Should You be Worried About Pre-purchase House Surveys in Ireland?

By Vincent Brady
structural survey

Whether you’re a first-time buyer, moving up the property ladder to a larger home, or downsizing to a smaller pad for your retirement, finding the perfect property is exciting. Once you’ve found a property, have a mortgage agreed, and have the deposit burning a hole in your pocket, every extra thing that needs sorting feels like a huge obstacle delaying you from moving to your new house.

However, there have been more than enough scare stories over the decades to make a wise person take the checks and balances of property purchase seriously. Some of the expenses and tasks required when purchasing a property go largely overlooked by many purchases, until someone insists, such as a mortgage company refusing to release finds until they know a property is structurally sound.


Things to remember when purchasing a property

There can be several hidden costs when purchasing a property, especially if you’re a first-time buyer and haven’t been through the process before. There are legal fees, stamp duty, mortgage protection insurance, and Local Property Tax (LPT) to consider. Then there are the fees you will pay for a surveyor’s report.

While all of this can feel like a pain at a time when you’re eager to get things moving, many of them are put in place to protect your investment and ensure you’re paying a fair value for the property and that you go in with your eyes wide open to any potential defects or problems.


Do you need a pre-purchase house survey?

In short, yes. Most lenders will want a surveyor’s report before they’ll give the green light to any lending you might require. There are good reasons for this. You want to ensure your house buying experience doesn’t turn into a nightmare. The surveyor’s report will highlight any hidden defects or structural problems that could cause you a problem in the future. There are two advantages to this, it gives you bargaining power with the seller if required, but it also ensures you’re aware of everything before taking ownership of the property.

A negative surveyor’s report doesn’t automatically mean you shouldn’t buy a property, but it does mean you’re aware of everything before finalising the deal.


Are all surveys the same?

While all surveys should be carried out by qualified and experienced professionals, there are differences in how thorough the survey can be. The difference is usually due to your own particular needs. The most basic involves a fairly light inspection of the property with a summary report of any findings made. This is most likely to happen on modern buildings that were built to the latest building regulations.

The second type of survey involves a more thorough inspection. These are usually carried out on properties more likely to have issues, and the surveyor will follow a rigorous process to highlight any problems and provide advice on the correct course of action to remedy each problem. This typically includes inspecting service installations, the roof structure, manholes and drainage, insulation, fire prevention, and planning and external boundaries will also be considered.

A more comprehensive survey will take into consideration things like:

  • Analysis of the materials used and their suitability
  • Water penetration, damp and rot test results where applicable
  • Condensation and mould
  • Repairs and maintenance advice
  • Analysis of damp proofing
  • Condition of drainage
  • The condition of insulation and the loft space
  • Any major or minor flaws or defects
  • Fascias, gutters, exterior piping and any chimneys.
  • All services (Electric, Plumbing, Heating etc.)


There are many more things that will be considered depending on the property itself, such as its age (older properties are more likely to contain hazardous materials) and condition. Any evidence of woodworm or timber rot and the evident condition of windows and doors will be looked at. In addition, the report may suggest any areas deemed serious enough to require further specialist inspection.

The most thorough surveys will also require floorboards to be raised and access hatches to be accessible. As the level of scrutiny increases so does the level of reporting. A good surveyor will always provide a report you can understand in layman’s terms, allowing you to make an informed decision about purchasing the property.


How much does the survey cost?

The price of a survey varies depending on how thorough it needs to be. Most surveyors will charge on a time basis, so the more time they need to spend inspecting the property the bigger the bill will be. Even the same surveyor will charge different prices depending on whether it’s a modest sized property or a large farmhouse, because bigger properties take longer to inspect.

When you consider the cost to repair some of the issues a survey can highlight, it really does represent great value for money. For example, if you pay €500 for a survey that identifies a heaving foundation due to tree roots, or a rising damp problem that had been papered over, the savings you can make will be in the thousands.


Ask the experts to ensure your survey done right

When you’re moving home the mounting costs can always be a concern, but a pre-purchase surveyor’s report is always a good investment. It provides you and your lender with peace of mind, as well as ensuring you avoid nasty surprises in the future. You should always engage an experienced professional with the required indemnity insurance to carry out your survey.

With nearly two decades experience in a wide variety of areas, including structural engineering, planning permission, fire, energy, and even forensic investigation, the experienced team we’ve built at Banrach Consulting Engineers are ideally placed to help you make sure purchasing your dream home goes smoothly.