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Are free damp surveys a rip-off?

Question: We are in the process of buying an old Victorian end terraced house in Durham, we've had a free damp and timber survey done by a local company.

We have had the report back and it doesn't sound too good. Tests showed high levels of rising damp on the front bay window, gable wall of front room, areas of both internal/external walls of the rear room and all walls in the kitchen.

As well as dry rot in the front room, he also picked up on the kitchen floor having no damp proof course which is causing problems. Woodworm treatment is also needed throughout the whole ground floor and loft. He has quoted us on damp proofing which is insert chemical damp proof course to all ground floor walls, remove/replace the complete living room floor, dig up and replace kitchen floor, spray whole house for woodworm and provide guarantee cover for all works.

As we know nothing about this sort of works we are worried that we may being taking for a ride? Also do you think companies that do free surveys add on extra costs?? Is there a cheaper way of doing this? Please help, we need your advice! Thanks

Answer: Unfortunately we are not able to comment upon damp proofing surveys carried out by other damp proofing companies since we have not seen the property. I would definitely recommend that you should get more than one opinion - three at least. It does sound like a lot of work though, try to get a contractor who has been trained to Property Care Association standards and is experienced in carrying out damp proofing surveys.

Free damp and timber surveys are always speculative and they naturally will be enthusiastic in their diagnosis and remedy, since this is how they earn their living. More often than not, free damp proof surveys end up with costly and unnecessary work being recommended.

Independent damp and timber surveys, such as those provided by us, often save money as they avoid unnecessary work and give you an honest appraisal of the property. Whatever faults are found in the property should be negotiated off the asking price or your offer price. Its accepted to re-adjust your offer based upon the cost of work necessary - this is the norm.

A sensible option is to engage the services of an independent specialist surveyor who does not have a vested interest in what is found. There is usually a modest fee to pay, which varies from company to company, but should be in the region of £80.00 to £150.00. More often than not, this saves a lot of money in the long run as it avoids unnecessary and costly work.

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