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How do I fix my cracks?

Last month we explained how cracks and movement in your property occur and when they start to become a worry, however knowing what steps need to be taken to fix the cracks is another issue entirely.

First, not all cracks need fixing.

A crack that's only a hairline width – up to 0.5mm wide – will cause more trouble and look worse than being left alone, unless it's an obvious damp entry path. If such a crack is in a cement rendered facing, the next opportunity to repaint with correct masonry paint is likely to be all that is needed.

If the cracks are 1mm or up to 3mm wide and in a brick joint, or where the mortar itself is loose and perished with age, then “re-pointing” is probably the best option – IF that work is correctly done. This is a simple process of raking out the old mortar joint, being careful not to damage bricks on either side, then moistening and applying fresh matching mortar neatly to a similar finish to the older parts. A skilful bricklayer/tradesman will be able to adjust the mix of sand, cement and other additives so the colour doesn’t stand out like the proverbial sore thumb. He’ll also neatly recreate the radius of the joint, or any special joint profile, with simple tools.

Repointing was once far easier done when softer lime-based mortar was used in soft, old bricks. It may surprise you to know that a correct lime-based mortar mix can “heal itself” in a fairly short time by chemical action, and fix its own minor cracks. Modern bricks are hard, being made in high-temperature gas-fired kilns and then laid in the wall using a hard cement-based mortar. Cement doesn’t repair itself, it just cracks and breaks. The nearby bricks may actually crack into pieces too, and the fracture naturally means that wall is now weaker.

It’s more difficult to take out cement mortar without causing damage. In addition, if a bad job of repointing is carried out, such as using hard cement mortar in soft old brickwork, then frost damage will result over time. The mortar should normally be softer than the surrounding bricks – if the mortar is harder than the bricks, then it will not yield or erode and the bricks crumble.

Do you recall being taught that water expands as it freezes? If a wet and soft brick freezes, and the expansion can’t be taken up by the mortar that is too hard for those bricks, their facings then break down, a process called “spalling”. Ugly damage and possibly substantial loss of the brick face is often the result. We have seen a honeycomb of cement mortar left around old, soft bricks that have eroded due to frost action, and the remaining brick is up to 40mm/1.5” recessed behind the original surface of the completely wrong, hard mortar that was used. Replacement of all the bricks is the only option.

Moving on, the crack concerned might be 4-8mm wide and the bricks becoming unstable. Presuming the brickwork isn’t showing signs of building movement, such as from subsidence, it could be possible to dismantle that section of wall and neatly refit, or “re-stitch” fresh bricks into the opening, to ensure the strength of the wall is not reduced. This is skilled work and few bricklayers have the skill to make a neat, satisfactory job.

Take a brick arch over a window or doorway, in a house built in the late 1800 to early 1900s. Say the bricks are slipping out of line, the arch is now weakened and support to the wall above it is lost. A good, well-formed arch is very strong, but a bad arch won’t hold up the wall above and so more serious movement is in prospect. How many bricklayers now know how to set out and re-fit bricks to form a good arch with suitable support provided as the mortar “cures”? Actually, relatively few have that expertise.

All this depends on the seriousness of the crack involved and you will need advice from a qualified surveyor, or possibly a structural engineer.

Now we have a significant crack in a critical location, or an expansion joint has not been included in this wall, which has cracks as a result. Expansion joints are intended to do what old soft lime-based mortar once did – take up minor movements. NHBC requirements say that expansion joints are needed, in part having regard to the wall length, and the orientation/exposure if the sun is a factor. Consider, in the obvious case of a long wall exposed to hot afternoon sun. A wall around 9 metres/29 ft long with no expansion joint can move enough to fracture quite badly. That is from bad design, but to overcome it, it is possible to insert or provide a flexible joint and tie the relative edges of the wall together with special components.

One such system is the “Helibar” – very strong stainless-steel ties are fitted into the mortar joints, crossing or bridging a crack or an expansion joint, usually by fixing with an epoxy adhesive similar to Araldite (for you do-it-yourselfers), but don’t try doing this at home! Leave it to the specialists, please – as an example, see:

http://www.helifix.co.uk/products/remedial-products/crack-stitching/

It takes quite a lot to weaken a wall enough to collapse, but everything has its limits.

Finally, what about a major crack, maybe above 20mm wide: see our picture. That one is, obviously, a rebuild job and trying to repair is a lost cause!

Les Long FRICS FISVA
Principal, Eyesurvey

Contact EYESURVEY for all your professional property services and needs on 01206 545 139.

 

                               

When do you need to address cracks and foundation problems?

Did you know that all buildings move? Not enough that you would necessarily notice, but enough that over time they can cause issues you might not have anticipated.

I bet you didn’t know that, most people don’t. However, it is something you need to be aware of as it can be costly if cracks being to appear in your walls or ceilings or if you start to see your doors dropping.

Subsidence can cause major problems for a property, but if caught early can be corrected. Movement of a building and its foundations due to the earth moving beneath, can cause damage to the main structure, brickwork, and windows. Our team at Eyesurvey can assess your property for potential subsidence, and discuss the options available to you.

Cracks are not only unappealing to look at but they also can indicate serious damage to the property, causing safety concerns should they impact key parts of the structure, as well as integrity and stability issues. Just to be reassuring, although you should never ignore cracks and the like, a building has to be very seriously damaged before it is likely to collapse.

In order to rectify these potentially devastating problems, you need to find the cause – what is creating the cracks in the first place? From there, a strategy can be formed in order to diagnose and then to fix the issues and ensure it’s not an ongoing problem for years to come.

Where do the cracks come from?

Unfortunately, there isn’t one reason for a crack or building movement meaning there isn’t an easy fix, there can be multiple reasons and no one-size-fits-all approach

Moisture – whether it’s damaged drains, leaks from faulty pipes, misplaced moisture is no one’s friend in the home. It can cause walls to expand, meaning cracks can form internally and entire walls will need to be replace. Moisture can allow wood decay to develop, also lead to mould which is a problem in itself if it gets out of control.K

Temperature – heat can have a major impact on buildings and can cause materials to contract and expand depending on how hot it is. The position of a wall relative to the hot sun will lead to significant expansion, and as the wall is effectively part of a box and can’t move away, it may buckle and crack. The NHBC actually require expansion joints to be installed during construction, to avoid such problems.

Foundation erosion – the foundations of a property can begin to erode over time and through issues with the materials used or interference, such as chemicals, can begin to suffer problems. In the past, using contaminated sand from a seafront beach without washing it led to serious deterioration, then failure, of the concrete into which it had been added.

Ground movement – the ground beneath the foundations can experience issues due to land slip, heave (see my article on this from last year in the news section), and shrinkage, among other things. Adding an extension can be a cause, since the differing building standards often produce defects after a shortish period; the deeper foundations of the extension compared to the house make that extension less able to move with the seasons.

Building fabric – a buildings fabric (aka. the structural materials that make up the shell) of the property, can be susceptible to material breakdowns including rust and rot. Excess damp is often involved.

Property age – If you have an older property, it is worth noting that they are generally built on shallower foundations, resulting in more movement than their modern counterparts. However, earlier building materials and methods are likely to compensate, and defects may not occur.

Did you know that bricks laid in lime-based mortar may crack along the joints from movement, but the lime will chemically adjust and take up the cracks, a form of “self-healing”?

Other issues – other problems occur with structural defects, suspended floors, and outside interference such as encroaching or penetrating tree roots. As a rule of thumb, the root spread of a tree averages two-thirds of its height, dependant on the species.

When are cracks a worry?

It’s important to note that some cracks – such as fine internal ones – aren’t going to cause issues with your property and can be rectified with some decoration and filler.

However, cracks that are over 1.5mm wide, or several centimetres long do require your attention; and anything that’s 2mm - 3mm or more in width could be extensive damage, affecting the windows, door frames and walls. If there are protruding areas or you notice a distortion around the door or window frames, these would need to be addressed quickly.

Any cracks over 4mm – 5mm and above in width, or developing quickly, would be classed as significant structural damage and would likely mean substantial repairs were necessary. You will not want to find your property to be unstable and that the work carried out to fix it would be more in-depth. These could also cause safety and integrity situations that would be of a high-priority to rectify.

What are the signs of building movement?

Cracks in the exterior of your property would be the first indication of a problem with the foundations. The foundation can shift, allowing gaps to appear due to the general building movement, and while it is normal for a foundation to sink very slightly over the space of the early few years in the life of a building, exterior cracks in the brick are normally a bad sign.

Cracks aren’t the only signs that you have problems with the structure of your property. If you’re living in your property for a long period of time and you start to notice your property sinking on one side, this is something that should be immediately looked into. If doors begin to jam or won’t close correctly, it can be costly to let this problem develop and can become a stability and safety issue.
Doors and windows sticking lately and you don’t think it’s the weather? Interior doors that have dropped and are dragging, and can no longer close properly, can be a sign of a foundation issue too. Similarly, if your windows have dropped and have gaps around them it’s best to get them checked out by a professional.

Internal doors aren’t the only thing you need to worry about not sitting right. Your foundation, your kitchen can be a giveaway to an underlying problem. If your worktops or cabinets are coming away from the wall, it should be addressed immediately. While it may not seem too bad at first glance, sloping cabinets are a clear sign of issues beneath your feet, and as soon as gaps appear the issues are well-established.

One of the biggest areas to keep an eye on is your floor! Foundation issues from building movement can impact the foundation and in turn make the floor sag or bow. Not only conventional timber floors, but concrete/ solid floors may also develop problems such as in 1960 – 1970s properties. If your floors appear to be uneven this can impact the safety of children and any vulnerable relatives, so be aware of this and see the issue gets fixed.

Now for an example of how cracks that are serious don’t just occur in your house, but may then begin to affect it. Some time ago, we were asked to advise on a boundary wall near to some flats all on a fairly steep slope. Cracks over an inch/25mm wide and several feet/metres long had developed within a few months, and the wall looked near collapse. Worryingly the block of flats was less than 10 feet/3 metres from the worst cracks.

 

After a bit of research following the inspection itself, we learned the neighbouring house owner had decided to level out his sloping garden. He had the the bank sloping upwards towards the flats excavated, so the small part of the bank remaining was even steeper, and was smaller, and weaker.

Unfortunately, that meant that the former bank that had been giving support to the boundary wall was no longer there, and the foundations of the flats adjoining, so the support had gone. The wall then cracked quickly. If we hadn’t found out and reported the reasons, the block of flats might have started to crack and move as well. All was put right and rectified in time.

Remember, it’s always cheaper to pay to have a professional surveyor say there’s nothing seriously wrong, than to let the hairline crack become a nightmare.

Les Long FRICS FISVA
Principal, Eyesurvey

Contact EYESURVEY for all your professional property services and needs on 01206 545 139.

 

                               

Can there be an amateur surveyor?


No doubt you know that in every industry you will come across amateurs and cowboys who create more problems than they solve, and surveying is no different. Without a reputable and experienced surveyor, you could find yourself buying a property that costs more down the line than you could have imagined – and can probably afford!

There’s that old saying by well-known American oil well firefighter, Red Adair: ‘If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.’

Another saying is “if it is too good to be true, then it probably is”. In other words, someone offering you a cheap survey, will not do a comprehensive job and complete report. This can lead to all sorts of problems later on down the line, if you purchase a property and find something badly wrong that wasn’t picked up. This could cost you thousands for the sake of saving a few hundred on a survey.

Just to be clear – a Chartered Surveyor MUST be fully qualified, and entitled to use the letters MRICS or FRICS after their name by virtue of the Royal Charter. See more later.

An “AssocRICS” is a surveyor who has qualified to work only in certain limited areas of property practice, and IS NOT a Chartered Surveyor, although he or she will still be a Member of the RICS – an important distinction.

