/ Home & Energy

Are Home Reports in Scotland working for you?

Question mark on house

Buying a home is the biggest purchase most of us ever make, yet people in Scotland often purchased with less information than they’d look for if they were buying a new TV. Were Home Reports the answer?

Now that the housing market’s recovering, many of us are starting to think about moving. Whether it’s trading up, down-sizing or just getting that first step on the property ladder, most of us have a strong interest in what’s happening with the housing market.

However, like lots of people across the UK, nearly 95% of homebuyers in Scotland bought with almost no useful info on the condition of their new property. This meant they could easily find themselves landed with a large repair bill once they got the keys.

That’s why Which? decided to campaign for Home Reports in 2005. These would include a questionnaire on the condition of the property being sold (filled out by the seller) and a survey, which would give further information on the condition of the house. They’d also include a valuation, so that potential buyers would be better able to judge the real value of the property.

What about England and Wales?

Ahead of the implementation of Home Information Packs (HIPs) in England and Wales (a variant of Scottish Home Reports) in 2008, it was decided that they would not include a condition survey. However, since this made HIPs much less useful, it was no real surprise that they were abolished just two years later by the Government.

And yes, that means there’s no legal requirement in England and Wales for a seller to provide information upfront to a buyer about the property for sale, other than an Energy Performance Certificate. But the Scottish Government decided to keep the survey as part of the Home Report, and in 2008 they became compulsory and they are now paid for by the seller.

Your experience of Home Reports

The Scottish Government is now asking people who’ve bought a property in Scotland over the past five years whether Home Reports are doing a good job. Are they informing you of potential issues with your new home? Are they helping you understand in advance how much cash you’d need to spend on immediate, or not so immediate, problems?

To help us influence the future of Home Reports in Scotland, we want to hear from you. So if you’ve bought or sold a house in Scotland over the past few years, what was your experience of Home Reports? And for everyone else, what type of information would you like before you purchase a property?

Please mention what part of the country you’re in and whether you’ve been directly affected by Home Reports in your comment.

Comments
Member

I live in England but am still very interested in this because I thought the Home Information Pack would be a potentially most useful document for prospective purchasers. Once the valuable bit, the condition survey, was stripped out it became useless [and the EPC isn’t exactly wonderful either]. I am hoping the Scottish experience will demonstrate the value of this kind of report, first to speed up the conveyancing process and second to avoid frustrated sales as the truth emerges during the legal work.

At present, homebuyers have to rely on the estate agent’s imperfect and usually partial particulars, what they can see with their own eyes on a restricted viewing opportunity and, if they’re lucky, a second viewing, and what eventully they deduce from the seller’s Property Information Form and Fittings & Contents Form [which usually are not received until significant search fees and legal expenses have been incurred]. The PIF has lots of questions that depend on the openness and honesty of the seller, like “is the central heating system in good working order?” to which “yes” can be answered so long as a vestige of heat and no audible clanking are discernible. I would prefer questions like “how old is the boiler?”, “what type is it?”, “when was it last serviced [and enclose a copy of the test report]?”, and “has it been necessary to have any repairs or replacements made to any parts of the system in the last three years?”. I would also want to know whether any alterations have been made to the electrical systems [and have a copy of the certificate], and when any structural alterations were made [building control certificates required]. I accept that it is difficult to know where to draw the line between what the seller should tell the prospective buyer upfront, and what a buyer should employ a surveyor to discover. Perhaps the usefulness of this depends on whether a mortgagee is involved and will have a valuation survey done. However, if the buyer could learn at the outset that there had been ingress of water or dampness, infestation or rot, or any structural problems, overflowing gutters, drainage problems, double glazing failures, they could make a more informed judgment on whether or not to have a fulll survey carried out; at the very least, they could factor in the cost of rectifying these issues and possibly seek some moderation of the purchase price. A particularly useful question would be “has any buildings insurance cover been declined or issued on special terms?”. Some sellers of unmortgaged properties haven’t even sought buildings insurance cover and the reason why could be informative. I shall be very interested to see all the other concerns that prospective purchasers have about property information, and what any sellers think about this issue.

When the Property Misdescriptions Act was repealed [possibly only in England & Wales] and its purposes effectively subsumed in the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations it was said that the principle of “caveat emptor” (let the buyer beware) no longer prevailed and that estate agents would, as a matter of course no less, have to provide all the information reasonably required by a potential purchaser to make a sensible judgment on whether or not to proceed. If only! As you would expect, agents hide behind “we have not tested this or that”, they don’t show pictures of every room, their measurements are “for guidance only”, their floor plans – if they exist at all – are not to scale, the details say nothing about any boundaries, building dates, or the number of power points in each room, and even the Council Tax band is a mystery! Most agents also think the world will end if they give the street door number and postcode [in case you’d like to go there without asking them I suppose]. The fact that anyone can, without too much effort, find this out from a spell on mapping and postcode finder websites, appears to have escaped them.

One of the estate agents in Surrey currently has this enticing introduction to their property description : “Enviably situated on the River Thames is this fantastic detached bungalow . . .”. I hope they are immediately amending their advertisement [and maybe even the price] for this particular Chertsey residence in order to comply with the law. I have enormous sympathy for the owners who obviously didn’t bargain for the heavy flooding when they put the property on the market. This unfortunate event will blight houses along the River Thames for years now.

Member

“Enviably situated on the River Thames” seems to me absolute honesty by the estate agent – it would only become misleading if and when the floods subside.

Member

Anyone who purchases a dwelling on the banks of the river Thames (a) should expect to be flooded at some time and (b) will they be able to obtain insurance cover? I live near The Thames but high enough and far away enough to be granted insurance cover.

Estate Agents never comment on prospective neighbours either. If they are tenants does the landlord carry out his/her legal responsibility to maintain the exterior of the property which can impact on every other property in the immediate vicinity? Also we have all heard of “the neighbours from hell”………….

