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Free surveys? Somebody always pays

There are a number of specialist companies out there who still offer a “free survey”. Everyone understands why – they’ll do the survey for free in the hope of ultimately getting a lucrative remedial work job. Whilst, in principle, this can be a legitimate practice and can save a customer the initial outlay – there is an obvious downside which I’ve ranted about at length before but have summarised here.

In simple terms – “you get nothing for nothing”. For example – How likely is it that someone who has travelled to your property to investigate dampness is going to tell you that you have a minor condensation problem that can be dealt with by initiating a few practical steps instead of expensive, disruptive and unnecessary damp-proofing works?

Also consider that not every “free survey” does result in a contract, therefore, who pays for all the unsuccessful surveys? The person who does decide to accept remedial works not only has to cover the cost of  their initial survey (quite rightly) but also a proportion of all the other free surveys that contractor has carried out.

I recently undertook a survey at a property which highlighted another more remote, but no less costly, downside of relying on a free survey. The new purchaser’s asked me to inspect their property for dampness as a Category 2 repair had been intimated on the Home Report and further advice was recommended. Whilst I did obtain some high moisture meter readings, these were a consequence of the property being unoccupied and unheated and not any underlying rising damp issue. The Estate Agent (on behalf of the vendor) had instructed a free survey from a contractor who had prepared a one page report identifying “possible” rising damp to the “solid walls” and an estimate in the region of £5000 for damp-proofing works. With this information presented to them the purchaser made an offer of £5000 below Home Report value which was accepted. Now the obvious winner here is the purchaser but even they felt a bid bad for the vendor! The advice of the Estate Agent (who probably told the vendor they were saving them money by not having to pay a survey fee) has led to them accepting much less for their property than it was worth. As I said “somebody always pays!”

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