How can you tell if you’ve hired a professional or just someone claiming to be? Well, there are few things to consider when hiring a Chartered Surveyor…

If they’re cheap they may be too good to be true
While we all love a deal, there are some services you shouldn’t scrimp on, and a survey on your next property is one of them, as no one wants to be living in a home that’s going to cost them in the long run?

If you find a Chartered Surveyor who claims to be the cheapest around, I would recommend considering giving them a wide berth as they must be cutting costs in some areas to be able to charge such low prices. They might not be spending the right amount of time at the property, checking everything that needs to be looked at or they might say they’re carrying out a comprehensive survey when really, they’re doing the bare minimum.

Given that you could be living in your home for years to come, it’s not worth the risk, and with the average survey starting from around £375 - £450 onwards, it’s not the priciest part of moving in the grand scheme of things. So, isn’t it worth paying that little bit extra to guarantee you’re buying a safe, weathertight home and not a property that could “fall down” or fail in important areas if we have a few days of bad wind and rain?

How to know if someone is worth their salt
When choosing a Chartered Surveyor there are few ways to know if they are experienced and going to provide you with the level of service you need.

Are they accredited with a professional body? While some do choose not to be RICS accredited as it is not mandatory, the majority are, and you know there is a certain standard that an RICS Chartered Surveyor will provide. You can visit www.rics.org and use the ‘Find a member’ section to find out if your surveyor is RICS accredited. If they are not, they cannot call themselves “Chartered Surveyors”.

Accredited surveyors will use FRICS or MRICS after their name to indicate they are qualified.

Just for information – I also have the right to use FISVA after my FRICS, see the end of this article. That indicates I am a Fellow of the Independent Surveyors & Valuers Association, each member of which is an independent and fully qualified Chartered Surveyor. See – www.isva.org.uk

There are alternatives such SAVA School of Surveying and Residential Property Surveyors Association as well. Please notice that those who are only members of these organisations alone cannot call themselves or advertise their services as Chartered Surveyors, but may still call themselves “Surveyors” – the missing word “Chartered” is the clue.

Do they have legitimate reviews? Just like any other service, the best way to know if you are making the right choice with your surveyor is through reviews of their service. Many people like to leave bad reviews, however recently there has been an increase in good reviews following the pandemic in support of local businesses.

Google has been promoting reviews via Google My Business and you will find reviews via Facebook and Trustpilot, as well as on a company’s own website. Although, keep an eye out for obvious fake reviews including too similar reviews, clear over exaggerations and very generic names or information – you don’t want to be misled and your own due diligence is needed here.

Beware of surveyors new to the area
While it may be a simple statement, making sure your surveyor knows the area you’re moving to is important. If you live in a region well-known for certain property types, you will need someone who is familiar with those properties and the issues they may be plagued with. RICS generally expect the Chartered Surveyor to operate within a limited radius of their base, normally not over 50 miles, which is still a lot of ground to cover.

It isn’t always a deal-breaker, but local knowledge provides a lot of backbone to surveys in some areas and it is worth having someone familiar with it than not. If a surveyor says they are new here themselves, it might be worth looking elsewhere.

Things to consider if you realise you have hired an amateur
It’s clear that not all amateurs are easy to spot, and in my previous articles I’ve explained that to be a great Chartered Surveyor the essential tools are your mind and a toolkit of core items – you don’t need everything and the kitchen sink in this industry!

With that said you want to ensure that your surveyor isn’t throwing around lots of technical jargon that might confuse you. Just because they sound knowledgeable doesn’t mean they are. Ask them to explain things to you simply so you can understand it better. This will put them on the spot and you see they aren’t as experienced as they portray themselves to be.

My mantra is – “If it is something technical, and you – the Chartered Surveyor - understand it, you must be able to explain it clearly and in simple English to someone who has little or no technical knowledge”. I avoid jargon and technical terms in reports as far as possible.

It’s normal to ask for payment before a survey is sent to you, however you should have your report within a few working days after the inspection has been carried out (unless the surveyor has indicated otherwise). Keep an eye on how long it takes to arrive and try and get electronic versions, as well as hard copies for your own assurances – if possible.

Do appreciate that many Chartered Surveyors are having to work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so they may not be able to provide a printed version for now.

If you think that your surveyor has misled you or they’ve missed something, be sure to speak to them directly as soon as possible, however if your problem is not resolved, then remember that the RICS require all Chartered Surveyors to have a formal Complaints Handling Procedure.

You should not contact RICS – they cannot help you take matters further, until you have followed all stages of the Chartered Surveyor’s own Complaints Procedure.

Happy house-hunting!

Les Long FRICS FISVA
Principal, Eyesurvey

 

Contact EYESURVEY for all your professional property services and needs on 01206 545 139.

 

                               

The Essential Tool is the Mind

When a surveyor takes on and carries out a job for a client, he isn’t merely looking at a building.

Not only is he analysing and assessing the condition, he will be considering the legal or financial frameworks within which any property is used and can be occupied, safety factors, and often financial matters. A surveyor is trained in a vast range of legal areas, Building Regulations, UK legislation and “Common Law”, since even though he or she isn’t a solicitor, we must know what we work within and how it is regulated or controlled.

“Value” is apparently obvious, but is that the price to be paid to buy a home, a rental value, a sum for covering buildings insurance reinstatement after destruction by fire?

If a client needs a valuation for Probate & Inheritance Tax to be calculated, the surveyor needs to look at the value of the “legal interest” to be included in the “Estate” of the deceased owner under a Will, ignoring contents like furnishings and personal effects.

Surveyors work on detailed reports for residential, commercial, public and private sectors, and Compulsory Purchase, with residential properties such as houses, bungalows, flats being the ‘bread and butter’ of most surveyors. Commercial properties include shops, offices, industrial workshops, warehouses, storage and contractor’s yards, while public conveniences, schools, and libraries come under public sectors.

Compulsory Purchase, includes taking land to build the HS2, for example. The main laws dealing with finding and agreeing the value to be paid to the former owner are the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965, and the Land Compensation Act 1973 “as amended” by later changes in legislation.

These reports can cover a range of things, from purchase, sale or leasing of a property, especially periodic rent reviews on commercial units and setting renewal terms for an expiring lease, to valuing and surveying properties, which takes in the many facets of a property. It can also include the management of blocks of flats or individual properties let to tenants.

Being able to understand the differences between these areas and what each entail goes hand in hand with the qualifications you earn and the skill set you develop along the way. There is a level of technical knowledge and competence you need in order to be a surveyor – you can’t just wake up and decide to be a surveyor, you need training and a good understanding of the ins and outs of properties.

A degree in surveying combined with technical knowledge is now necessary to qualify as a Chartered Surveyor, however, knowledge in the following areas is not just helpful but vital:

Economics – a recession may not affect property for some many months later than other parts of the county’s financial operation, and it takes longer to react and to recover.
Mathematics – Valuation is not just guesswork or judgement, it can be using very specialised and complex mathematical conventions only relevant to property work. How is a rental income turned into a cash amount to sell as an investment?
Building construction – From the pyramids and ancient temples of Greece or Rome to stately homes and humble terraced houses in the UK, they all have their own special constructional methods to consider. No, we at Eyesurvey don’t inspect the Colosseum or the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

So, what do you need to have to become a successful surveyor other than the necessary qualifications?

A logical and practical mind
To navigate each inspection in a timely manner and to ensure nothing is overlooked or missed. This isn’t as obvious as you may think. This is a routine the surveyor evolves individually over years of experience. When a client wants to meet us on the site during an inspection, we’ll usually say we must ask them to arrive when we finish, and not while we work. If the routine is broken, something serious might not be noted down, bad news for both client and surveyor!

Good oral and written communications
The ability to complete reports in clear English, and liaise with clients.

Ability to build rapport
This helps for returning clients in the future and word of mouth. It also is good to be able to build rapport with other professionals such as other surveyors, architects, structural engineers etc. as we often have to negotiate terms with another surveyor, when acting either for a Landlord or the tenant in rent review cases, more often in a Commercial setting.

Report writing skills
Separate from written communication skills, report writing in itself is difficult as you have to understand how to present your inspection in a logical way for all parties involved. We may understand technicalities, but the client normally doesn’t – we need to report and explain to them in “People English”, with good clear grammar and correct spelling!

Identify problems and solutions
This is a natural talent that develops over time and with experience. A client often asks about arranging a “Survey” but actually want their property valued. “Help to Buy” is a perfect example of a specialist valuation job. To most of the public, everything a surveyor does is “a survey” – but it isn’t.

We might be asked how to attend to a particular building fault, but we may not usually give the costs involved – you’ll have to get prices quoted by a builder or other tradesman.

Confidence in your own judgement
There may be some areas you are challenged on – an ideal example is appearing in Court as Expert Witness, on a boundary dispute, or a case of a claim for incorrect valuation, especially for mortgage lenders. “The evidence I shall give….”

Ability to work to deadlines and have good time management and timekeeping
We need to earn a crust, but have to be flexible for our client’s needs and work accordingly. For example, our clients have wanted their work done in time to get in the “Stamp Duty Holiday” ending this month (June 2021). Some jobs can’t be set at a fixed price, so we may work out charges on an “Hourly rate” for the time expended.

Specialist knowledge
There are some specialists’ areas and knowledge bases, such as surveying Town Halls and understanding business rates, that also can come into play as well, should you go down that route. Being able to understand and assess economic viability and environmental impact is also a part of property management and is often essential in assessing a new development.

Continued personal development after initial qualifications
Often called CPD or “Lifelong learning”. That is “mandatory” – compulsory – for a Chartered Surveyor, who must carry out a set minimum number of such hour’s study or seminars per year, every year, and must record those hours annually with the RICS.

Wanting to (and needing to) consistently evolve with technology and your understanding of the environment you work in. You can’t just sit back and think your initial studies, training, and qualification will see you through your career, although that might have taken around seven to 10 years in all!

Memory
Just like a computer, the human brain can retain huge amounts of information. You may be surprised when you’re moving house again, that if you call a surveyor after many years, they will remember your present property!

Not just what it looked like or where it is, but actual technical details and images of faults in the mind.

Les Long calls it a “Filing cabinet in the head”.

So, there is an explanation, why the essential tool is the surveyor’s mind. He’s probably been doing all those things listed above instinctively and due to years of experience, when he does your work.

Is that worth paying a “good fee” to him to work for you?

Les Long FRICS FISVA
Principal, Eyesurvey


Contact EYESURVEY for all your professional property services and needs on 01206 545 139.

 

                               

What’s in my surveyor’s tool bag?


In the 30 years I have been working for myself, I have seen a myriad of specialist tools and gadgets become available to surveyors, and digital versions of traditional equipment become the norm for many in the field. However, after years of honing my craft, I have also tailored my tool bag to the job at hand, and my simple kit allows me to get the job done efficiently, with no fuss.

I’m a firm believer that you don’t need everything plus the kitchen sink to survey a property properly, and as such my tool bag consists of the basics, plus a few specialist items. Take a look inside my bag and you’ll understand that simple, reliable equipment makes all the difference.

Camera
A high-quality digital camera, with zoom lens and a separate flashgun allows me to visually document what I find at a property and helps me in writing my report as I can re-examine areas of interest. These images can also be used as a reference should there be any queries with my report.

Moisture detector
Moisture is one of the biggest issues that a property can have, so I need to be able to identify areas of mould and water damage within a property, as that is not always possible just through sight alone. I always bring with me a reliable moisture meter to help me identify damage caused by moisture build-up in woodwork close to a wall, as well as areas of moisture that could become a problem down the line for future homeowners.