Member

I think the practices of estate agents and their shortcomings are worthy of an entire Conversation! I think it is nearly three years since the last one not dealing with tenancies, and with the market reportedly picking up again it would be timely to take another look at this activity.

Member
Rosebud says:
14 February 2014

I think it’s worth investigating exactly who is providing Home Reports in Scotland. I believe there is one large company that operates under the guise of many different names, dominating the scene.

Member
Anna Taylor says:
14 February 2014

Last year I sold my house in Glasgow. I had a home report done by surveyors recommended by the estate agent I was using, Slater Hogg. It cost over £700 and contained misinformation about by house, saying that it has been divided into 3 flats, which it never had been. This resulted in me having to get a letter of comfort from the City Council . The surveyors absolve themselves of responsibility for anything in their survey by demanding a letter of comfort. When the council surveyor came out they said there had been no need for a letter of comfort and that a qualified surveyor would be expected to know this. The purchaser had their own survey done anyway so obviously didn’t trust the home report. I think the home report is institutionalised easy money for surveyors who are not prepared to accept responsibility for anything for fear of being sued. The surveyor who came to my house said as much. I made complaints to all the bodies suggested to me, including writing to Which but there does not seem to be any independent regulatory body that was prepared to pass an opinion on my complaint. The ombudsman passed me to the chartered surveyor Institute who passed me back to the ombudsman. It’s a very bad system that adds unnecessary cost to the house selling process and offers no protection to the buyer.

Member

I have been looking at the documents required under Scottish law. Provided they are filled in competently and honestly, the Single Survey form [completed by a surveyor] and the Property Questionnaire [done by the seller] seem to me to be superior in scope, detail and usefulness to a buyer at the preliminary stage than the equivalent documents supplied in England & Wales. The Property Questionnaire asks some very pertinent questions and I would strongly advocate its universal introduction; it doesn’t even have to be mandatory – buyers could decide whether they wanted to ask any or all of the questions and it would be difficult for the seller to resist. I share Anna Taylor’s concerns over the value of the Single Survey element of the Scottish Home Report since so much depends on the conscientiousness and diligence of the surveyor which, possibly, are in some sort of ratio to the amount paid. What Rosebud said about a possible monopoly in the production of Home Reports is also worrying and could occur across the UK if the other countries adopted the Scottish system without some regulation.

Member
J Cowie says:
14 February 2014

Four years ago we purchased an old stone built cottage which had been extended into the roof and generally refurbished just over 10 years previously. Being from an architectural background, I should have been more savez. But this was my first experience of the Home Report. Essentially it was a valuation report based on a visual inspection by a surveyor. It did not provide any real depth to the
survey. There was no requirement to validate any certification over work carried out. That, at least, was dealt with through the solicitors. The fixed wiring test which I instructed picked up on some matters which, while not critical, could have been influential in the decision to buy or not. Also, I later learned that much of the improvement work carried out had been courtesy of a previous occupant who perhaps lacked the skill for some of the work. An older property most definitely requires greater scrutiny than the HR provides. A guide it is but no more than that.

Member

I have a house in Scotland built in 2000 that I would dearly like to sell. But the market was very difficult when I first put it on the market 3 years ago, and after 6 months I decided to rent it instead. The Home Report needed to put the property on the market had cost £770, and is only valid for 6 months. I’ve had two tenants leave so far, and under pre-HR circumstances I could have taken the opportunity to try and sell the house at each tenant change. But the market is still difficult, so it is likely that I could be wasting another £770 every time I try to sell. I can’t put it back on the market until I am confident the market has fully recovered and that it will sell.

And the Home Report survey is just a record of the blindingly obvious. Anything difficult is left uncovered. Even the loft space, which is accessed by a proper pull down loft ladder, has floorboarding over the main areas and has lighting installed, was not inspected. So far as I could understand the reason was that the surveyor was not allowed to enter any loft, a somewhat fundamental restriction on someone whose job it is to inspect houses.

Member
Caroline says:
14 February 2014

I bought and sold in Edinburgh last year. As a buyer I found home reports really useful in filtering out properties that I couldn’t afford to touch with a barge pole, but which without them I might have considered. The home report on the property I bought flagged up several repairs that needed doing, but the sellers provided evidence that they had been fixed before the deal was finalised. As a seller, I used a surveyor recommended by my solicitor, and I got to approve the text before it was finalised, so I could correct any errors. It cost about £500 which I felt was reasonable.

Member
Martin says:
14 February 2014

I’m in Scotland. Home reports are a waste of time. They are a mechanism for people who don’t know what they are doing to (try to) blame someone else. For a seller they are an unnecessary burden particularly where in a slow market repeat surveys have to be undertaken. The survey is not used by a savvy buyer. The Estate agent and his solicitor and his surveyor are paid by the seller. Why would you RELY upon a document paid for by the seller! If you are going to spend lots on money you make your own inquiries, you get a good solicitor and a good surveyor to represent you. And you ask them questions based upon what your eyes see. Valuation is a very imprecise science and now you can get house price data online – albeit that you don’t necessarily have the photos or actual sight of the property details. In the last few years I have sold 4 flats/houses. One of those was a private sale without marketing the property. In one case the marketed property was on the market for over 12 months. Do you think the valuation 12 months prior was relevant? I had to get a revision done which came up with the same valuation! I sold it at 2.5% over valuation/’asking price’. I have also almost bought a flat in a private sale and only pulled out because the ‘seller’ tried to up the negotiated price after I had done the survey/valuation which showed the price matched both my and the sellers valuation. I have also bought a flat in England – London – last year in a tough sellers market with no problem at all.
And finally I do not know any solicitor (and solicitors in Scotland are also Estate Agents) who thinks the Home Report is worthwhile. The only beneficiaries are Surveyors. Indeed the provision of home reports is more likely to lead buyers to cut corners and not check things. They do not help out with determining what a fair price is. Only someone with direct market knowledge can do that. And that is your own solicitor/surveyor.
Energy performance certificates are also misleading. Higher rating by having a central thermostat and energy efficient light bulbs? Good grief!
What next? Car reports? Caravan reports? Nanny state gone mad. This country would be more effective and efficient if we cut out bureaucracy and unnecessary job creation.

