Buyers have pulled out of a property we were underbidders on, can we avail of their survey before buying?
Property Clinic: If the inspection is recent there should be no need to revisit the property
‘The surveyor will charge you for his advice and the report.’ File photograph: Getty
The top bidder on a property we want to buy has pulled out and we are the underbidders, so the vendor has now accepted our offer. We were told the top bidder had a survey done in the last couple of weeks and they were happy with it, but they pulled out for other reasons. If we could obtain this survey or contact the surveyor, is that possibly helpful to us? Or are we obliged to start from scratch?
Noel Larkin replies: With any significant decision there is always a niggling concern whether you’re doing the right thing. This is not a bad thing – it actually helps to keep us mentally healthy and happy. A mammoth life choice like buying a home is no different. It is normal to look for reassurance to help us feel comfortable with our choices. With property we seek reassurance on the amount of money being paid by way of an independent valuation. Confirmation that the property is structurally sound and in good condition can be provided by commissioning a building survey report.
Peace of mind is paramount while moving through the process. In this case, you have found a house and the signs are good that there are no major issues. It appears that the previous buyer received a positive report from their building surveyor.
I would caution, however, that something similar happened to me on a property where we had discovered significant issues. The problem related to a poorly operating waste water treatment system and foul drains backing up. Remedial works would be costly and our client did not proceed with the purchase. Some weeks later I got a call from a prospective buyer who told me she had heard I had given the house a clean bill of health. Buyer Beware.
It is worthwhile advising you that there are various types of surveys and indeed various types of surveyor. The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) has issued guidelines to its building surveyors setting out the scope and extent of inspections required for properties of varying type and age.
There are three types named simply type 1, type 2 and type 3. The surveys range in level of inspection and detail and associated cost. Type 2 is the typical service on offer. It would be important for you to ensure that you are commissioning the correct type of service. A list of building surveyors can be found at scsi.ie.
Can the original surveyor act for you? There is no issue with this in my view. The information that the surveyor has relates to the property and is valuable to you. There is no conflict in advising you as his first client is no longer involved in this transaction. Obviously you will need to establish that the level and extent of his survey is what you require based on the levels of survey mentioned above. You may have different plans for the property compared to his first client and you would need to discuss this.
The report will need to be reassigned to you so that there is comfort and peace of mind and an avenue of recourse in the unlikely event that this is needed. The surveyor will charge you for his advice and the report but if his inspection was recent there should be no need to revisit the property and a reduced fee would typically apply.
It shouldn’t be difficult to find out who the initial surveyor was. Discuss the issue with her/him and establish if s/he is happy to advise you. The reassurance of good independent advice will bring peace of mind.
Noel Larkin is a chartered building surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.