Measuring equipment
In order to accurately assess your home, simple equipment offers the assurance that floors are level, and doorframes and windowsills are straight. For this I use a spirit level, which also allows me to effectively check dropped windows which can happen with heavy window surrounds or heavy glass, and of course – building movement. I could use this to check the verticality of walls, foundations and columns: effective for examining a properties structure.

Another easy trick to check if a floor is level is using a marble, or a ball bearing – it rolls to the low point – and almost no costs!

A laser measure is great for internal measuring, fast, and lets you get in corners you can’t reach due to furniture. But a good laser will also calculate heights of a wall, and internal floor areas, and quality products will cost well above £150 – 200.

A 30 metre/100-foot surveyors’ tape – essential kit. You will find that simple, cheap item is better than a laser for external work, land and fences, or in bright light when the laser beam vanishes!

Wire probe
A simple length of stiff wire can be used to check the depth of a crack in a wall. A wire coat hanger can be cut to length and is ideal, virtually no cost!

Mirror
A mirror can allow the surveyor to ‘see round corners’ to areas like the inaccessible back of a chimney. The camera can also be used in much the same way, and to record any faults.

Ladder
There are always times when I will need to access high-level features and obviously including roof spaces, but might include internal areas such as tall built-in cupboards, high up pipes. We go in loft spaces where safe to access; we can reach external parts such as flat roofs and guttering.

Please note – never walk on a flat roof without using crawling boards. Safe access for future repairs will require scaffold or similar equipment.

A lightweight portable ladder that is easy to store in the car is a must-have in my line of work to allow me to thoroughly check a property to the full extent of the survey requested. It will be 3 metres/10 foot in length, as above that will not normally be safe, especially if working alone.

Torch
A simple yet necessary item to always have with me is a strong rechargeable torch. There are many small or dark areas in a home that I will need to inspect, such as lofts and chimneys, and a powerful torch is essential – I carry two! - for checking these areas. Although a straightforward choice, a torch has come in handy on many occasions when looking under floorboards and in airing cupboards.

Calculator
A simple but necessary addition to my tool bag is a calculator. A trusty calculator helps me work out floor areas from measurements taken during my inspection and allows me to provide advice on the amount for which the property should be covered for Buildings Insurance.

The humble pencil/pen
While technological advances have helped develop some of the items I carry with me daily, I still carry with me a clipboard with paper, pens and pencils for all my notes and measurements. Yes, some surveyors use a digital voice recorder or a tablet computer like an iPad – fine, if that’s their choice – but my old methods don’t run out of battery. I digitally record the report later for typing.

Sometimes, the simple things can make all the difference and we don’t need flashy items to get the job done, just good old-fashioned equipment and a pencil.

Lifting equipment
Part of my job requires me to look under floorboards (if not fixed down – none of our work allows us to cause damage) and drain covers, which means I need to carry with me levers – simple steel tyre levers are fine – and both Pozidriv/cross-head and flat-head screwdrivers, or several.

Never a chisel – too dangerous, and we never cut into or open-up any parts of a building.

This kit allows me to easily access hard to reach places without causing damage.

Special protective clothing
The last of many things I need when I carry out my work, and although not in my tool bag per se, is still something that I need to have with on every inspection I undertake, is protective clothing and similar items.

These items can take many forms; however, I will wear a high visibility jacket when appropriate. I use sanitising alcohol gel or spray, anti-bacterial wipes, a mask and surgical gloves whenever I undertake a survey during COVID-19; maybe goggles, hard hat and steel toe cap safety boots. I also carry shoe covers, for those immaculate homes we sometimes visit!

A towel to dry hands and hair after a wet inspection, and perhaps soap or liquid handwash.

Bag
A strong canvas bag for carrying the whole lot of tools, and a specialised padded bag for all the camera kit.

I prefer to keep the items in my tool bag simple to focus on your inspection. A thorough inspection requires time, and I’m not only able to carry out the standard visual inspections of ceilings, bathrooms, walls, outdoor buildings, windows and doors, but also visual-only inspections of the heating, electric, water and drain chambers among other parts, seamlessly with my little tool bag.

Contact EYESURVEY for all your professional property services and needs on 01206 545 139.

 

                               

How is your commercial rent review carried out?

It is a question many commercial landlords and tenants should be exploring and must appreciate, when a rent review arises during the existing lease, or when a new lease must be agreed between both parties.

A great way to explain this is to speak about two particular cases I am working on currently involving retail premises - one is a review on an existing lease, the other is a renewal. This provides an obvious visualisation of the process. The process comes with intricacies of detail and shows why it is important to commission a Chartered Surveyor to carry out this work.

The reason why I mention my own professional carrying out of this important task is poignant. Solicitors are very often asked to take on the role of acting for a landlord, or for a tenant in this situation. In most cases, grasping the mathematics and methods of measuring used by professional surveyors / valuers baffles the most diligent of legal representatives. That convention is part of our training, is not used by any other profession, and without trying to sound rude, Solicitors who attempt this should probably stick to conveyancing. I know I certainly wouldn’t attempt to carry out the complexities of conveyancing as a professional Chartered Surveyor. Indeed, many diligent solicitors who understand this, tend to recommend Eyesurvey to their clients.

So how does it work?

In many ways the process is similar on each project. Floor areas must first be measured and calculated. This should be conducted according to a standard called the RICS Code of Measuring Practice used by every RICS Registered Surveyor in the UK. Once measurements are taken, the shop areas are adjusted by a convention known as ‘Zoning’. The procedure is necessary as in most shops for example, the customers use only the front section of the establishment and rarely venture into the rear storage and staff areas. This means that those front public areas are more valuable, with the retail parts further back and any non-public areas being less valuable as you go deeper into the premises. Whilst carrying out this part of the survey, certain allowances are made and deducted for obstructions and structural inconveniences, rendering the floor shape irregular.

Measuring and calculating the zones

The zoning procedure is relatively straight-forward. Zone A is the first 6 metres/20 feet from the front of the building and is taken at THE ACTUAL AREA. The next 6m/ 20 feet is ZONE B, but HALF that area is allowed. The next 6m/ 20 feet is Zone C, or indeed, part of that if smaller, but is taken as a QUARTER of its actual area. Zone D is the next 6m/20 ft of depth (if any) – that is allowed at ONE-EIGHTH of actual area, and so on for any “Remainders” – as ONE SIXTEENTH.

The overall process is aptly named “halving-back’ for very obvious reasons. Added together, the adjusted section areas give a total area “In terms of Zone A” or “ITZA”.

It sounds easy, doesn’t it?

As you can imagine, the process can be quite a complex one, and provides every reason and need to call in a professional Chartered Surveyor to take control of this situation. They are qualified and experienced to provide an accurate survey, which in real terms shouldn’t be disputed…..

The final agreement shouldn’t be too difficult…………!

In most cases, each side in the negotiations of a rent review will employ a professional. Independent Chartered Surveyor. Each will act for their party and both follow the exact same process. There is even a method for both to agree areas even if they come up with slightly different measurements and findings.

Yes, differences do occur, but rarely lead to anything other than an agreement at the end of the process. If they agree on floor areas (which doesn’t always happen), they collectively look at the measurements, or may meet and make joint measurements together, to agree the areas.

The next, and crucial stage is gathering rental evidence from other rental transactions – “the Comparables” - to use as a basis for setting the new rental figure. Each surveyor will explore other rental transactions and use this as a basis to negotiate a final figure and rental agreement. You might think that’s also simple – “I couldn’t possibly comment……..”

See, I told you it was easy!

My advice for anyone who is negotiating a lease renewal or a rent review, and on both sides of the equation is to employ a Chartered Surveyor to act on your behalf.

Les Long FRICS FISVA
Principal, Eyesurvey

 

Contact EYESURVEY for all your professional property services and needs on 01206 545 139.

 

                               

A snapshot in time: Access issues, faults and property problems


If you’ve accepted an offer on a property then the next stage in the sales process is to establish which survey you need. The level of survey you decide on will depend on the age, value and state of the property, along with how detailed you want the Surveyor to be in preparing the report. RICS Condition Reports, Homebuyer Reports and Building Surveys are all designed to ensure every aspect of the property is looked over to check for faults that could raise their heads further down the line after the sale is complete, but the level of detail given is very different.

You never know, the smallest issues could become your biggest problem! So, what happens when problems are flagged, access becomes an issue or there are concerns further down the line?

Nothing is forever

What we mean by this, is that we as Chartered Surveyors produce surveys that are a snapshot of what the property comprises and its existing condition, at the time of inspection. It is considered that unless there is something hidden or inaccessible so it’s not possible to detect any such issues, the report is as thorough as practical and fair representation of the property. These points can present - or conceal - themselves in a number of ways including stacked-up moving boxes preventing sufficient access, or fitted carpets and furniture, so it’s not always practical to find a bad floor or other defects.

That’s why, with the best will in the world, it has to be understood that a report may not be ‘full’, no matter how thorough. Make sure you have read, AND UNDERSTOOD, the ‘Description of Service’ or ‘Terms of Business’ sent by the Surveyor.

The importance of communication

A thorough and fair inspection in part relies upon the Vendor and Estate Agent ensuring the property is prepared for inspection. It is not unheard of for areas where defects may exist to be inaccessible or concealed, which can in turn slow down and even cause a sale to fall through.

If during an initial viewing you spot an area for concern or notice an area that you think could cause access issues, it always worth mentioning this to your Surveyor and Estate Agent. To ensure as much as possible is accessible for inspection during the survey, a Surveyor will usually communicate prior to the inspection, to ensure the Vendor knows to provide as much access as possible.

This can include requests such as supplying keys for windows and doors; moving large furniture away from walls; clearing areas with common problems; opening hatches; and ensuring there is good access to the fuse box and boiler – but these are not always practical. If the home isn’t big enough, items may not be able to be moved to any extent.

 

When issues arise

Your Surveyor needs to work safely first and foremost, especially taking health measures due to the pandemic into consideration. As such, forcing drain covers open, moving heavy furniture and balancing on joists including in lofts may not be possible! While certainly not exhaustive and likely to vary from property to property, these are some of the common issues that can prevent sufficient access for inspection:

• Drain covers that are stuck or unable to be opened.
• Fitted floor coverings such as carpets and laminate.
• Locked windows or doors including those with missing keys.
• Particularly large or heavy items of furniture not moved away from walls.
• Loft-hatches that are fixed closed or locked, sometimes seen in tenanted and student properties.
• Lack of safe access to a roof space or where stored items and insulation restricts the view.
• Inability to access garages due to contents and if built close to fences.
• Be aware that garden sheds, and non-permanent outbuildings are usually not covered in any detail.

Your Surveyor will provide you with an unbiased report based on the facts. Remember, it’s in everyone’s interest that sales progress smoothly, so, if your Surveyor informs you that they cannot access a particular area or element during their inspection, this is an opportunity for you to make the necessary arrangements with your Vendor and for the Surveyor to visit the property again. If not, you continue at your own risk. There will normally be some charge for Surveyor’s additional visits.

A stitch in time saves nine

If you don’t service your car and change the oil and tyres when due, something will go wrong! It’s the same with properties.

It is assumed in every case that the new owner will carry out proper and regular maintenance on the property, and not neglect it, then moan that “the Surveyor didn’t tell me!”. If you don’t paint external woodwork and windows, then rot will set in and high repair costs result. Likewise, if leaky gutters and dampness follows causing related problems such as wood rot, it’s not the Surveyor that’s at fault, but the owner!

Take a look at our seasonal property maintenance checklists, to ensure you stay on top of routine jobs.

For more advice on buying and selling properties including our survey services, news, tips and what our clients say; contact the Eyesurvey team for free initial advice on 01206 545 139.

 

                               

What is a damp proof course?