Member
eric henderson says:
14 November 2016

agreed………..a little late but agreed

Member
S right says:
15 February 2014

Having recently sole and bought and used home reports I do not think they are worth the paper they are written on.

You get the same increase in the green band by using the corect light bulbs as paying out for extra insulation.

No proper check is done on roofs etc – just a quick look with binoculars.

Many of the people doing the reports are linked to estate agents, and value accordingly then the mortgage companies insist on another survey as they don’t believe them.

Terrible problems are glossed over.

All the reports say, for example on flooring, is – carpets covered floor so would suggest further checks should be made if the condition is suspect.

One house we viewed we knew the window cleaners refused to clean some of the windows as they were so rotten they were worried the glass would fall out – nothing appeared on the home report to reflect this.

they should also only become compulsory when you have a potential buyer. It costs a fortune just to get your house to market. At one time you could put a few adverts in to ‘test the market’ home report costs have made this impossible.

Member
Bruce says:
16 February 2014

I bought a house in Perthshire last year and for me the whole process was fairly shambolic from estate agents who couldn’t be bothered to raise a finger for the buyers to a conveyancing system which is so outdated and expensive it was way beyond a joke.

I think the home report sysyem is basically a good one as it can give a potential buyer a lot of information up front and the documents supplied are very useful. There are downsides- it is very expensive for the seller and it has to be renewed quite regularly- not good in a slow market. But the biggest downside is the surveyors report. This is very expensive, appears to be done almost always by the same company and is so variable and lacking in useful information as to be almost useless.

The one for my new house failed to mention the work done to prevent subsidence though it was clear to some builders I had round.The inspection of roofs,walls and floors is non-existent- no carpets or insulation are taken up. No tests are done for dampness or to the water,drainage,gas or electrical systems- it appears to be a visual inspection only- hardly a survey which is supposed to avoid the need of a full structural survey by each potential buyer. This report needs to be beefed up to provide a full surveyors report for the buyer without incurring excessive costs for the seller- in other words, more competition.

Indeed, the whole housing market is ripe for a shakeup. Estate agents are not helping their clients by refusing to provide even basic information for buyers usually through laziness or lack of knowledge. The conveyancing system should be simplified so that information on every house is collated into one document stored by the local council and produced in simple English. This would mean that solicitors searches would become a thing of the past and their fees reduced from the ludicrous £1800 I had to pay for information which should only have to take an hour or two to find. It would also mean for example that I would not have to find out I would be living on a private road long after I had made an offer which was my experience.

Member
Susan says:
17 February 2014

I agree entirely with S right.

The home report on a property I was interested in stated that floor and sub floor could not be inspected due to laminate fitted throughout, attic space could not be inspected as the seller had covered the entire attic walls and floor with cardboard, and the roof appeared fine although it was only inspected from ground level through binnoculars.

This was no help whatsoever for a prospective buyer and cannot possibly be classed as a proper inspection. The seller refused permission for us or a surveyor to remove the cardboard which was loosely fitted against the attic walls, or lift a small area of the laminate flooring so obviously had something to hide.

Member

Was this in response to carrying out a full structural survey? I understand that type of survey (in England) would look at all structural issues properly, at, of course, an appropriate cost. In the purchaser’s interests if there is doubt about a property. It is unreasonable for a seller to deny access providing any items are properly reinstated. Best to walk away unless you are prepared to gamble.

Member
Susan says:
18 February 2014

This was in Scotland. The seller refused to allow anything to be moved for a full structural survey, stating that the HR had found no problems. In theory the HR seems like a good idea, but as it is only a brief visual inspection and nothing is moved, a seller with something to hide can easily do so. Needless to say we walked away.

Member

shambolic moneymaking system where they are all in each others pockets.. EAs surveyors,solicitors architects,council,insurance particularly in cahoots with “Factors” it is in dire need of a shake up…..this system could be smooth and effective if it simply was not corrupt and looking to make money.

Member

Thank you for all your comments, they are very helpful. If you have any friends or family who have also bought or sold a property in Scotland, please ask them to share their thoughts on Home Reports here.

Member
kama says:
14 March 2014

Thank you for doing this survey. I am new to home reports and am finding them close to pointless.

As a potential buyer, who is keen to find the right property and move in, i am finding home reports moderately helpful but there is no way they could be relied on as the sole survey prior to purchase. They don’t really tell me anything that I cannot see from visiting the property.

So far, on viewing three top-floor flats and receiving home reports, the things i needed to know about were: the roof, the outside facing, the chimney flashing, the cellar cupboard or garage and the electricity / wiring. The home reports sheds no light on these as the surveyors did not access the lofts, roofs, cellar/garage storage areas or test the wiring. Nor did they lift floor coverings to look at floors, or move furniture to inspect internally with thoroughness.

I have just viewed two flats in the same street, in the same block position. The home report value for one is set at £95k. The other property has a home report value of £70k, and the only difference seems to be aged decor in the latter (because none of the structural stuff i mentioned above was detailed in either report). I’ve no idea how the home report values can be £25k apart when the properties are yards from each other and in the same block positions and the surveyor was working on limited inspection detail.

I would not buy a property in Scotland without paying for a full survey, so home reports are only a minor help along the way. They could be more useful with a requirement to include lofts, floors, wiring, any storage areas linked to the flat etc.

Member
J Cowie says:
17 February 2014

Reading comments added since my previous submission, I feel that the Home Report has distracted us from how we would have approached things in the past.
Then there were different levels of survey starting with the basic valuation. For an older property where there might be issues we would have sought an in- depth survey. It would be more professional. The HR may have its place but we have to take the lead – and should be advised by solicitors so – to arrange such. The trouble is that we have no choice but to spend that money on the HR and then incur further costs. I wonder how costs then compare with now.

