrity and stability of the building)
- investigate the quality and usability of parts of the building (e.g. woodwork, roof, gutters, chimneys, cellars, presence of damp, etc.)
- identify possible technical defects (illustrated by photos)
- assess the consequences of the findings described in the Dossier Diagnostic Technique
- look into possible servitudes and development plans
- investigate the risks that apply to the property
The Survey Report will provide you with the surveyor’s opinion of the quality of the property and its market value, and it will describe the possible issues that your legal representative should know of.
No property is perfect but some properties are less perfect than others. It is probably safe to assume that you will have to spend more money on an older property than on a property that has been constructed more recently. The question is how much it is going to cost you to at least maintain the value of the property.
You take a considerable risk when you buy a property without knowing its condition. The cost of repairing hidden problems that surface at a later stage could be a very unpleasant surprise indeed. At FPS, we want to make sure that you know precisely what you are going to buy.
In the UK, almost every property is surveyed before contracts are exchanged. It is different in France. Not many French buyers have properties inspected and it is disconcerting that so many foreign buyers of French properties copy that approach. Do they convince themselves that not surveying a property is a calculated risk or do they see it as an opportunity to reduce the costs of buying a property? Whatever the reason, it really is ill-advised not to have a property surveyed before signing on the dotted line. Surveying in the UK is done for a purpose and that also applies to French properties.
Why would you want a full structural survey? A full survey gives you more information about the property than you would get with a Home Buyer Inspection. The survey report will provide you with information about the property’s structure and stability, the quality of most parts of the property, an indication what remedial repairs are required, suggestions how these problems could be resolved, and an indication what urgent repairs are likely to cost. Where possible, the report will contain photos to illustrate the issues that the surveyor has identified.
The surveyor will also check if the property is exposed to one or more risks such as subsidence, flooding, dangerous substances that are transported nearby, avalanches, forest fires, etc. Have you thought of checking out these risks before you decide to buy? The surveyor will do that for you during his structural survey.
After having read the report, you may want clarification of some of the findings. The surveyor can discuss the contents of the report with you by telephone, if required. Don’t worry if you have questions about the contents at a later stage. The surveyor will try to answer these by phone or email.
Eventually, you will probably know more about the property than its owner. Thanks to this extensive information you can make a reasoned and informed purchase decision. This will put you in a very strong position when you start negotiating the purchase price.
The French are sometimes apprehensive about surveys and it is possible that the owner of the property, or his estate agent, is anything but happy with your decision to have the property surveyed. They may be worried that your surveyor may find problems – hidden problems or problems that they already knew of – that could jeopardise the sale.
A favourite argument is that the property has been standing for many years and that it is therefore obvious that its condition is good. They tell you that a survey is a waste of your money. You know of course that this kind of reasoning is flawed. The integrity of the property’s structure and its stability could have been affected over time. The quality of the roof, chimneys, woodwork, walls, floors, ceilings, gutters, etc. in older properties can be poor. The electrical installation and plumbing may not meet modern safety standards. Last but not least, certain parts of the property may suffer from damp or water penetration. Humidity can be a real problem in older properties. In any case, it is highly likely that some remedial repairs will be necessary and you want to know what these are.
What should you do if the owner refuses to have his property surveyed? Walk away and forget about it. You may find that difficult but the risks are far too high. There are many more properties for sale in France and you will surely find another one that you fall in love with.