There is a common misunderstanding among many clients about Damp Proof Courses (DPCs) in house walls and what this actually means. Many people wrongly call them ‘damp courses’, possibly thinking it’s a layer of a building that is damp - it isn't. It’s a level provided in a lower wall or a floor where a water-impervious damp proof material (a strip or membrane -DPM) is included. 

Slate strips, bitumen such as tar or asphalt, and later on paper impregnated with bitumen, later still plastic strips are used to prevent dampness from rising or being absorbed upwards from the earth below the building.

DPCs are usually part of the construction of a property, creating a barrier between the bricks at floor level or below, and the bricks above to stop the moisture from rising, but in some cases may be missing or broken. Both DPC and DPM are terms used in describing the damp proofing process and construction. The basic difference between DPC and DPM is that DPCs are used in walls and generally applied at basement level, while DPMs are the sheet materials incorporated into flooring to prevent moisture transmission.

To understand the construction of DPCs and the improvements seen over the last 100 years, it’s worth looking back at the evolution of building elements. This will also give you a good idea of how the DPC is constructed in your property, depending on when it was built.

Early Timber Floors

Most houses by 1900 were built with suspended ground floors, typically constructed with joists supported by loadbearing walls and covered with floorboards. To help protect against rising damp, brittle materials such as slate were used on the joist ends, as these were usually only protected by a half-brick thickness (115mm/ 4.5”) of wall. Deep joists were expensive, so intermediate supports known as sleeper walls were used, built directly onto small foundations or the ground. These walls should be built like a honeycomb to let air flow through. To ventilate the sub-floor, air bricks were built into the external walls but this was not always efficient, partly due to the construction of the sleeper walls and there not being enough vents.

The 1920s

During the first 20 years of the century, suspended timber floor changes and a number of improvements were made. These included covering the bare earth below the joists with a concrete slab (or ‘oversite’) at or above the external ground level, to prevent a build-up of water and the growth of any vegetation. Floor joists no longer touched the external walls and were supported by fully honeycombed sleeper walls, through which ventilation could flow easily.

The 1950s

Concrete floors became more common in the 1950’s and typically comprised of a layer of hardcore (broken brick and stone), a 100-125mm concrete slab and then the floor surface or screed laid on top. This floor was usually timber or thermoplastic tiles laid in bitumen bedding material, sometimes with a damp-proof membrane (DPM). That meant that the barrier to rising damp would usually have only been the bitumen.

The 1960s – 1990s

Over the next 30 years, a typical concrete floor comprised of a layer of hardcore, a bitumen strip and later on a polythene strip, and with a polythene damp proof membrane laid on a bed of sand (to prevent puncturing) and a floor screed on which tiles or some other finish would be fitted. Hot and cold liquid bitumen solutions were also common, giving superior but more expensive protection. Polythene DPMs then became an accepted form of damp proofing and were laid below the concrete slab, and in the outer walls.

The 2000s

Since the mid 1990’s, Building Regulations have required insulation in ground floors. In concrete floors, these rigid boards are usually laid under the DPM and above or below the concrete slab, as they feature a closed-cell structure making them impervious to water and vapour. The DPM is still very much necessary, to prevent moisture from rising between the board joints and penetrating the slab. Sometimes a DPC in the outer wall might consist of two or more layers – courses – of ‘Engineering brick’ (a brick baked or fired at such high temperatures in manufacture they become virtually ceramics and resist moisture). Suspended concrete floors are also favoured by many developers and constructed with inverted T beams, infilled with concrete blocks. Since 2004, Building Regulations require the underfloor spaces to be vented, however, DPMs are not required so long as minimum gaps between the floor soffits and sub-soil are maintained. Timber floors are also becoming more popular with key improvements including supported joists, treated timber, increased ventilation and insulated flooring.

How do I tell if my home has a DPC?

A functional DPC is essential to any property, to prevent moisture from rising and causing damage. If your home was built in the last 100 years, it’s very likely it was constructed with a DPC / DPM. You may be able to find your DPC by looking at an external wall, about 6 inches or so above ground level to spot a thin line of slate or plastic strip or membrane set in a slightly thicker mortar course.

What if I have a broken or missing DPC?

The majority of homes will have a DPC, however, they can become damaged making them susceptible to damp penetration. A broken or missing DPC will result in problems including damp patches and crumbling plaster on internal and external walls. However, it’s much more common that paving has been laid above or too close to the DPC/DPM level, and allows ‘bridging’ or rain splash to go onto the wall above the DPC/DPM, resulting in damp entry. If left untreated this can result in serious damp problems such as dry and wet rot. There are several solutions available nowadays to fix or install a DPC, however, we recommend that this is always undertaken by a professional company - not a ‘Damp Proofing Specialist’ who is often just a salesman.

A RICS Condition Report, RICS Homebuyer Report and a Building Survey will all check for damp issues and offer varying levels of extensive search, investigation and advice. To speak with our highly experienced team for free initial advice on many building and property-related subjects, or to find out more about our services; please contact the Eyesurvey team on 01206 545 139.

Images courtesy of University of the West of England, Bristol, 2009.

 

                               

Why the soaring house prices of 2020 are likely to slow down this year

 

In 2020, building society Nationwide found that UK house prices increased by 7.5%; their fastest rate in more than 20 years, extending a post-lockdown boom and a resilience that seemed unlikely at the beginning of the pandemic. [1] However, these sales figures are expected to fall in 2021.

In early December 2020, mortgage lender Halifax released house price data that showed the biggest increase in house prices since 2004, following the end of Britain’s second national lockdown. Bank of England data also showed the highest number of mortgage approvals since 2007. [2] This increase can be attributed to a number of factors - not only are buyers demanding more space with changing preferences fuelled by the pandemic (including wanting more outdoor space and working from home facilities), but many are continuing to bring forward moving plans, to benefit from the temporary stamp duty holiday.

Introduced in July 2020 and designed to jump-start sales after they collapsed during the first national lockdown; the temporary reduction in Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) rates saw the government increase the threshold to £500,000 for property sales in England and Northern Ireland until 31st March 2021. [3] This means that anyone completing a purchase on a main residence costing up to £500,000 before the deadline, they will not pay any stamp duty and more expensive properties will only be taxed on their value above that amount.

With the average house price in England and Wales now standing at £326,762 [4] and the potential for buyers to save on average £4,500 and as much as £15,000, Rishi Sunak predicted that nearly 9/10 people buying a main home would pay no stamp duty at all. [5]

With the tax exemption break coming to an end in March and the economic realities of 2021, including Brexit and increasing unemployment in-line with the furlough scheme ending in April; sales volumes are expected to slow and fall after the first quarter by up to 5%.

While a boom in transactions in expected in Q1 as buyers rush to purchase before the end of the March 2021 holiday; The Office for Budget Responsibility forecast house prices will plunge by more than 8% before staging a rapid recovery in 2022.[6]

In common with most firms of surveyors, we have experienced a huge increase in workloads, as buyers want surveys carried out in time to catch the stamp duty holiday. The shorter days and limited light afternoons reduce the amount of work it is practical to carry out each day. We presently have diary bookings weeks in advance, yet often work weekends and up to 10pm most evenings, processing work in hand.

Russell Galley, managing director at Halifax, said: “While the economy should begin to recover in 2021, helped by the roll-out of Covid vaccines, the jobs market will inevitably adjust to the changes in demand that are occurring, and unemployment is expected to rise. With the stamp duty holiday also due to expire in March – and lower levels of demand – housing market activity is likely to slow.” [7]

Our advice is - You will have noticed that market prices have tended to increase over recent months. We cannot predict whether these increases will be sustained, fall back, or market prices become stabilised in the foreseeable future. You must give serious consideration to your situation should prices fall after purchase, especially if taking on a mortgage.

If you are considering making an offer to purchase a property, we would be delighted to talk you through our valuation and survey services here at Eyesurvey. For free initial advice and a friendly chat with our experienced team, please get in touch on 01206 545 139.

 

                               

Why does my survey report say the house has 'cavity walls'?

Some of our clients are mystified by terms we use, like Cavity Walls. Not to worry, as you may not have detailed building knowledge like a Chartered Surveyor, it’s our job to notice and explain these things to you – and that should be in simple English that you can understand.

What did early construction look like?

Centuries ago most buildings were made of timber or stone. Around Elizabethan times circa 15th century, bricks made of fired clay became more commonly used for building. Being small, they could be built into quite intricate structures of considerable strength with attractive results. Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire and Faulkbourne Hall in Essex are both fabulous examples of this original craftsmanship.

These early brick walls would have been built ‘solid’, that is as ‘non-cavity’ formations. If we consider that a brick is on average 225x115x100mm / 9 x 4.5x 4”, then the wall would have been as wide as the length of a brick 225mm / 9”, also called a ‘one-brick wall’. These were usually constructed with interlocking bricks in two close layers running along the walls face, supported with some bricks going through the depth of the wall.

One of our earlier articles recently covered the way in which the bricks interlock, for decoration and strength – the ‘brick bond’.

What was the problem with non-cavity walls?

Non-cavity walls are strong but may suffer from damp entry if they are exposed to rain and/or very high winds. If badly maintained, the mortar joints can also erode over time causing extensive troubles.

What is a cavity wall?

This was a lightbulb moment! A cavity wall is constructed with two separate walls – ‘leaves’ - that have a 50-90mm cavity or hollow space left between them. The idea is simple – the outer wall or ‘leaf’ can be relatively damp, but the inner leaf is separated by the air gap – the cavity – and should stay dry, on the side you live in. Cavity walls should provide some limited thermal insulation as well, for the same reasons.

What about wall ties?

It was realised later that the thinner leaves needed to be tied together to form a stronger structure, or the two wall leaves could buckle, separate further or collapse. These ties were inserted as the building was erected for additional strength between the leaves.

In early times, pieces of wood, six-inch nails and other bits of metal were used as ties, however, as wood rots over time and the other items might not form effective holds, movement may have occurred due to those failures.

Gradually, galvanised wire, stainless steel and plastic ties evolved offering more durability and security in the construction, and which we continue to use today. These are now designed not to carry moisture from the outer to the inner walls. Still, these have had their problems including failure due to corrosion or rusting, but nothing’s perfect.
 

How do I know if I have cavity walls?

At various times, cavity walls were constructed with common bricks or aggregate blocks, sometimes covered with a decorative finish or cement rendered externally. Nowadays, inner leaves of cavity walls are constructed with lightweight aerated concrete blocks for their superior insulation qualities.

While some houses were built with cavity walls in the late nineteenth century, their use didn’t become popular until the 1920s. Now almost universal in construction since the 1960s, it can be hard to tell with the naked eye whether an older property has cavity walls.

Very generally, if the external walls of your building are less than 265 - 300mm thick, it’s unlikely that it includes a cavity. You may be able to also tell – with a trained eye - by looking at the brick patterns on the outside walls of your property. Typically, if the bricks are all laid on their longest side – as ‘stretchers’ - this is a good indication of a cavity wall.

What is cavity wall insulation?

In later years, people decided an open wall cavity wasn’t the best insulator. To improve on this, various kinds of insulation were invented. This included a urea formaldehyde liquid that was injected into the cavity, turning into foam trapping air bubbles as an insulator. Unfortunately, as it cured, this foam gave off fumes that could irritate or cause breathing difficulties to occupiers.

Later on, plastic beads made from polystyrene were added loose into the top of a newly built cavity until it was filled up. Still later the beads were coated with glue, so they didn’t all cascade out if a hole was made in the wall, such as to fit a new boiler flue or extractor. More recently mineral wool fibre became the most common method of energy-efficient insulation in newer properties, either blown in (injected as loose fibres) or today in the form of mineral fibre slabs, which are built into the cavity during construction.