Member
Sophie Gilbert says:
22 February 2014

Home reports aren’t worth much more than the paper they are written on. I recently bought a flat and for example there was no mention in the home report of gas leaks, although it was later found that there were about half a dozen. (An eejit working for the seller’s solicitor even shouted in an email to my solicitor, “THERE ARE NO GAS LEAKS” after my husband and I insisted several times that a strong smell of gas that hit us every time we entered the property. Would you credit it???)

While house hunting home reports gave us a rough idea of the general state of the properties, lots of work to do, a wee bit of work to do, a coat of paint will do. We steered clear of the “lots of work to do” because they weren’t for us. The flat we eventually bought was described roughly correctly, but there is huge room for improvement because we had a few surprises. In Scotland you have five working days to discover those surprises and request for anything to get fixed by the seller, but after the five days you’re on your own. Unless you buy properties frequently, which most of us don’t, you’re going to get caught. We did get caught, nothing major fortunately.

Not the most useful things, in conclusion.

Member

Bought a property in Scotland last year, was worried about the system in Scotland, but everyone said it is better and quicker!! The property had NO home report, agents said as the property was “uninhabitable” non was needed, so had to get my own done, just an excuse not to supply a report in my view, but nothing could be done about it!! even trading standards could not help!!

Final offers system was a fiasco, agreed completion date of March ended up being July, and the solicitors who quoted me £750, were useless, when they said half way through they may have to charge more and I sacked them they TOOK £7000.00 fees from my property purchase funds held in “protected client bank account” reported to SLCC in April 2013 still awaiting outcome nearly a year later!!

Member
Mark says:
23 May 2014

They are the worst thing ever to happen to Scotlands property market. People believe that the Surveyors valuation is the maximum amout you can pay so never offer any more, it’s only one persons opinion. The effect of this is that properties are not finding their true market price. Recently I sold my flat in Kirkcaldy, it had a great location, high spec features and bespoke fittings. I knew the value of the property and that it was worth more than the Survey stated and sold it for more just to prove the point to the Estate Agents who we’re constantly arguing with me about the price. They said I should be realistic and take what ever I was offered. The flat had sold within one week for a few thousand over the valuation report. I could have sold it for more but we we’re in a hurry to sell. A few years later the tables we’re turned. I became the buyer of a house in Kirkcaldy, a great house in one if the most prestigious areas of town. The house was in my opinion extremely undervalued and we bid the full asking price or the Home Buyers Valuation and got it. I would have been willing to pay 10 to 20 percent more for the property had there been a closing date situation, which was often the case a few years back. The property had many interested buyers and we bought it without even viewing it because it was so much of a bargain. All ended well for us thankfully but the Home Buyer Survey needs to be abolished or the Estate Agents need to let the potential buyers know that it is only one persons opinion from someone who often even lives in a different town/city. Pay what you want, sell for the amount you want, this is called a free market and property will find its own value depending in affordability/ supply and demand, ie normal market pressures.

Member
Oona Macmillan says:
13 July 2014

The Single Survey was supposed to eliminate the outrageously expensive and harrassing process of having to pay for multiple surveys. It has been a total failure in this aim. My son bought a house last year,and relied…..very unwisely as it turned out on what he thought was a proper survey that would at the very least enable him to avoid the worst pitfalls in the housebuying process.The survey was provided by a firm called Shepherds. They stand by their survey…..so I shall simply outline what happened after the purchase was completed…..and anyone can then judge for themselves how helpful that survey was to him. A month after he and his young family moved in,they noticed mould and dampness in an upstairs bedroom. They thought it might be due to house not having been well heated. Four months later,they saw water running down an internal wall….went up to the loft to investigate,and found a pool of water covering the entire floor. They called in the surveyor who had done the Report. His response was that they couldnt expect him to know that the roof was in such a bad state,since IT WAS NOT RAINING WHEN HE DID THE SURVEY. A complaint to the Scottish Government about the abysmally low level of expertise employed for this Home Report…was met with advice to seek redress through the system they had set up with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors…whereby that body would investigate one of its members itself….and if they concluded that their surveyor member was a diligent chap…and we persisted in objecting to a blatantly sloppy piece of surveying….then we couldtake it to the Ombudsman.We noted that the Ombudsman Service,from all accounts was generally useless in these situations….because there are so many get out clauses and caveats in the Home Report that it is not worth the paper it is written on. My son is a hardworking young man without the means to pay for the reroofing job which must now be done….after a temporary repair costing seven hundred pounds.The bill will be at least five thousand pounds.Then,a month ago, the whole plumbing system in the house gave up…..and the bill for this repair will be another few thousand. MY ADVICE TO ANYONE CONSIDERING BUYING A HOUSE IN SCOTLAND IS THIS….UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES PLACE ANY FAITH AT ALL IN THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENTS SINGLE SURVEY. The legislation underpinning is is so biased in favour of the massively profitable surveying business in Scotland that,in reality,YOU HAVE NO REDRESS AT ALL WHEN YOU FALL VICTIM TO A SLOPPY SINGLE SURVEY REPORT. Call in a civil engineer and pay twice….even three times the fee you would have paid for that useless piece of paper……and get yourself some REAL information on the state of the property you intend to buy.It may very well work out THOUSANDS OF POUNDS CHEAPER than relying on the brainchild of an unholy alliance between the Scottish Government and RICS.Also,I have to say that I found the Scottish Government just as good at spinning,dodging the real issue,and lying in their teeth as any other . They should be ashamed of this useless and misleading piece of legislation….and no doubt many who have had similar experiences will know who they favour…..NOT the young,inexperienced person buying a house ….but the usual sharks in the housing market. Single Survey be damned.NOTHING CHANGED WITH THAT LEGISLATION…..EXCEPT OUR OPINION OF THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT

Member
Edward Dee says:
26 September 2014

I purchased a house built in the early 80’s in a town just to the East of Edinburgh approximately 5 weeks ago (Aug 2014). The house was been sold by the executors of the previous resident so they had limited knowledge of the property and so presumably could not check the survey for accuracy.

