Identifying Structural Problems in an older property


If you’ve fallen in love with a property on a viewing, it can be hard to make an informed decision with your head over your heart regarding its purchase. Whilst we make this recommendation for all building purchases, when viewing older and listed sites in particular, we’d recommend taking a step back and making efforts to fully understand the building’s structure, defects and development limitations before purchasing it, with a full structural survey.

To make an informed decision and reduce the likelihood of unexpected bills further down the line, a full structural survey is a sound investment for all property purchases, especially when it comes to older buildings.  

In a snapshot 

  • A full structural survey will provide the most detailed report available in regards to the condition of the property 
  • Character features can be costly to maintain and replace
  • A full structural building survey can highlight any underlying areas of development limitation or potential problem areas


The devil is in the detail

A full structural survey is a must on older property. Other types of survey such as a RICS homebuyers report won’t be detailed enough for the needs of most buildings, particularly if you are considering renovation works. By old we mean pre-war and the benefit of instructing a full structural survey on any building is that it will include a full analysis and breakdown of any defects and potential underlying structural issues to be aware of.

As part of this kind of survey, the surveyor can also provide advice on planned works – an important consideration for older buildings that may have restrictions that withstand any amendments. It’s best to know this level of detail before you purchase than halfway through your plans for an open plan kitchen, diner renovation where you may discover that extra strong reinforcements will be needed to support the upper floors for example – adding a hefty sum onto the project cost.

Maintenance and development costs

Character features can be costly to maintain and replace. Features like original beams, open fire places and thatched roofs can all tug at the heart strings when viewing a property but once you’re in and these features need maintaining or replacing, costs can quickly escalate and should be factored into your financial planning when making the initial investment. For example, beams with damp / rot can become weak and require replacement to support the building safely.

Our advice is that as long as you are aware of any underlying areas of limitations or potential problem areas on any property purchase, you will be making an informed decision that should result in a positive and realistic investment that you can afford to maintain for years to come.

Peace of mind

Although full structural surveys often seem expensive, on top of all the other costs entailed in property purchases, the peace of mind they provide about the quality of your investment and its ability to withstand your planned development should more than outweigh the initial cost outlay of getting one done.

The RICS recently reported;

“A recent survey of home buyers, 25% needed to undertake unplanned work in the first year, amounting to an average cost of over £1,100


Need advice or services?
Our Charted Building surveyors are experienced in conducting full structural surveys on all kinds of commercial and residential properties.  Use our contact form to get in touch. 
Want to hear more?
If you found this article helpful and would like to receive more posts like this directly to your inbox, subscribe to receive our quarterly newsletter or follow us on twitter @KemptonCarr  and like us on facebook to see them first.