Please be aware that a bad installation of ‘retro-fit’ cavity wall insulation can lead to severe problems, including aggravating existing damp entry – and it should not be used where walls are exposed to very high winds and where driving rain results.

How we can assist you!

Overall, the objective is to keep your home and living space warm and dry, if all is done correctly. That’s an important thing your Chartered Surveyor looks for; evidence and signs of problems with the walls of the property during a survey on your behalf. For free initial advice and to speak with our highly experienced team on any property concerns, including questions around cavity walls, call Eyesurvey on 01206 545 139.

 

                               

Seasonal Property Maintenance Checklist: Protect your home for winter

 

As we approach the end of the year and the onset of chillier winter weather, now is the ideal time to ensure your home is prepared and equipped to handle the more extreme conditions. We’ve pulled together our essential winter home maintenance checklist to put you in good stead for the colder weather, so there are no nasty surprises come spring.

Heating Systems and Sources
Now the heating season is here, high priority for property owners should be to maintain and service your heating system. It’s best to check this early to avoid any issues once the cold weather hits.

Have your boiler serviced. The most important check is to make sure your boiler isn't leaking carbon monoxide and burning efficiently for economy. Your local Gas Safe Engineer can carry out a service or annual inspection to ensure the whole system is working properly – but don’t forget gas fires.

Check your radiators. You should check all of your radiators and any thermostatic valves to ensure they turn on and off and provide heat effectively. If the radiators are warmer at the bottom than the top you’ll need to bleed them to release any trapped air. This will help improve the system’s efficiency and reduce energy bills - and if air is trapped, the radiator can rust internally.

Regulate the temperature. If you’re away from your property for any length of time, ensure that you keep the heating on constantly at a minimum temperature – cheaper than frozen pipe damage. 10c/50f will ensure there’s a consistent temperature around your pipes to stop them freezing, reducing the risk of condensation and mould growth.

Clean your chimneys. It’s recommended that chimneys are cleaned at least once a year and before increased use to remove residue and prevent home fires. Employ a local sweep to inspect and clean your fireplace chimneys and wood-burning stoves. Gas fires should also be cleaned and safety inspected before use.

Plumbing & Pipework
As the water circulating through the plumbing system gets colder, avoid potential issues and huge amounts of damage by preventing pipe freezing.

Insulate pipework. Ensure pipes, especially those in the loft and those outside are well insulated to prevent bursts. Fit vulnerable pipes with insulation sleeves or wrapping, ensuring any gaps in the sleeves are under the pipe.

Check the stopcock. Regularly check that main supply stopcocks are working easily so the water supply can be turned off if required. If the tap is stiff to turn, a coat of Vaseline on the tap spindle near the body will often free it. This could prevent serious structural damage!

Insulation & Draught Exclusion
Next up is insulation. Ensuring that you have efficient insulation and draught measures in place can vastly improve your homes EPC rating, saving you money. Fit low-energy light bulbs too.

Inspect your loft. Ensure that your loft insulation is fitted to a depth of at least 270mm/ 11” thick over ceilings, but do not fit any insulation underneath water tanks – they must have good lagging fitted as well.


• Look for leaks. Check inside the roof, especially around chimney joints.

• Insulate draughty areas. Insulate areas that could allow in draughts, such as under doors, loft hatches and between floorboards. Replace draught-proof covers around the front door letterbox and keyhole if necessary. • Repair damaged seals. Repairing door and window-frame seals that are damaged is one of the cheapest ways to save energy. If you find any gaps or holes, fill them with non-hardening caulk – available very cheaply from do-it-yourself shops - or replace the draught-proofing strips.


Roofs & Exterior Surfaces
The exterior of your property is the first line of defence against bad weather. It’s therefore vital to ensure that exterior surfaces are all as robust as possible before winter sets in.

Inspect the roof. A roofing professional can replace any missing, loose, cracked or buckled tiles, slates and flat roof coverings. Pools of water remaining on a flat roof are indications of weak drainage, which can also increase the risk of leaks. Sufficient insulation, moisture barriers and ventilation can help prevent trouble.

Check the soffits and facias around eaves. Repair or replace any potential areas where rainwater could get in and cause internal damage to your property. That will also keep out insects like wasps looking for somewhere to hibernate.

Check for cracks. Not only in house or garage walls! A good sealant that’s reapplied to gaps and joints every two to five years can help prevent this damp risk too.

Look for cracks in your driveway or uneven ground. These can be exacerbated by frost.

Check exterior paint. Cracked or peeling paint may mean moisture is making wooden surfaces swell.

Gardens & Exterior Maintenance
The front and back gardens shouldn’t be neglected either. Overgrown trees, bushes and shrubs can damage fences, brickwork, window and door frames, leaves will block gutters and even drains, and root action can lead to movement damage tor foundations of the house itself.

Prune, trim and tidy. Prune and trim any overhanging shrubs and trees and don’t forget to rake leaves to prevent grass from dying. Growing season begins in a few more months and any existing issues will only be exacerbated by vigorous growth.

Clear the gutters. Empty guttering of sludge, especially if you see weeds growing! - and drain covers of fallen leaves to ensure the free flow of rainwater into drains and away from your home. Collections or overflows of water can weaken brickwork and cause leaks and damp to appear inside your home.

Treat your surfaces. Seal your outside timber such as fences, decks and sheds to ensure it remains weatherproof and robust through the changing seasons.

Check exterior lighting. Ensure that exterior lights all are working, particularly any security lights, for your own safety during dark afternoons and short days, so you can rest assured that your property is well protected.

For free advice and to speak with our highly experienced team on any property concerns, call Eyesurvey on 01206 545 139.

 

                               

What’s the Difference between a Survey and a Valuation?

 

At Eyesurvey, we strive to make things simple, which is why whenever a customer asks us about the difference between a valuation and a survey, we’re happy to help them with the answer. If you’ve found your dream home and are keen to find out what lies beneath the surface, a valuation along won’t cut it. Here’s why.

Many people wrongly assume that a valuation is the same as a survey and they use the term interchangeably, however, the two are very different. Before you exchange contracts on a house, make sure that you understand these differences so you can make an informed decision about your purchase.

What is a mortgage valuation for?

The purpose of a valuation is to satisfy the lender that the property you are buying is worth the amount you’re paying for it. While this information is useful for buyers, mortgage valuations are conducted for the benefit of your mortgage provider.

If you are purchasing a property outright (without a mortgage), you will not need to get a valuation done, unless you want to be advised if the proposed price is reasonable. But that isn’t the same as having advice on the condition of the property.

What does a mortgage valuation entail?

Your valuation will be carried out by a specialist surveyor, or a valuer, who is knowledgeable about the prices of comparable homes in the area. Typically, they will only spend 15 – 30 minutes at the property, and will only consider superficial details.

Having a local valuer is key to an accurate valuation. At Eyesurvey we know our local area like the back of our hand. So, things like school catchment areas, development plans and level of demand can all be taken into consideration to give you the best quality and reliable valuation possible.

Where can I get a mortgage valuation?

Your lender, a bank or Building Society, will arrange the valuation, usually charging you a fee.

Eyesurvey do not do valuations for ANY lenders.

We will do valuations for many other purposes though, such as for Buildings Insurance cover, or Probate/ Inheritance Tax, and for Matrimonial proceedings.

Les Long FRICS of Eyesurvey is a member of the RICS Valuers Registration Scheme. If you need a private property valuation for your own purposes, call us and be assured that you will receive the most comprehensive and accurate valuation possible.

 

What is a property survey for?

Your property may look pretty perfect to the untrained eye, but our highly experienced team can often find things hidden under the surface. We offer many different types of surveys, but they all have one thing in common, to find any property issues that may cost you down the line if left unfixed. Our team will advise you on the best survey type for your property to ensure you receive all the information you need.

Learning about these defects before exchanging contracts with the seller gives you an opportunity to re-negotiate your deal, possibly saving you thousands of pounds in remedial work.

 

It’s not uncommon for buyers to ask the vendor to make repairs prior to the sale, or to lower their offer (for example, if the problem will cost £5,000 to repair, they will reduce their offer by the same amount).


What does a property survey entail?

There is more than one kind of property survey, and the exact process will vary according to which one you choose. In every case a Chartered Surveyor will visit the property and conduct an investigation, however the time spent and the level of detail provided depends on the survey you choose.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors provide three levels of property survey;

Condition Reports (Level 1) – the most basic option, providing a snapshot of the property’s condition to give buyers peace of mind. The surveyor focuses on superficial items and any obvious problems that need to be addressed. This form of report is intended ONLY for recently built properties apparently in good general order, and not others or older types.

HomeBuyer Reports (Level 2) – A non-invasive survey which results in a reasonably detailed report. It will normally include any roof spaces. This will include structural observations or evidence of building movement, and information about issues that should be urgently addressed. Suitable for typical homes, at a mid-range fee.

Building Surveys (Level 3) – Ideal for large, unusual or historic buildings, building surveys are the most thorough investigations on the market. The surveyor will check all reachable or visible areas of the building and make recommendations about how to repair and maintain them. You will understand this is the most costly form of report.


Do I really need a survey?

Of course, you could purchase a property without arranging a survey, but may later find out the entire roof needs a complete rebuild, landing you with a bill of around £15,000. Consequently, once contracts have been exchanged, the vendor is then no longer liable.

If you are paying £400,000-500,000+ for you next home, would you risk not having a survey carried out for the sake of around £400–1,000 in most cases? It really isn't advisable, but it is your choice – and risk – to take.

Where can I find out more about which property survey I need?

Here at Eyesurvey we aim to provide the best service possible to all customers as well as the best prices, and we believe that we have the fastest, friendliest response available.


With over 45 years of experience in the property profession, residential and commercial, there’s nothing much we haven’t encountered! Contact the experienced Eyesurvey team on 01206 545 139 for a free chat today about which property survey is suitable for your needs, and help on obtaining a personal valuation.

 

                               

What's all this about Ground Heave?

 

Ground heave is a real concern if it happens on your property, that’s why it’s important to understand what it is and recognise the signs and act quickly to limit the damage to your home’s structure. 

 

As Chartered Surveyors with over 45 years of experience in the profession, there is practically nothing we haven’t dealt with. That’s why we’ve outlined all there is to know about ground heave, and how you can prevent it.

What is ground heave? 


Ground heave is the upward movement of the ground, usually associated with the swelling of clay sub-soils that expand when wet. Clay shrinks slowly as it dries out, so that doesn’t usually damage buildings. However, when it is wetted again, it expands rapidly, and that action will fracture walls and foundations. The result is that the exposed upper sub-strata and perhaps the surface of the ground rises up. It’s also less often known as ‘swelling’. 


You may have heard of subsidence, this is where the ground is unstable and weak, then sinks downwards – ground heave is the opposite effect of this.


What are the causes of ground heave?


As Chartered Surveyors, we would generally categorise ‘ground displacement’ as less than 150mm, but it’s important to consider than even far less than this amount can lead to severe structural damage to the building walls and their foundations. 


A common cause of ground heave is the removal of a tree, as once the tree has been removed from the soil water is no longer being absorbed by the tree roots. A large tree may extract a hundred gallons a day. This causes the soil to start to swell as it gets wet. 


This swelling can then cause the soil to uplift, sometimes to an even greater volume than when the property was built! The dead weight of the new building crushes the ground on which it stands – that’s “initial SETTLEMENT”.


Ground heave can also occur in soils vulnerable to frost, leaking drains and/or water supplies.

Common signs of ground heave: 

 • Cracking to brickwork and windows, often vertical, sometimes diagonal, and widest at the top.