The survey stated that its construction was “Brick and Block”. After living in it for a week I suspected that its construction was in fact timber framed. Obtaining the original building warrant from the council and getting the property checked by my own surveyor confirmed the construction was timber framed (My surveyor said just tap the internal walls; if they are all plaster board then brick and block construction is unlikely and further investigation should be undertaken). While the house is nice I didn’t want a timber framed house and would not have spent £400,000 on one. My solicitor’s view however was that basically there was nothing I could do as there is no evidence that I was ‘out of pocket’. Fortunately neither my mortgage provider nor my building insurance company raised any problems when notified of the revised construction type.

The actual survey was pretty poor. It didn’t comment things that were easily visible – for example that the overflow pipe from the tank in the loft was missing (just a hole showing in the soffit). In my opinion it was obvious when looked at from the outside something was missing and pretty obvious what it was. Had the tank seriously overflowed, the water would have flooded the house starting from the loft.

The report stated that the gutters were plastic when they were aluminum – but I suppose that was a minor point. More serious, the report didn’t comment on the posts supporting the porch roof – three are so rotten at the bottom that they are actually hanging instead of supporting anything. Neither did the report comment on the kitchen extractor vent, which was originally built to vent into the attached garage but after a kitchen refit was short and vented into the wall cavity. Had the surveyor shone his torch on it he would have seen the problem and also seen the paper coated timber frame inner skin of the house.

As well as an incorrect survey, my Energy Performance Certificate, which is a document of record, is of course rubbish as its based on the wrong construction type; further, in its recommendation it suggests adding “cavity wall insulation” – a seriously bad idea in a timber framed house. Even if the property construction type had been correct the assumptions made make things like the EPC pretty meaning less – for example mine recommends adding under-floor insulation – when that is already present but does not recommend adding a room thermostat to control the boiler as the surveyor presumably failed to not there was not one installed – just thermostatic valves on the radiators.

I suppose I’m fortunate in that while not in the building trade I’ve been around long enough to have some basic knowledge – though I didn’t consider doubting the survey regarding construction type. I do wonder about the extent others may be mislead.

All together a pretty shoddy job on a pretty crappy concept.

Member

Hi,

You seem to have had a similar experience to us. These reports were put in place by the government to help the buyer and to stop surveyors charging to survey the same propert. However the reality. Is that even when they are misleading the surveyor has a way to get out and leave the innocent public in debt and upset. My story below is the most recent one posted. Something needs to change and people need to be more informed about these home reports. Too many caveats are used and the terms and conditions are long and unhelpful to to the average person .

Member
Stephen says:
4 December 2014

I am currently trying to purchase a house in East Lothian
And it seems that the home report company’s are pricing property’s high to get the business.
Prices are back up to and higher than in 2006.

All the Home report dose is keep the surveyors in a job.

Member
Alan (Dumfries) says:
8 February 2015

The home reports are nothing more than an easy way of raising tax by the Scottish ‘Government’.
From a sellers point of view would you be happy if you had to take a car to a garage before you sold it and have them write an extortionately overpriced report saying not very much and then tell you the price one individual thinks its worth which is more or less what you have to market it at ?
From a buyers point of view would you really trust it, a survey which is the price of a full one but is in effect only a casual and quick glance over.
The home is a families greatest asset and the market should decide what it sells for not some pampered and privileged surveyor who only cares about his cut of the hefty fee charged.
Its no wonder that there is a feeling of hatred building up for the politicians who dont listen to the people.

Member

I had a home report made up 1st September 2014, property on market end of Sept. Offer made on property 10th April 2015 and accepted. 3 weeks ago I had a call from solicitor buyers bank want a type 1 survey done on my property the Home Report is only seven months old at this time, I presumed that the Home Report was valid for up to two years? On the back of my Home Report in very small writing they advise to have it updated every 12 weeks. Surveyor came and did a type 1 survey, we have still not had a copy (and we are supposed to be paying for this). Solicitor telephoned to advise that they think the survey was below our Home Report no indication was given as to how much below price we had. Our adverts now say under offer. So how do I stand about this, are the buyers still to buy, will other potential buyers be put off looking as its under offer, I could be losing potential buyers. Where do I stand please help and answer my questions Thank you for reading.
Pat

Member

We bought our property in February 2014 and were excited 1st time buyers. The house needed updating and we were prepared to take this on over time to make it our family home.
The home report was a great idea and we thought as these were put in place by the government there was no need to instruct an independent surveyor. As you would expect the report was full of category 1’s and mentioned would require capital to upgrade which we knew. The outside wall and main roof were a 2. The main roof required some pointing on the ridges which the seller claimed was fixed prior to the purchase. The only mention of the flat roof over the kitchen extension was that it would require higher than normal maintenance costs, which everyone expects from a flat roof.
The property had been extended with a flat roof kitchen extension with a decking balcony on top. To access the balcony the 2nd bedroom window had been removed in the past and a set of patio doors in its place. Fast forward 7 months later with a leak into the living room. The insurer called out a roofer who informed us the patio doors had been fitted very poorly and the wood round about them was rotten and the edging around the flat roof had failed. He asked if there was planning permission in place as we needed to make sure the roof had enough strength to support the weight of the balcony and the hand railings were not safe. We presumed had been looked into by our conveyancer but it was at this point we realised the surveyor had not even noted the balcony or the patio doors in the home report.
We had to pay £400 to a structural engineer who deemed the balcony unsafe and we would need to lift it all, re-inforce the joists (possibly replace if rotten) fit new handrails(they were not safe) and replace the patio doors. At this point we were advised to instruct a solicitor to contact the company who produced the report as a builder and the structural engineer felt they had not done their job. After also contacting the local council it became apparent there was no legal authority consent for the balcony or the patio doors. After a 6 month legal battle the surveyors have managed to wangle their way out of it with the caveats they place in these reports. The claim they covered the balcony by mentioning “flat roofs have higher maintenance costs” & by pointing out that the valuation was correct providing the paperwork for the flat roof extension was in place as they took that to cover the balcony. We are now in debt and face around a £25k bill if the roof joists are rotten to fix the mess on top of legal fee.
These home reports really are not worth the money they are written on and especially lead a 1st time buyer into a false sense of security. More needs to be done to make sure it is fully explained to any 1st time buyer that there are major flaws in some of these reports and it is at your own risk to accept what is written in them.
The report even stated there was a bath in the property when there was only a shower, so that just shows you how much detail went into it. I have learned a lot over the last 6 months and yes perhaps we have been at fault too for not reading the report 50 times as I have now but without proper guidance to 1st time buyers these kinds of situations will continue to happen. My partner and I may not be able to claim any legal compensation but we are going to our local MSP to try and make a difference to the Home Report System. This not only puts stress on couples financially, it puts stress on your relationship, your work and family and friends who are around you.
If anyone is reading I can’t stress enough if you are buying a home just pay an extra £500 if you love the house for an independent survey as it could save you thousands in the long run. We have not been able to enjoy our house or move on because we trusted the home report.

