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When Should You Walk Away From A Property Purchase

When Should You Walk Away From A Property Purchase

When should you walk away from a property purchase?

Did you know that the average time to sell your UK property is 102 days? Obviously, there are regional variations – averages range from 126 days in London to 77 days in Birmingham and only 39 days in Edinburgh. 

However, the sales process can slow down considerably and even stall altogether when the buyer encounters obstacles. Unfortunately, not all problems can be overcome. The graph below shows the most common deal-breakers for residential property purchases. 


Source: Strutt and Parker


Many of the issues that would cause the buyer to withdraw from an agreed deal will have been flagged up by a home survey – though sadly not every buyer chooses to protect themselves against property defects in this way. Ironically, those who decide against commissioning a survey for the property they’re about to buy are more likely to be put off by building defects that look worse than they actually are. 

One of the biggest advantages of instructing a building surveyor is that you can draw on their in-depth knowledge to identify areas of concern and, crucially, obtain professional advice and guidance on how to remedy the problem.

What’s more, once the extent of the defect and the cost of remedial action has been established, the survey data can be used as a valuable tool to help you renegotiate the sale price. Here’s a useful explanation of how this should be approached in practice.

Let’s take a look at the worst offenders.


  • Damp and mould

Take a look at the above graph and you will see that 4 out of 5 prospective buyers are put off by damp patches and mould in a property. While it is relatively straightforward to clean off unsightly mouldy patches from walls and ceilings, apply anti-damp paint and increase ventilation, this won’t give long term relief unless the source of the damp is addressed too. A building surveyor will be able to spot signs of damp affecting timber and brickwork and check for underlying causes of rising damp, penetrating damp and condensation problems that could require extensive works to put right.


  • Bad smells

An offensive smell in the house is bound to repulse buyers – it’s the second-biggest deal-breaker on the graph. Whether the source of the odour is cigarette smoke, pets, cooking smells or damp, the good news is that the problem can be dealt with quite easily. A good airing and a deep clean will get rid of most persisting odours. Don’t forget to treat in situ carpets and curtains too, since smells can linger there for longer. Unless there is an underlying reason for the smell, redecorating the property should solve the issue once and for all.


  • Major structural issues

It shouldn’t come as a great surprise that over two-thirds of buyers would be scared off by the prospect of major building works. Dilapidated ceilings, rotting flooring, ancient electrics, subsidence – unless you’re specifically looking for a ‘fixer-upper’, your average buyer would run a mile! However, the need for significant renovations need not be a deal-breaker. It all comes down to keeping a cool head, working with an experienced surveyor to get a clear idea of what needs doing, and putting a budget together, then going back to renegotiate.


  • Shabby interiors

An unloved poorly maintained home sends completely the wrong message to buyers. Not only will the property take longer to sell, but it may also deter some buyers altogether. But even those who are prepared to do a bit of decorating may baulk at the idea of having to update old kitchens or bathrooms that are horribly out of date and/or simply no longer fit for purpose. Textured walls and ceilings are another bugbears. Old-fashioned, tricky to remove and possibly containing asbestos, they are now deeply unpopular with home buyers.


  • Scruffy exteriors

The same goes for homes without kerb appeal. An untidy garden, overgrown entrance path, peeling masonry, missing roof tiles or dilapidated outbuildings will all draw attention to the fact that a lot of time and effort will be needed to make the house a home. Buyers may not only be put off by the sheer mountain of work that they can see but the suspicion that there may be more to do once they scratch below the surface. Again, a home survey will provide clarity and suggest a path forward.

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