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When it comes to buying a new property, an increasing number of buyers are realising that commissioning a professional property survey is the best way to understand what they’re buying. HomeBuyer Reports and Commercial Property Surveys are essential for providing pre-purchase or pre-lease advice, warning potential owners about any structural defects that might affect their decision to proceed.

In carrying out one of these investigations, your surveyor will aim to cover the entirety of the building to give you a broad overview of the property’s condition. However, it’s not uncommon to unearth a defect that goes beyond the scope of the investigation or the expertise of your surveyor. If a particularly complex or extensive problem should be uncovered, your surveyor may recommend that you have a Specific Defect Report carried out.

What is a Specific Defect Report?

Specific Defect Reports are designed to offer a detailed analysis of a particular problem. They provide more insight than a HomeBuyer Report but, by focusing on one specific area, should be more cost-effective than a Building Report of the entire property.

When might a Specific Defect Report be necessary?

A Specific Defect Report will usually be suggested if the buyer or surveyor has noticed signs of a particular problem, such as damp patches or cracks in the walls that indicate possible subsidence. It may also come as a recommendation following an environmental search or other specialist investigation.

In a post-purchase scenario, property owners may want a Specific Defect Report to investigate potential issues prior to a renovation or building project. Landlords may also choose this type of report to provide a professional second opinion about a defect raised by their tenant.

What issues might require a Specific Defect Report?

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There are all kinds of signs that might prompt a buyer or surveyor to want further investigation. By their nature, some of these defects might be superficial and harmless, but it’s always worth being sure. It’s always possible that a hairline crack or stubborn damp patch is a warning sign of substantial damage beneath the surface. Here are the most common issues and how to look out for them.

  1. Damp and condensation

A small build-up of moisture might not seem like anything to worry about, but it’s often the symptom of a larger problem – or could quickly lead to one. Simply removing the symptoms might not be enough, so it’s worth getting a survey to help you find and eliminate the source, and discover how far the damp has spread.

Look for discolouration on walls and ceilings, peeling paint or wallpaper, crumbling plaster and soft timbers. You may also be able to identify a musty smell.

  1. Timber decay

Wet rot, dry rot and wood-boring beetle can all devastate timber frames, floorboards and structural joists. If you suspect timbers may be rotten, apply a light pressure to them. A slight spring or spongey-ness is a bad sign. If you don’t know what to look for when it comes to timber decay, hire a specialist who can test samples of beams and floorboards to assess permanent damage.

  1. Subsidence

Subsidence is when the earth beneath a property causes movement in its foundations. It can be caused by trees (either their roots or the removal of a tree), soil composition or nearby building work, among other things.

Cracking is the main sign that subsidence may be a concern. Look for cracks that appear in the same place internally and externally, cracks that are wider at one end or cracks that extend through the damp-proof course. If you find that windows and doors are sticking or swinging open, this can be a due to distortion, caused by subsidence.

  1. Roofing defects

Few buyers think to inspect the roof when they’re viewing a property. Even if they notice a missing tile or two, they may not think of this as a major concern. In reality, roof damage can cause severe problems with damp and timber decay – quickly escalating the repair cost from a single tile to tens of thousands of pounds.

Slipped, cracked or damaged tiles should be your first signal that a Specific Defect Report may be useful. Visible bowing or damp patches internally are also major warning signs.

  1. Poor-quality alterations

Buildings that have been modified or extended often require a focused analysis, particularly if modern building materials have been spliced with historic ones. This is a common occurrence, but puts the property at risk of damp and structural weakness along its “seam”.

If you notice that a conservatory or extension has visible faults where it joins the original building, hire a specialist to see whether the damage is superficial or can be quickly fixed.

If you have already had a property survey, you may find it frustrating that your surveyor is recommending another, more in-depth inspection. Instead, consider the fact that your initial survey paid off by spotting a potentially serious issue with the building and further investigation may save you from considerable stress and expense further down the line. When it comes to property investment, wouldn’t you rather know for certain what you’re buying?