Member
ralph says:
26 January 2016

We too were stung in England with similar situation it has caused me to have a nervous breakdown because of the debt and worry and I now suffer from anxiety. It has put so much pressure on my relationship and daughters life. I fully understand the pain you must be going through and I too will be writing to my mp to lobby a law change. This stuff ruins peoples .lives!

Member

We are due to move into our dream home in Dundee next week but the last two months have been a total nightmare, due to the surveyor who produced the initial home report. We put in an offer based on the value in the original home report, offer was accepted and we were delighted. Then the surveyor sent a transcript of that report to our mortgage company and CHANGED the value to £20,000 less than his original value, and introducing a £20,000 retention due to an old boundary wall that is bowing………..he said he would be willing to change the value back to the original if we got a structural engineer in to look at the wall. £350 later, we had the engineer in who said it just needed re-pointing. The surveyor then changed back to the original value but our mortgage company , by this time were jittery and told us on Monday that they weren’t prepared to lend us the full amount (as they had already agreed in principal!). In addition, there are 2 parking spaces that belong to the house, or it was stated in the original home report that they were, we have just found out today, a week before, that in fact they belong to the local council. Now we have one week till moving in and no time to get the the house re-surveyed so we can make another offer (as it is worth less without private parking)………..their solicitor appears to have withheld this information until the last minute so we are now backed into a corner. I feel we have been royally shafted by the surveyor, he has caused so many problems and unnecessary stress. I want to find out it if is legal for a surveyor to change the value in a home report after it has been produced. I called RICS and they said they couldn’t help me, I can’t seem to find anyone who will tell me where we stand legally. We are relocating from Aberdeen to Dundee so have had to set up new nursery for my little one amongst other things…………..I am just livid at how these people have so much power and seem to protect each other. It is useful reading other people’s stories and to see that mostly things turned out ok once in their new homes, it’s hard to keep positive and not worry about what problems might be lurking in the new house, this whole process seems to have been doomed and has clouded what should be such an exciting time for a young family. Rant over, I feel a wee bit better………

Member
andy M says:
16 November 2015

I have been helping out a friends daughter and partner who have bought privately, an ex council house in Aberdeen. In over 40 years in the electrical industry I have never witnessed anything as bad as the electrics in their new home. Nowhere in the home reports does it ask about DIY that had been done – despite a total of 39 switch sockets being visible through the house. This should have set off alarm bells with any competent experienced property Surveyor and saved them a probably £3-4K for a full rewire of the house.

Member
Sarah Parry says:
7 January 2016

We bought a house 3 years ago. We relied only on the home report. Nearly all of the problems that were identified after we moved in were missed by the surveyor (serious water penetration on all 3 chimneys, requiring one to be taken down and re-built; plus lots of serious ‘hidden’ water penetration (i.e. internal ceilings falling down after living there for a few months) and damage to internal walls that were temporarily covered with foil paper to achieve a sale.). This has cost us £20k to date. And we expect that replacing damaged internal walls to amount to another £10k this year.
In sum, we found the home report to be fully bogus. In fact, when the same surveyor had to come back to our house 2 years later because we were moving our mortgage (to re-value) he apologised and explained that he can’t see these things when there is furniture in a house. Hopeless.

Member

My son and partner bought a property in Scotland recently. The decision to buy was based partly on a top graded, (1) Home Report. ( No major work required). Within weeks, water was found leaking into the attic and advice sought from independent roofing specialists who all graded the property as a ‘3’. ( Major work required immediately). An entire new roof was required.
The seller had stated on the Home Report that no major work had been done, turns out he had recently bodged the job himself.( Neighbour willing to act as witness). The original report, a ‘1’ time expired and was renewed six months later. It was identical and re- dated.
The surveyor had inspected the roof with binoculars. Photos of the roof taken by my son when the problem surfaced clearly show shoddy work yet this was from the same location the surveyor used his binoculars and yet failed to spot the problems.
To add insult to injury, the surveyors now admit the workmanship is lacking but suggest this job could have been carried out AFTER their original survey. They accept no responsibility.
This is in the hands of a solicitor but the HR appears to be not worth the paper it is written on.

Member
ralph says:
26 January 2016

As someone who has burned by a dishonest seller not disclosing issues in their PIF major issues including damp mould wet rot and leaking roof ( three in fact) I think the reintroduction of these should be compulsory in UK. Estate agents do not care about buyers and wull do the whole smoke and mirrors routine no better than bankers or traffic wardens

Member
Julie Sparshatt says:
21 June 2016

We live in Aberdeenshire, due to the oil crisis house values are dropping. Just received our home report as wanting to relocate.
Quite disappointed to get a low valuation, approx. 30 thousand less than we were hoping to market house for. Also only given a 2 on fuse box which was changed 5 years ago when kitchen was remodelled, seemingly new legislation states that we need a metal not plastic one??
I want to put on market for our original value, but partner thinks nobody will pay over home report.
Held to ransom , I think.