 • Doors sticking as their frames have become gradually out of square

 • The lifting of paths and patios in surrounding buildings 


Cracks found on your building walls and foundations are more likely to be vertical if ground heave is the culprit, and normally widest at the top, whereas subsidence cracking is more likely to be diagonal, and widest at the bottom.


Prevention and remedying


If you’re worried that ground heave may be a problem in your property, Eyesurvey will begin with a visual inspection as investigation to determine whether that is the case. 


This is likely to lead to more visual inspections, include historic research and drilling boreholes or ‘trial holes’ to determine the type of soil present and access its plasticity or how shrinkable the ground might be. Tree roots might be found too. 


Where heave is likely to be a problem, cellular structures – often called piles – similar to stilts sent deep in the sub-soil may be installed beneath foundations and floor slabs to reduce the upward force of heavy clay from transmitting to the structure above. 


Need further advice on ground heave and repairing your home? Please contact the experienced Eyesurvey team on 01206 545 139 for a free chat today.

 

                               

The Party Wall Act: What Is It & Why Does It Matter?

 

If you’re planning any building work that will affect a shared wall between you and your neighbours, then you’ll need to know all about the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.

If you live in a terraced or semi-detached house or flat, then it’s likely that you will have a shared wall with a neighbouring property. In this article, we explain all about this important legislation and how it could potentially affect you and your renovation plans.

What is The Party Wall etc. Act 1996?

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is a legislative framework intended to prevent (or resolve) disputes in relation to party walls, party structures, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings.

It prevents building work undertaken by one neighbour undermining the structural integrity of shared walls or neighbouring property.

Will it affect my plans to renovate?

The Party Wall etc. Act comes into effect if someone is planning to do work on a relevant structure, for the purposes of the Act 'party wall' does not just mean the wall between two semi-detached properties, it also covers:

  • A wall forming part of only one building but which is on the boundary line between two (or more) properties.
  • A wall which is common to two (or more) properties, this includes where someone built a wall and a neighbour subsequently built something butting up to it.
  • A garden wall, where the wall is astride the boundary line (or butts up against it) and is used to separate the properties but is not part of any building.
  • Floors and ceilings of flats etc., and chimney breasts forming part of a Party Wall
  • Excavation near to a neighbouring property.

If you plan to undertake any work covered by the Act, you’ll also have to give ‘Notice’ of the commencement of work to your neighbour, or neighbours.

 

How Do I Give ‘Notice’?
If your project is covered by the Act, you give Notice with a letter and clear documents including drawings setting out your intentions, sent to all the owners of every neighbouring property affected.

A sample letter is included within The Party Wall Act booklet (download or order your copy at communities.gov.uk). Remember to include all the key information, including:

  • the date the Notice is served
  • the provisional date work will start – this should not be before an agreement is reached
  • all parties’ names and addresses
  • a description of the proposed work

What happens if a dispute arises?
Talk to your neighbours and explain your plans in detail to reach an agreement.

If approval is impossible, then you will have to assign an ‘agreed surveyor,’ or two surveyors, to prepare a Party Wall Award. It is permissible for one surveyor to represent both parties in the case. This ‘Award’ covers:

  • the work that can be carried out
  • how the works will proceed
  • timings
  • measures for preventing damage
  • the payment of surveyors’ fees
  • the current condition of both properties – the condition will normally be re-inspected several months after works are completed to confirm any damage that may have resulted, or see there is none
  • most importantly, costs payable to the adjoining owner if damage occurs

Remember:
Reaching an agreement with the adjoining owner or owners under the Act does not remove the possible need to apply for planning permission and/or to comply with Building Regulations procedures.

Equally, gaining planning permission or complying with the Building Regulations does not remove the need to comply with the Act where it is applicable - it is usual for any approval under Building Regulations to be conditional on agreeing a Party Wall Award.

Our highly experienced team can offer free advice over the phone on many building and property-related subjects, including the Party Wall etc Act.

Please contact the Eyesurvey team on 01206 545 139.

 

                               

Brick Bonds & How Do They Work?

The way in which a brick is laid, the brickwork bond, strongly influences the appearance of the façade, as a well thought out brickwork bond gives a project extra style and character.

As well as having an effect on the aesthetic, the choice in brickwork bond can also influence the budget. More complicated bonds, which usually necessitate more grinding work, can substantially raise the price.

 

What are brick bonds?

Bonding is the interlocking arrangement of bricks in a structure such as a wall or column. That interlocking gives the strength to that wall.

Bricks are typically laid to an offset pattern to maintain an adequate lap between joints from one course to the next and to ensure that vertical joints are not positioned above one another on consecutive courses.

Bricks can be laid as soldiers (standing upright), stretchers (laid lengthwise along the wall), or as headers (laid width-wise along the wall).

Flemish bond

The traditional Flemish brick bond has alternative stretchers and headers on every course, with the headers centred over the stretchers underneath. From the beginning of the 18th century, the Flemish bond superseded English bond. It is sometimes found with contrasting headers of different colour to the stretchers, simply as decoration.

What are different types of brick bond patterns?

Most of the brick bonds demand the same size or at least compatible sizes bricks or other masonry units. Uniform size bricks or masonry units create even, repeatable designs which can be applied over any area size. Bricks are now made in factories, to provide uniform size and textures.


Stretcher bond


With the Stretcher bond, courses are laid as stretchers with the joint of one course falling midway between the joints of the courses below. 


Stretcher bond has become the most popular bond as it is time and cost effective to use. This is the most common arrangement if the wall is to be “cavity built” – we’ll cover that in future.


Header bond


Popular during the 18th century, the header bond pattern often employed contrasting brick colours to give a decorative effect. This bond uses so many bricks that it is usually reserved for very high-quality buildings.


English bond

The traditional English brick bond alternates between stretcher and header courses, with headers centred over the stretchers underneath. This is the oldest pattern, and was commonly used until the end of the 17th century. This is among the strongest of bonds. A variation is called “English Garden Wall bond” – see later.

English garden wall bond

The decorative English garden wall bond has three courses of stretchers between every course of headers, often in a different colour, and is often found in garden walls.


Stack bond

In vertical or horizontal stack bonds, the bricks do not overlap. As this arrangement is inherently weak, it is typically used as a decorative laying pattern which delivers a striking visual effect. This bond is rarely used, unless for a non-structural wall.


Why is the brick bond important?

The composition, formation of the bricks themselves, and the pattern in which they are laid, ‘the bond’, can make a great difference to its strength and stability, as well as the overall aesthetic.

They can be decorative, can even be used to date a property, but they can also be an indication to the quality of build of the property.

The kind of bricks used and location can also indicate why that particular wall was built, such as to retain a raised earth bank, or in wet ground conditions, each requiring great strength – “retaining walls”, often built with very hard Engineering bricks.


How are brick bonds important in Chartered Surveying?

An experienced surveyor can look at a wall and deduce a lot of information from it. The bond of the bricks alone can show him just how thick the wall is, and with the type of mortar used, its age and consequently including any later maintenance conducted.

Any holes drilled and plugged later may also show us a “chemical damp treatment”, or perhaps if cavity wall insulation, has been injected. We can then consider how well it was carried out and will it remain effective?

Our highly experienced team can offer free advice over the phone on many building and property-related subjects.

Please contact the Eyesurvey team on 01206 545 139.

 

                               

Asbestos: The Slow and Silent Killer 

 

 Did you know that historical asbestos exposure still kills around 5,000 workers a year despite the use of it being terminated in 1999? This is due to the fact that it was so widely used it can be found in many properties that were refurbished or built before 2000. Although many think it is a thing of the past it is still very much a problem in present day as it still kills around 20 tradespeople a day. It is imperative that when buying a house that was built before 2000 and completing any building work that you check for the use of asbestos.


When materials that contain asbestos [“Asbestos containing materials” - ACMs] are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. When these fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases. These diseases will not affect you immediately; they often take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything. 

This is why it is important that you educate and protect yourself now.

What is asbestos? 

 Asbestos is a term for a group of minerals made of microscopic fibres. All are composed of long and thin fibrous crystals, and are made mainly of silicon and oxygen. 


Although an excellent electrical insulator that is highly heat-resistant, it is now a well-known health and safety hazard. Inhalation of asbestos fibres can lead to various serious lung conditions, including asbestosis and cancer.

Where is asbestos commonly found?


Asbestos may be found in insulation, drywall, ceiling and floor tiles, cement, paint, and more. In fact, asbestos can be found in any industrial or residential building build or refurbished before the year 2000, and naturally occurring asbestos can be found in some types of marble and other stone. 


Textured ceiling and wall finishes [such as “Artex”] with ACMs present are extremely common. Roof panels or tiles/ slates, gutters, downpipes, soffits, and for other board materials are often encountered as ceilings, pipe enclosures, and door linings for airing or boiler cupboards, for example.

Although the large-scale use of asbestos didn’t begin until the mid-19th century, archaeological studies have found evidence of asbestos being used as far back as the Stone Age to strengthen ceramic pots!


How do you know if you have an asbestos related health problem?


The most common signs of asbestos exposure include shortness of breath, cough and chest pain. Unfortunately, the first signs of asbestos exposure are the symptoms of related diseases, as there are no signs of asbestos exposure that a person could identify before a disease develops.

Symptoms of Asbestos Exposure: 

  • shortness of breath
  • dry cough or wheezing
  • cracking sound when breathing 
  • pain your chest or shoulder
  • respiratory complications
  • in more advanced cases, clubbed (swollen) fingertips

There’s no cure for asbestosis once it has developed, as it’s not possible to reverse the damage to the lungs. However, there are treatments that can help, such as pulmonary rehabilitation and oxygen therapy.

How quickly can asbestos affect you? 


Asbestosis has a long “latency period” - around 12 - 60 years , which means the disease usually does not develop until many years after the asbestos exposure that caused it. In most cases, symptoms of asbestosis take 20 to 30 years to present.


Is it dangerous to live in a house with asbestos?


Living in a home with intact asbestos doesn’t necessarily pose an immediate health risk. However, when these materials in your home deteriorate over time, or become disturbed, asbestos fibres can be released into the air.

Many think that they do not need to worry about asbestos exposure nowadays as many that suffer with illnesses relating to asbestos were exposed to it numerous years ago. However, it is still as much of a problem today as it was then; the smallest of fibres can be left behind if the removal wasn’t done properly. These fibres once disturbed can move into your lungs and cause multiple different health issues.  

 

Is asbestos dangerous when wet?

 

No, whilst studies have clearly demonstrated that asbestos is a serious health risk when it is dry and inhaled, there’s little evidence to show that asbestos fibres will case any harm when they are wet.

 

 

 

Does asbestos need to be removed?


Removal may be required when re-modelling or making major structural changes to your home that could potentially disturb asbestos-containing material. Removal may also be called for if asbestos containing material is damaged extensively and cannot be otherwise repaired. 


Where can I find out more about asbestos and get advice on its safe removal?


The extensive advice provided by the Health and Safety Executive including as to Regulations in force can be found here


Our highly experienced team can offer free advice over the phone on many building and property-related subjects. Please contact the Eyesurvey team on 01206 545 139.


 

                               

Leasehold vs Freehold – What is the difference? Why does it matter? 


In February 2020, the competition watchdog says it found evidence of potential mis-selling and unfair contract terms in the leasehold housing sector. We explain the differences between leasehold and freehold, and the ongoing government review on banning new-build houses being sold as leasehold. These systems do not exist in Scotland; they have quite different arrangements, on which we will not comment.

What is a leasehold property?

 

A leasehold property is a home that’s owned for a fixed period of time under a legal agreement with a landlord called a lease. This tells leaseholders how many years they’ll own their home for, before the ownership of a property returns to the freeholder.

