Essential Property Checks (Skip These & Regret It)

Don’t even think about skimping on a pre-purchase survey when buying property. Buying a property is a big investment, and like all investments, you need to make sure you are making a sound one before signing on the dotted line. Trust us, saving on the survey is NOT a smart move. A serious problem with the property six months down the line can be avoided by making thorough, pre-purchase checks. Make sure you cover all the essentials…and then dig a little deeper.

What is a Pre-Purchase Survey?

Before any property purchase, it is essential to carry out a number of pre-purchase property checks to make sure that the house is safe and not at-risk. Don’t take the vendor’s word for it- check the property yourself. Remember, they might not even know what is lurking under their own floorboards!

Get a thorough, professional inspection of the property that you plan to buy. Whether it’s a buy to let, or your new family home- an inspection will give you peace of mind. Standard surveys like the UK HomeBuyer’s Report focus on essential surface checks. Nowadays with CCTV and drone technology it’s possible to conduct in-depth inspections of things like your drains, without having to be too invasive. Don’t assume that a thorough check will involve damage and a huge expense: you will be surprised how easy it is so check some of this stuff. Supplement any standard checks by making sure you cover all of these points in detail:

  • Asbestos
  • Structure
  • Drainage
  • Damp
  • Electricity & Gas
  • Trees & Outside Areas

Though a full survey might be slightly more expensive and time-consuming in the short-term, it’s much better to know if there is anything wrong before the house sale has gone through. Get a trusted tradesman to do the work for you and always ask for quotes, digital stills and reports.

Benefits of a full survey:

  • Less time and money spent on fixing problems later down the line
  • Means you can back out of a bad investment in time
  • Helps you prioritise building & maintenance work
  • Opens your eyes to the full property picture (more to it than the pretty estate agent photos)!


Asbestos was a common building material until 2000, when people realised that its toxic fibres were harmful and caused respiratory problems. Read why asbestos is so dangerous here. If the building contains asbestos, there might not always be a safe way to remove it, but the risk must be assessed and controlled appropriately. Don’t let asbestos put you off a property completely, as it can be managed and contained.

Structural Audit

A structural audit of your house will identify how sound the building is; it looks at things like structural condition and integrity and should always evaluate the future condition of the house. Structural audits are best carried out by building engineers. Anyone may be able to detect a crack in a wall or some rotting wood, but only a qualified engineer can evaluate the potential risks and repercussions.  A structural survey will give you estimates and recommendations, but it won’t necessarily tell you exactly what to do. Get someone to explain the audit to you if you feel like you don’t understand its recommendations.

All new builds now come with a full structural audit, so ask to see yours if you are buying a relatively new house.

Drainage Inspections

Don’t be content with just a peek under a drainage manhole cover, you need full visibility on your drains. Drainage problems are complex and costly and have a pretty immediate negative impact on your life. Just imagine a life without running water or raw sewage seeping onto your drive! It’s a good idea to get proper drainage experts in to conduct a full CCTV drainage survey on the inside of your drains, as well as an aerial drains survey outside if you have a large property. CCTV and drain cameras are a great innovative technology that allow certified drainage companies to look at your drains in minute detail, without a single scrap of scaffolding in sight!

Damp Surveys

Damp can be hugely damaging to a house, as well as people’s health. Never comprise your health by living in a dangerously damp house, as it may cause permanent damage. A damp survey can help you scratch beneath the surface and see what those freshly painted walls are actually hiding. Many properties visited in the height of summer feel very different during the damp winter months.  If there is a bit of a damp problem in your property, make sure adequate damp proofing is put in place and prepare to invest in dehumidifiers for the winter.

Electricity & Gas Supply

Standard surveys don’t often test electricity and gas supplies in action, though in older properties this is often made a pre-requisite of a sale. Always make sure the gas safety certificate is valid, and order another one if you are not sure. Calling on an electrician to do a quick electrics check won’t take a lot of time, but it could save you a lot of hassle in the long run.

Electrical fires are common and very dangerous, so don’t overload your plug with loads of devices. Never ignore frequent fuse-blowing, as it could be a symptom of an electrical wiring fault.

Thermal Imaging

Thermal imaging is an energy-efficiency check. Thermal imaging uses heat-sensitive cameras to give you a good idea of how much energy your house is losing and where. This could help you identify areas where more insulation is needed, or highlight problems with the building’s structure. Often older buildings struggle with being energy-efficient, but a new build should pass this test with flying colours. It sounds fancy, but thermal imaging is really simple.

Tree & Grounds Inspection

Trees on your property are lovely, but they can also be a massive safety risk. It’s always a good idea to have a tree surgeon have a look at any trees on your property, to make sure the trees won’t be falling on your during the next storm, or that their roots aren’t going to grow into your drains. A tree can look perfectly normal, yet be completely rotten on the inside.

Other things to be aware of outside are ponds or water features and any outside constructions like sheds. It might sound obvious, but sheds aren’t usually safe to be lived in, and be mindful of regulations if you are planning to work from your shed. Make sure you understand the nature of the ground, as it might impact what you can build on your land in the future, and don’t just assume that vegetables will grow anywhere!

What do you think is the most important thing you should check before buying a property? Would a bad survey make you think twice about buying?

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