Member

A new domestic installation will require a metal [double insulated] consumer unit but there is no requirement to change an existing one. If any major alterations to the electricity circuits were required the new owners would be well advised to have it done. I suspect that item in the report was an ‘observation’ rather than a ‘requirement’. Metal fuseboxes preceded plastic ones but metal is now the new standard following concerns from the fire and rescue services that plastic fuseboxes are prone to melting. I understand that consumer units in garages are exempt from the new regulations for the time being.

Member

Where did you get your hoped-for valuation from? Presumably estate agents who know your area will give a realistic valuation (plus a little to allow negotiation). Buyers will also look at the area, the desirability and condition of your house, and bid accordingly.

Member
Kate says:
16 August 2016

Bit of a long and ranty one.
I’m a first time buyer and looked at a house for the first time recently. I’ve a progressive illness so am not in a position to borrow more. Like everyone I need enough information to know I can afford to repair my house and that I can resell in future. If I had to move for more accessible housing and can’t resell, then I can’t live in my home, or buy another, or move into social housing. I was glad about HRs because if I had to pay for lots of surveys then I can’t afford to buy an accessible house. After viewing one house I don’t see HRs in this way.

The Home report flagged up minor roof repairs and damp in the walls beneath grading both a 2. That didn’t scare me off from having a look but knew it needs checked at 2nd view by my builder friend.
Surveyor writes twice in the report that the roof is otherwise fine, but then tucked away in the inspection procedures and “general remarks” is that he didn’t enter the attic and inspect the roof timbers. This despite knowing there is significant long term damp from the leaking roof. It seems bizarre that a house with a visible roof problem and internal damp beneath can be surveyed or even valued without inspection of roof timbers. How is he allowed to state that the roof is basically sound and call that a survey. There’s no redress if you miss the separate caveat. Agent told me this is normal practice to not inspect roof timbers but I’ve seen lots of HRs flag up rotten roof timbers. Agent said if I couldn’t take his personal assurances for there being no problem, I can call the surveyor. Why when we know he didn’t inspect them?

In the Japanese Knotweed section the surveyor says he didn’t look for it and assumes no problem. It takes 5 seconds to walk up to the hedge and see it growing in the next door vacant plot. It was regrowing after being removed earlier in summer, so if I’d viewed then I’d have missed it. Because he stated he chose not to inspect for it, a buyer who either didn’t think to look, wasn’t sure what it looks like, or didn’t view at the right time to see it would have no redress and insurance companies would not pay for any damage. There could have been constant eradication fees and it would keep coming back in from next door. Even when “eradicated” it comes back for years. It’s a C listed building with, I’d guess, poorish foundations and if you don’t protect it from Knotweed the council will do it and make you pay. I’d be unable to sell because buyers wouldn’t get a mortgage for a property with knotweed or history of it. If I was lucky and find a buyer with no mortgage, the price would be so low I couldn’t buy another house. I don’t know if the surveyor saw it, or genuinely chose to not look so as to not take on any liability. Either is not OK. So it sounds like if there’s knotweed in your area, you need a surveyor that you are paying.

HR said small improvements needed to leccy and graded it 2. It has bare wires and needs rewiring.

HR said no problem with flooring but hadn’t lifted the floor coverings. The bare cement floor had a hole 2 foot wide and 6 inches deep that’s been patched and repatched.

Also no certificates for anything and no tests done on chimneys, drains etc.

Surveyor valued the property without seeing documentation on planning permission for recent extension to a listed building, and there is no record of it on the council site. That’s a meaningless valuation. To tear down and rebuild in the original appearance could cost most of the asking price and also reduce size and value of the property. Your own solicitor would check this but only after an offer has been conditionally accepted, and so you have to pay your solicitor hundreds to find out if the property has a negative value. A HR and valuation should not be allowed without this basic info.

I stayed more or less polite but the agent thought I buttoned up the back and faked offence at me suggesting his verbal assurances on the roof timbers and the high quality of the survey were not enough to base an offer on.

If we add in knotweed nightmares, putting right the visible and likely problems flagged up in the survey, plus putting right the definite and potential problems the survey didn’t mention or was misleading or inadequate on, could cost a lot more than the asking price of the property and even if all this work was done resale could be difficult or impossible and then only at far lower than the current valuation. I know it would be my solicitors job to tell me I needed to get an independent survey done on this house but even if they didn’t, given how these professions are regulated, I would still have no chance of redress on some of these issues, and only a chance of a redress on some issues if I had the money to sue. Most people don’t. I’d be relieved if someone could tell me I’ve got all that wrong. I’m new to this so it’s likely I’ll have misunderstood some of the procedures.

If this level of competency and honesty is normal, there needs to be changes to HRs and then the Scottish government needs to create an independent auditing system that has the right to give out temporary bans, re education, or disbar surveyors from doing HRs. (professions can’t self regulate and the ombudsman is unfit for purpose.) This wouldn’t solve all bias problems and would increase cost, but it would be a start.

On this one experience I’d say HRs, as they’re done now, can’t be treated as an adequate initial valuation let alone a survey. I’ve found the comments above really useful. Thanks to all. When I find the one I really want, I’ll get my own survey done.

Member
Stephen henderson says:
25 August 2016

I think the system is right it should be a mandatory thing for sellers to get a proper survey done before selling but the home report is not a proper survey.
I have just bought a house, home report states that it couldn’t check under the floors as fitted carpets did not allow access. The hatch in my new house is not covered by anything. I noticed this also in the house I sold same wording but again not true hatch was easily accessible.