 

Leases tend to be long term – and can be anything up to 999 years. In some cases, however, they can be as short as 40 years. It’s more common for flats to be held on 99, 125, or 150-year terms. A “Ground Rent” is paid to the Landlord annually for the use of the land. 

 

In addition, it’s usual for the external and common areas of the building including halls, stairs and lifts to be maintained jointly, by each leaseholder contributing though what are called “Service Charges”, paid to a Management Company who arrange those works in return for a fee, included in the Service Charges. 

 

 What is a freehold property?

 

A freehold property is when a home, including its land, is owned outright on a permanent basis. The homeowner is able to lease the property to others. The freeholder, who is named as such in the Land Registry, is usually responsible for the repair and maintenance of the exterior and garden areas of his or her building. Generally, houses are usually held as freeholds. 

 

Leasehold and ground rents scandal

 

It is quite usual for flats to be sold on a leasehold basis, but in recent years, more properties (houses) have initially been sold on a leasehold with, perhaps only verbal, confidence from their home developer that they can later purchase the house on a freehold basis for a reasonable sum. This is known as “Leasehold Enfranchisement”, with the lease and ongoing payments then being extinguished. 

 

However, in some circumstances site ownership is then sold on by the initial builder to another investor organisation, who then insists that the freehold would cost substantially more than the original owner first had indicated to them. 

 

 

Likewise, due to onerous clauses in leases some leaseholders are also facing ground rents – which they pay to the freeholder – that double in cost, usually every 10 years, but sometimes more frequently. This drastic increase in ground rent means that a lot of owners were faced with the inability to pay such sky-high costs, or to sell the property. 

 

Many mortgage lenders will not agree to lend on this type of arrangement. Cash buyers are not likely to consider purchasing either – their solicitors must warn them of the risks. Both of these factors meant that leaseholders are ‘locked-in’ with little wiggle room nor options to create stability and security within their homes. 

 

Government response

 

In June 2019, the Housing Minister said that all new-build houses will be sold as freehold, and although the ban wasn’t to be applied retrospectively, if buyers were incorrectly sold a leasehold they would be able to get their freehold outright at no extra cost.

 

However, with no official legislation coming in to effect, an ongoing investigation into the leasehold property market found “worrying evidence” that buyers are being treated unfairly and charged unreasonable fees. 

 

Whilst leasehold ownership is logical for a block of flats, where properties are owned by many different people, Freehold continues to make sense for houses. The government is also planning to outlaw doubling clauses for ground rent under proposed legislation.

 

We are hoping that some comprehensive proposals will be devised to help those already locked-in to the unfair escalating Grounds Rents explained above – though English Law is normally not made retrospective. 

 

For the latest on the government’s project to make leasehold property ownership fairer, head to the Law Commissioner's site here.


If you have questions concerning leasehold vs freehold and need expert advice, please contact the Eyesurvey team on 01206 545 139.


 

                               

How Much is a Survey on the Property I Want to Buy? 


 If you’ve had an offer accepted on a property, you’ll be wondering whether you need a house survey and if so which one. We look at different types of home surveys, which type is right for your property and – the likely home survey costs. 




What is a property survey?

 

A property survey is a detailed inspection of the property’s condition. With almost 50 years in the property industry, at Eyesurvey we know what a major issue is and can pick out the smallest of details that you may not have noticed.

 

As RICS Chartered surveyors, we are able to tell you if there are structural problems like an unstable wall or subsidence, as well as providing skilled commentary on the property itself. 

 

Do I need to get a survey?

 

Although not mandatory, a property survey can go a long way in helping you avoid expensive and unwelcome surprises. Given the hundreds of thousands of pounds it costs to buy a new home, a few hundred pounds on a survey to have the comfort of an independent, expert surveyor looking over it feels like a good investment. 

 

The information from the survey also provides impartial information that you’re able to act on within the negotiation of the price of the property you’re hoping to purchase. We would particularly recommend a survey if:

 • you have any specific worries about any part of the property

 • you feel unsure about what sort of condition the property is in

 • you are looking to buy an old or unusual property

 • the property has a thatched roof or is timber framed

 • the building is Listed, or stands in a Conservation Area

Which survey is best to get?

Do remember – a Valuation, carried out for mortgage or similar purposes, is NOT A SURVEY!

Now that property prices have spiked again many people overpay for a comprehensive survey when that money could be used for something else. However, you do not want a cheaper survey that misses out a fault within the property that later causes you problems. 


Contrary to popular belief most of our surveys do not have a set price, this is because the price can change greatly depending on what a customer would like to get from the survey. Some aspects that could change the price are things such as the level of detail, the location of the property and the size. We tailor the survey to suit your needs to ensure that you receive all the necessary information you need.


To help our customers with this there are three main surveys that our company carry out, the details for each are listed below: 

 

RICS Condition Report (Level One) 

A Condition Report is the most basic survey you can get, and the cheapest. Based on a traffic light system, this report focuses on the condition of the property only and flags up any areas that need attention. It does not give advice or a valuation.

 

 

Suitable for: Fairly recently built, small properties, such as new builds or conventional homes in good condition that you're not planning to do any extensive work upon.


RICS Homebuyer Report (Level 2)

This report is more detailed and gives you a Market valuation of the property, and also a calculated Valuation for Building Insurance purposes. It includes an extensive inspection and highlights defects or anything which may affect the property's value with the traffic lights system, but the Homebuyer report can't look beyond the floor coverings, floorboards or behind the wall finishes, but does give advice on further inspections or investigations needed. Does include loft areas, damp checks, any signs of building movement found. 


Suitable for: Most conventional properties built around 1900 onwards, in a reasonable condition and/ or on which you are considering small scale alterations but does not include advice on the alterations or extensions to be made..


RICS Building Survey (Level 3)

This survey gives an extensive inspection of the property condition including detailed information about the fabric of the property and its structure. The report also includes descriptions of visible defects and warns of potential hidden flaws together with an outline of additional investigations and repair options. 


Suitable for: Unusual, older or non-traditional buildings or those that have been significantly altered. Buildings that are conventional but in poor condition or that you are planning major alterations to - but does not include advice on the alterations or extensions to be made.


How much is a survey?


Over the last 30 years our team have dealt with just about every property issue that could have arisen so when choosing us you know that we are the best in the business. When it comes to the cost of the survey it can vary depending on what you are wanting to get from it, nevertheless when it comes to buying a property you want to have all the facts available to you before making the big decision.


To ensure that we’re advising on the correct report for your potential new purchase, we require as much information on the property as you can share to effectively help you choose the best survey for your particular needs. Although costs can differ depending on the survey you require, here at Eyesurvey we aim to provide the best service possible to all customers as well as the best prices.


At Eyesurvey we are more than happy to talk you through any questions you may have regarding our services and if they are right for you, including which survey you may need. To find out more about our services and to book yours with Eyesurvey, get in touch with us on 01206 545 139 or drop the details - location, type, size and other details - of the property on which you require the survey via our website Contact Us page.

 

                               


Understanding Help to Buy Valuations If you have bought a home with a loan from the Help to Buy scheme you may be looking to repay, remortgage or sell your property in 2020. 


To do this successfully, Target, who had been selected by the HCA to manage the scheme, require you to get an independent Help to Buy Valuation report.


Introduced by the government to support first time home buyers get a foot onto the property ladder, the Help to Buy scheme launched in April 2013.


 


At Eyesurvey, our experience spans over 40 years, and we’re always keeping our finger on the property pulse in the UK. That’s why it’s no surprise that we’ve carried out already over a hundred Help to Buy Valuations! 


Why do I need a Help to Buy Valuation

As the homeowner of a Help to Buy property, if you’re looking to repay the loan, remortgage the house or sell the property, you’ll require a Help to Buy ValuationA Mortgage Valuation Report is not sufficient and cannot be used. This valuation provides an independent assessment of the market value of the property, as required by the government appointed administrator, Target (HCA).


From this valuation, the administrator of the loan can effectively work out what needs to be paid back to settle the debt. The amount that you must pay back will be calculated on the independently assessed value of the property at the time of repayment, not the original purchase price.



 

Who are Target (HCA)?

Target is an organisation which has been appointed by the government to process the loan administration services on behalf of the Home & Communities Agency

 

Target require a specific RICs valuation to be sent to them referencing a detailed valuation of the Help to Buy property. 

 

How long is the Help to Buy Valuation valid for? 

Timing is vital, your Help to Buy Valuation is only valid for 3 months. It is therefore very important that you have planned ahead and have everything in place prior to instructing your Chartered Surveyor to proceed.

 

Who can carry out a Help to Buy Valuation? 

To conduct a Help to Buy Valuation, the Chartered Surveyor will need to complete the Report, strictly following the valuation requirements laid down by Target, and must also fit the following criteria:

 

- They must be regulated by RICS

- they must be RICS Registered Valuers

- They must be independent if an Estate Agent


As an Independent Chartered Surveyors, that's us!


To find out more about a Help to Buy Valuation and to book yours with Eyesurvey, get in touch with us on 01206 545 139.

  

 

                               



At Eyesurvey, our expertise stretches across all manner of properties and building works, and just last week we conducted a thorough Building Survey Report on a beautiful thatched cottage.


Inspired by the charm and characteristics of this property, we wanted to give an overview of owning a house with a thatched roof and the duty of care involved to ensure that we continue to see these attractive homes in our communities.

Which methods and materials are used?

 In most of England, thatch remained the only roofing material available to the bulk of the population in the countryside, in many towns and villages, until the late 1800s. Although thatch is popular in Germany, The Netherlands and Denmark, there are still more thatched roofs in the UK than in any other European country!


Thatching methods have traditionally been passed down from generation to generation, and numerous descriptions of the materials and methods used in Europe over the past three centuries are present in archives. 


You’d most likely come across “long straw” as the material used in most of the country, however, in Norfolk especially you’re likely to find water reed.


How long will the thatch last?

The life expectancy of a thatched roof will vary according to several factors, including regular maintenance, the quality of the materials used, pollutants in the environment, and of course, the skill of the Thatcher. 


As thatching is a natural roofing material it will decay and has a far shorter life-span than that of tiles and slates. As it decays, moss growth is commonplace, and that will slow drainage, accelerating the decay by retaining more water. 


If birds are nesting they are also likely to pluck out straws, adding to the problems! 

  • Water Reed (also known as Norfolk Reed) 50 – 60 years
  • Combed Wheat 25 – 40 years
  • Long Straw 15 – 25 years

Ridges (the coping or apex capping), whatever their design, style or type, have a life-span of 10 -15 years. 


What general maintenance does it require?

Repairs may extend the life of certain areas of a thatched roof, so it’s important to keep an eye on your roof and any changes, especially before and after the chilly winter period. To keep the roof in best condition:


 • Allow it to dry well, by ensuring you remove or cut back nearby trees and plants which may hinder the sun and wind drying it or rain dispersing. Damp will increase the likelihood of moss and algae growth!


• Do not allow other trades to damage the roof, either with ladders or by walking on the thatch. Thatch being lighter material than slate or tile, the structure beneath is less strong, and may not bear your weight – you could fall through. 


• Do not assume that because the roof looks new or recent, that it is in prime condition. A thorough inspection to fully understand the condition may be crucial.


What are the fire risks?

Fortunately, thatch fires are nowhere near as common as some would have us believe. Thatchers will tell you that thatch, being quite dense, rarely catches fire and starts to burn quickly, and can be regarded “as like trying to set fire to a closed book”. 


Clearly, once a fire does take hold, it is hard to stop before major damage occurs, so calling the Fire Brigade early is vital – and tell them it’s a thatched building. 

However, it’s important to have chimneys swept annually, not to light bonfires near to the thatched property and to avoid having bad electrical wiring in the loft area, if any – thatched roofs often do not have roof spaces, or are built so the ceilings follow the roof timber structure.


