Preparing for a French property survey

The sale of your property will often hinge on what is in the surveyor's report

The sale of your property will often hinge on what is in the surveyor's report - Credit: Archant

While property surveys aren’t as common in France, many buyers are choosing to obtain one. Martin Quirke shares how vendors can prepare for an inspection

Selling a property can be a stressful time, as we all know. From showing new people around every weekend, keeping the place spotless, getting the ‘diagnostiques’ in place, then dread of dreads: the surveyor is coming! What could be worse than a professional building surveyor inspecting every nook and cranny of your house?

The sale of your property will often hinge on what is in the surveyor’s report. Even if you have lived in the house for years you might wonder if something awful would be discovered. However, fear not: you can mitigate the likelihood of a bad survey by applying some common sense and possibly some worthwhile expenditure.

I am a chartered building surveyor and I have been doing property surveys in France since 2001. I have met all types of vendors from the totally laid-back to the positively anguished. I have mostly been met with politeness and respect but on the rare occasion also with dread or disdain. The vendors all share one thing in common: concern about what I am going to report to my client, the potential buyer. I fully understand this which is why I am providing the advice below.

Some vendors cannot resist asking the obvious question when I start packing away my gear: “Everything alright was it?” They either don’t realise or choose to ignore the fact that I act solely for the buyer and my report is a confidential document for their eyes only. I am not there to give homeowners a full rundown on the condition of their property, especially as the potential buyer is employing me. I would soon run out of clients if I chose to discuss my findings with each homeowner before my paying client!

So what is the best way to deal with an inspection? Here are a few simple things you can do to ensure your house is in the best possible condition for the surveyor.

Maintenance

Most Read

• Repair simple defects like plaster cracks, rehang loose doors, replace dead light bulbs. These are very minor items but point to a property being poorly maintained. The surveyor builds up a picture as he/she goes around the property and little things, like light bulbs not working, indicate an unloved house.

• Repair leaking gutters and downpipes and replace slipped roof tiles – all the roofing jobs you have been putting off for months or years. If you cannot carry out the work yourself then employ the services of a general builder. A roof that is in poor condition is a significantly bad start to a survey.

• Repoint the exterior stonework or brickwork. Make sure you use the correct mortar (i.e. don’t use cement on an old property). Unless you are a skilled DIYer don’t attempt this yourself. Walls in poor condition are another big negative for a surveyor.

• If you have obvious damp then get it sorted before the survey – and I don’t mean shove a wardrobe in the way! A canny surveyor will wonder why there is bedroom furniture in the lounge. If my moisture meter goes into overdrive on every one of your walls then I am going to become concerned. Damp walls are usually down to two things: high soil levels outside breaching the damp course, or penetrating damp that is coming through cracked render, or poorly pointed or cracked masonry.

A remote third option is rising damp. If gutters are leaking this is a relatively simple fix, but do it well before the survey, otherwise any affected wall will still set my moisture meter beeping like crazy as wet walls can take weeks and even months to dry out.

Safety

• If anything was listed in the electrical or gas diagnostic report as an ‘anomaly’, put it right and get a certificate from the electrician or fitter who did the remedial work. As a general rule, I recommend to my clients that they ask the vendor to attend to these before signing.

• Make sure the smoke/heat detectors are in working order.

• Remove aggressive pets. Dodging large molars is not my favourite thing when I am working. I like dogs a lot but I also don’t want a new waggy-tailed friend following me everywhere, begging to be stroked.

• Repair any trip hazards such as broken steps and uneven stair risers.

Services

• In the winter, make sure the heating is working correctly.

• Bathrooms, toilets and kitchens require mechanical extractor fans so make sure these are fitted and working.

• Fix plumbing leaks, mouldy sealant etc.

• If your septic tank is whiffy have it checked out before the surveyor arrives. It could be overflowing or trying to deal with non-biological waste. You should be aware of the law about having your septic inspected by an organisation such as SPANC, so have the certificate at hand for the surveyor to see.

Documentation

• Have the diagnostics available with a copy for the surveyor to take away.

• Have any bills for major repairs or improvements available for inspection.

• Have plans ready if you have them to show where extensions or alterations have been carried out.

Martin Quirke is a chartered building surveyor at Albion Building Surveyors

Tel: 020 8416 0041

www.surveys-in-france.org