I now could have a very large bill for wet rot damage, I realise that I should have paid for a timber survey but nothing in the home report to suggest I needed to, house seemed in good condition. My fault, but my specialist now is saying even if the home report surveyor had looked or smelled under the hatch he would have noticed it. Not sure if I have any come back, the questionnaire also asked if any work had been done and it was not disclosed even though work is evident. Again not sure how much of a come back I have with it.

The report doesn’t in its present form protect home buyers.

Member

Home Report -online states in question 1- should I get another survey done – quote- there may be occasions when you ,or your solicitor think another survey might have a different view —in this case it might make sense to instruct a survey on your own behalf ,either before you submit an offer or after an offer has been accepted .your solicitor must ensure that that is an explicit part of your offer . It seems to me that although Home Reports are compulsory in Scotland they should be looked on as basic or interim reports also you dont have to pay the seller for the report if you buy the house .

Member

If I had reached the stage of buying something that I did not totally understand the construction and condition of – let’s say a £250 000 house – then I would think it very prudent to commission someone properly qualified (and insured) to do a full survey for me even if it cost £1-2000 – less than 1% of my investment. I would be protecting myself. I certainly would not rely on a report produced by the seller. Why be stingy with such an important purchase? Chances are if defects become apparent that you can deal with you are likely to get a reduction in price to offset your survey. If defect free, you can sleep at night.

Member
Jacqui says:
4 September 2016

I have just bought a house on the back of a home report and found out 4 weeks later I have major issues with damp. It has left me so depressed and I’m now looking to sell at auction just to get rid of it. I’ve gone back to my solicitor but I am sure there will be a ‘get out clause’. Home reports are a waste of money.

Member

Yes, they certainly cannot substitute for a professional survey carried out by the prospective purchaser. If a survey reveals dampness this can probably be used to negotiate on the price to allow for the cost of remedial work and even the cost of the survey.

Member

I meant to say “on behalf of the prospective purchaser” in the first sentence. That is, a survey carried out at the purchaser’s expense, for which there is easier redress if a significant defect or condition is missed or is omitted from the report.

Member
D Sutherland says:
13 September 2016

Absolutely waste of money the surveyors carrying out these reports are making a fortune . In England you can make a profit if you have updated a property by putting in new kitchen and bathroom but not here it is only valued more if you have extended it. This stops sellers getting their money back on updated property’s very annoying .

Member
ericandrewpandy says:
10 October 2016

I had a home buyers survey undertaken and the report indicated several items marked 2, which is that there is no immediate problem but action should be taken to prevent deterioration. I challenged these saying that his judgement was either his own personal preference (re decoration) or merely outlined a sensible maintenance routine. He amended five items from 2 to 1 making me think that he couldn’t defend his professional judgement. My conclusion is that they are a waste of time and money

Member
K Thomas says:
12 October 2016

As a recent seller in Scotland, and now as a buyer, my experience has led me to the opinion that the Home Report system should be scrapped forthwith. The ridiculous 3- monthly ‘refreshment’ requirement penalises sellers who, through no fault of their own, find that the property values in their area have collapsed and face a lengthy period (often years) of waiting until they find a buyer for their property. Very often, sellers have to accept a price well below the initial valuation, and matters are not helped by having to pay in excess of £100 every 3 months to have the home report ‘refreshed.’ As a buyer, one often finds that the major lenders do not accept Home Reports, even though the surveyor who carried it out is on the panel of the lender. This has been my experience with Abbey Santander, and has held up the already complex and labyrinthine process of securing a mortgage – on a property which already has a current, up-to-date Home Report.

Member

yes agreed KT

Member

A corrupt system that has fed the line of PWPs for many years a 2 year old could come up with a better system. (if they were impartial) homwereprots are useless. most banks santander will send out their own evaluation……surveyors do nothing in and out with a glance….good read on the judge sunday mail 12/11/2016 sums it up.

Member
p keenan says:
9 July 2017

I purchased a house in Lanarkshire and the home report showed the all number ones which couldn’t be any better. However after a year I got the attic floored. I could see sky through a small gap in the roof, plus there were 8 wasp nests. The pest control firm said that they dated back to at least 10 years and that there was also signs of woodworm. The attic obviously was not checked for the home report as these issues would have shown up. I am now having to pay to get work done when I shouldn’t have to. So I also agree that home reports are not worth the paper they are written on. I wish I could take someone to account for this.

Member

P. Keenan -According to the Home Report for Scotland -quote – the surveyor has a legally binding duty to the seller and the buyer to write an accurate report and can be held liable for losses arising as a result of errors . The Housing (Scotland) Act -2006 (Consequential Provisions ) Order -2008 -the buyer must be able to rely on the terms of the survey -Article 3 of the Order establishes the LIABILITY of the person who prepared the report on a house towards the buyer of that house . Therefore your legal action should be against the surveyor for insufficient “care ” in carrying out his legal obligation to both buyer and seller

Member

It will depend whether for the purposes of a Scottish ‘Home Report’ the inspector is expected or required to inspect inside lofts and attics for signs of water ingress, vermin or infestation, or underneath floorboards to check joists, plumbing and electrics, to lift carpets to see if there is evidence woodworm or rot, to carry out a drain test, to check chimneys for birds’ nests and do a smoke test, and so on. There could be all sorts of exclusions as was to be the case with the English ‘House Condition Reports’ which were subsequently abandoned. The only inspection that will reveal the true condition of a property is a full structural survey and even then it is necessary to agree with the surveyor what is and is not included because full access is sometimes denied or impossible. Any exclusions would normally be set out in the preamble to the report but in the case of a mandatory report it might be buried in the legislation; nevertheless, a good surveyor or inspector would note the limitations of the inspection. The Home Report is not a survey but a report prepared following an inspection. The inspector does not have to be a qualified surveyor but must be a competent person trained and experienced for the type of inspection specified.

I agree that any recourse should be exercised against the person or firm who produced the report and they will no doubt explain their position. There is a duty of care to the buyer and also a requirement to exercise due diligence and competence within the scope of the brief.