Future-proofing your thatched roof

It’s important to know that competent and reputable thatching contractors are now rare and in great demand. It is usually necessary to book them for any work up to several years in advance, including only minor repairs or temporary patching.


It must be understood that can lead to damp-related damage. It is thus essential to make pre-emptive arrangements for all such work now and without delay, if the roof is showing age and erosion or moss growth is heavy. 


Joining a thatched roof to a newer extension, if permitted, since a majority of thatched buildings are likely to be “Listed”, restricting alterations, and is also a difficult area. It’s important to consider the layout of your potential home and what, if any, permitted changes you would wish to make and the challenges that may be involved. Special permissions, like “Listed Buildings Consent” may have to be obtained; the local Authority Building Control and perhaps the Heritage Officer, may have placed various conditions, with which you must comply. 


Purchasing a thatched property

When looking to purchase a thatched home, buyers should be aware that more than 75% of all thatched properties in England and Wales are “Listed’ by English Heritage. This means that they have been put onto a register and graded according to historical or architectural importance. 


PLEASE NOTE that, if the property is found to be “Listed”, or standing within a “Conservation Area”, a proportion of the advice given in any survey report as to repairs and maintenance is likely to need approvals to be obtained from local Heritage and/ or Building Control Officers, who may often vary their requirements concerning a “Listed Building”. Here is a list of questions that it would be helpful to have answered if you are buying a thatched home:


• When was the roof last thatched?


• Has there been any repair work carried out over the past 10 years?


• When was the ridge re-thatched?


• When was the roof last surveyed? 


 Have any of the roof timbers been replaced or repaired?


• Is the chimney lined? No Building Survey will reveal the answer – this will be concealed, so it is essential to make written enquiries via your solicitors!


• Who was the Thatcher who carried out the work?


• Are there any types of fire-resistant barrier? 


A Building Survey from Eyesurvey will inform you about any major problems with a thatched property. To find out more about our HomeBuyers’ Survey, get in touch with us on 01206 545139.

10% Discount on all our services

Do you serve in the Military or have done so in the past, including Gurkha regiments, perhaps now retired? All serving and retired Armed Forces personnel receive a 10% discount on all our services, all you need is your military ID Card. Just inform our team when enquiring about our services. Eyesurvey is happy to support all our armed forces both past and present. For more information on support for military staff and retired personnel please see www.britishlegion.org.uk.


WE COVER ALL ESSEX AND SOUTH SUFFOLK POSTCODES, IP, CO, CM, SS, RM & IG

 (IPSWICH, COLCHESTER, CHELMSFORD, BRAINTREE, SOUTHEND, ROMFORD, ILFORD, ETC.)

Safety is still a priority

All though life is getting back to normal after the recent pandemic, at Eyesurvey, we are still taking precautions to ensure all of our customers are as safe as possible. We are happy to wear masks when visiting your property if you wish, and all of our staff carry out complete hygiene checks in between visits. If you have any special requests before our visit to survey your property, for example you wish to not attend at the same time, please do let us know and we can accommodate most people’s requirements. Safety will always come first.

16/10/21

Winter is on its way

Now that autumn is here, winter will soon arrive. These two seasons put our properties through a rough time keeping the wind, rain and snow at bay. If you notice any problems with your properties such as cracks appearing in walls or around windows, or possibly damp patches within the home, now is the time to put them right. At Eyesurvey, we can survey your property so we can get to the root cause of the problem, so when the builders come in, they know exactly what they are dealing with. Give our experienced team a call.

01/10/21

Let’s talk about leasehold

When buying a property, you will come across the term leasehold or freehold. Freehold means you will own the land that the property sits on. Leasehold means you will own the property but not the land it sits on as someone else will own this and generally charge ground rent on an annual basis. When purchasing a property, you need to ensure the leasehold runs for a good number of years. Our team at Eyesurvey can complete a property survey for you to ensure the price being asked corresponds the term left on the lease.

17/09/21

Don’t let that damp patch spread

Now we are into September and autumn is nearly upon us, the colder and wetter weather is nearly here. The changeable weather can cause a number of problems in our homes. When damp starts to appear in homes it needs to be dealt with quickly, as the sooner its sorted, the easier it will be. To try to avoid damp becoming a problem, keep your homes well ventilated, even in colder months. A slightly open window is all that is needed. If you get cold, a jumper is better than a damp patch.

03/09/21

Don’t pay too much

The definition of dilapidations is the cost of putting a property back to its original condition after a rental period is completed. The cost of dilapidations is normally set by the landlord after inspection of the property. Sometimes this amount is inflated so you end up paying more than you should. Our team at Eyesurvey will prevent this by carrying out a property inspection or survey on your behalf, so you know you are paying the correct amount. Call our team today for more information.

20/08/21

See our customers reviews

You may want a homebuyer’s survey, or help with a civil case, our team will provide the best service with years of experience under our belt. We take our customer service very seriously, that’s why we have got a whole page all about our reviews from our customers. We have been rated as one of the top three chartered surveyor companies in Colchester for three years running. The Three Best Rated is an independent scheme which uses a 50-point inspection process to assess local businesses.

06/08/21

Cheap prices doesn’t guarantee good quality

We can all admit to sometimes when purchasing something we will always look for the cheapest option or the best deal. When it comes to services relating to your property it isn’t always best to go for the cheapest option, you need to go with what is best for you. Our team have been carrying out surveys, dealing with property/land disputes and sorting out business rates for over 45 years, so when choosing us we can guarantee that we will provide you with the best service for the best price.

23/07/21

The problems associated with Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed if left untreated can easily destroy the foundations of any building with ease. Did you know that it can grow up to three meters below your home, taking out anything in its path? The difficulty with removing this plant is that even the tiniest spores left in the ground can allow it to grow and cause the same amount of damage all over again. If you suspect this invasive plant is growing under your property please call a member of our team to book a consultation and they will advise you on the best steps to take next.

09/07/21

Knowledge is key

Over the years we have dealt with hundreds of different property related issues, so now have the knowledge to deal with just about anything. Our highly experienced team can advise you on how to deal with property disputes, talk through the different types of surveys to provide the right information for your sale or purchase or evaluate your business rates to see if they have been set too high. If you have a property related issue our team will have it dealt with in no time.

25/06/21

Do you know if your business rates are set to high?

Many people run their business day to day not knowing that their business rates have been set too high meaning and if proven they could be owed a large sum of money. This is such a common occurrence amongst businesses that the government is expected to pay back over £4 billion to those that have been over charged dating back years. If you are unsure on the matter one of our highly experienced team can look into this for you to ensure the rate is correct.

11/06/21

Watch out for subsidence

Did you know that if your house is built before the mid 1960’s then it is more prone to being affected by subsidence than those built after that time period as they were built on shallower foundations. Although your property may be fine for now due to all the rain we are experiencing this could all change in the coming warmer months when the ground dries up. To ensure that you are doing everything you can to prevent subsidence ensure that all pipework and drains are checked regularly and frequently prune nearby trees or shrubbery.

28/05/21

Simple checks that can save you a lot of hassle

With the cold weather lasting for longer than we had hoped, this means that there is more chance that your property has been damaged over that time period. That it is why it is important to do a few simple checks over your house so any problems can be fixed over the summer months in time for winter. Small things like checking all walls and ceilings for cracks or the roof to see if any tiles have slipped off during the storms. Catching these things now ensures that they won’t become a problem later on.

14/05/21

Need advice?

Many of us when moving into a new home hope for lovely neighbours that you get along with, and for many of us that comes true but for the minority it doesn’t and that’s when problems start to arise. Disagreements can occur from boundary disputes to a newly built extension blocking your neighbour’s sunlight. Sometimes these can be sorted without seeking legal advise but in other cases that simply isn’t possible. That is where our highly qualified team comes in, we can give advice on how to resolve the issue so you can get back to being happy neighbours.

30/04/21

Giving your house a full service

With Spring finally here now is the perfect time to fix anything that has been damaged or become worse over the winter months. That small damp patch in the corner of the living room has become considerably bigger and will go away of its own accord for example. A member of our highly experienced team will look over your house from head to toe to ensure everything is in working order. If anything isn’t quite up to scratch then our team can advise you on the best course of action for you to take.

02/04/21

Dealing with probate

Our highly experienced team have dealt with many probate issues so will certainly be able to help you with yours. The passing of a loved one can be an extremely difficult time but then trying to organise all of their assets left behind is the last thing you want to be dealing with. Whether it is just the property or belongings and money that need to be considered as well our team will take the stress away and handle with everything for you in regard to property matters and valuation.

19/03/21

Getting a valuation can be difficult

Getting an accurate valuation of your property can be extremely difficult at times, especially when there are numerous factors such as access to public services, school catchment areas and the demand to live in the area that need to be considered. Sellers will often get their estate agents to carry out the valuation as it is less hassle then using multiple companies, however if it comes to light that the valuation is incorrect you cannot blame them; that is why when using our team you will know you are getting the right price for your property.

05/03/21

An accurate valuation is key!

Did you know that if your property isn't valued correctly the amount of inheritance tax you pay will greatly increase, this is because the tax is 40% if over a certain threshold. Our team of highly experienced surveyors can help you through the tricky process, they have dealt with situations like this countless times over the years so will always know exactly know what to do.

19/02/21 

Safety First!

We know that times are challenging at the moment, but we just want to let our customers know that each and every one of our team are taking all of the necessary precautions to keep everybody as safe as possible. All staff wear PPE when at a premises including both masks and gloves in addition to showering and changing clothes between clients to ensure that there is minimal chance of the virus spreading.

05/02/21

Do you need an Expert Witness?

Having an expert witness such as a member of our highly qualified team in your corner when fighting a litigation case can help you enormously. We can advise you on the correct surveys that should be carried out to give you the best chance of winning. Our team have over 45 years’ worth of experience dealing with these issues, so there isn’t anything they haven’t dealt with before. From boundary disputes to landlord and tenant disagreements, our team will do everything to help you get the justice you deserve.

22/01/21

Happy New Year!

After a challenging year with many ups and downs and changes one thing you can guarantee on is the excellent services our team offer here are Eyesurvey. We will always be on hand to help you with whatever is needed and will always provide you with the best customer service. No matter what the property related issue is our team are always up for the job at hand.

08/01/21

Helping you understand Enfranchisement

Are you looking into buying the freehold of your commercial or domestic property or extend the lease on it? Enfranchisement and the process around it can be very difficult to get your head around as there are many different considerations and things to get right. If you choose to work with our team they will handle all of the legalities ensuring at the end you receive all of the correct mortgage options available to you.

25/12/20

Let our team help you

There are many different factors that have to be considered when choosing the right survey to be carried out on a property, so unless you have experience within the trade the decision can be pretty difficult. The three main surveys that our team can carry out on properties, residential or commercial are Homebuyers Surveys, Condition Reports or RICS Building Surveys. Luckily for you our team have many years of experience under their belt so know exactly what survey will be right for you.

11/12/20

Ensure you plan ahead

Although you do not see many thatched roofed houses nowadays, if not maintained they can still be a huge problem for some. With highly skilled thatcher’s very hard to come by it is vitally important that you maintain the property and be prepared to book them far in advance if you start to see a minor problem occurring. It is hard to know what may eventually turn into a major problem but having a building survey carried out by a member of our staff gives you time you need in order to contact the necessary people.

13/11/20

Don’t take your chances when dealing with Asbestos

Although the use of asbestos was terminated in the UK in 1999 many still come across it regularly and the danger is still as great. When the asbestos is dislodged the fibres move and can then be inhaled which is when the damage starts. If you believe that there is asbestos within your home or property please feel free to give our team a call today and they can tell you how to proceed ensuring everyone is safe.

06/11/20