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Buying a 1920's semi with cracks everywhere... Help!

Discussion in 'Building' started by Fishwalker, 12 Feb 2020.

  1. Fishwalker

    Fishwalker

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    Hi.



    We sold our house last year and are living with my parents with our young daughter (4 months now!).



    We've viewed 50 houses now as didn't really know where we wanted to live and nothing very good has been on the market long, due to our budget and limited family homes in my daughter's school catchment area. We've lost out on 4 best and final offer bids in that time, of houses we would have liked, so were trying honest!



    We finally found a house we both liked that ticks most all boxes and our asking price offer has been accepted, but it has loads of cracks in the plaster in different rooms and next door has cracks in the exterior.



    The house we are buying has had a retrograde exterior render board attached to the upper section hiding any potential defects, so I can't see if cracks on the inside are outside too. It appears the vendor planned to live there for a long time and has really invested a lot in it.



    Normally I'd run a mile from cracks like this but they had an amazing 50k new extension built in 2016 and the place is decorated to a high standard in most rooms but the hall, which is still old textured wallpaper.



    I've spoken to the neighbour's son who's lived there all his life and he said he's been aware of no structural issues in his house, but the garden did flood a bit and enter slightly, the utility room in 2007.



    I've walked around the street looking at similar semi detached houses and some also have cracks in the exterior. They were built 1927.



    I've seen the vendors home buyers survey from 2007 and that says there is evidence of some movement but that it appears historical and is not a concern but these cracks appear to have occurred since decoration.



    The vendors have removed a wall in the front bedroom to make larger the third bedroom (no cracks) and recently removed the wall between the toilet and bathroom to fit a new 4 piece bathroom.



    I know old houses are to expect issues like this but before I shell out on a structural survey, could you guys give your opinion please?



    Also, if I called a builder or two and asked if they'd visit the house and cast their eye over the cracks, would they be likely to agree to this for the purposes of quoting to repair and would they charge less than a survey? Obviously if we do buy, we'll need quotes then.



    I'm posting some pics I've taken of the cracks. The worst are in the back master bedroom on the interior landing wall. There are also some in the new kitchen extension below. I hear extensions can take a few years to settle in. I have possession of architectural drawings showing pillons where driven in 800mm below ground level for the extension and the windows in the room are very large. Could this put strain on the wall causing cracks like in the photos?

    Thanks so much for input!
     
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  3. ^woody^

    ^woody^

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    No pictures, but in the meantime this is the worst thing to do.

    Apart from builders being builders not structural inspection specialists, never ever ask people to survey and comment on work they will potentially get. Can you see the obvious flaw in that?
     
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  4. Fishwalker

    Fishwalker

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  5. Fishwalker

    Fishwalker

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    Yes, I can now you mention!

    I just wish I had a builder buddy or structural engineer friend to go round with me.

    I just need to know what the title of the right professional I will need is, to properly check this out?

    I don't just want one of those reports that say "it may be this or that and needs further investigation." I need serious expertise and costings. On websites I see building survey, then structural. But then they say they won't lift floor boards and this house has engineered wood flooring all downstairs...
     
  6. ^woody^

    ^woody^

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    From the cracking type (the large diagonal cracking), that's typical of foundation movement (or issues with lintels and beams if that is what's below the cracking in picture nr 7), the cause of which would need to be determined and rectified before dealing with the repair. That's not to say its a bad buy, but the house would need to be cheap enough to allow for the repair costs. Also, insurers tend not to like properties with foundation issues or repairs.

    A structural engineer would be the one to inspect this, but he will only comment on the cracking and structural issues, where as a building surveyor would comment on things like damp, roof problems and the general condition but not the cause of cracks like this - except the defective render. In either case, if you want costs then you would need to instruct that at the time of survey and pay a bit more for that.

    No-one will do any invasive surveys (lift floorboards etc) as its not your house and if the surveyor is not working for the homeowner he has no right to go tearing the house up.
     
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  7. Fishwalker

    Fishwalker

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    Just been reading another thread in Windows not being properly supported after changing to uPVC. I've uploaded a couple of pics of window at back of house that is adjacent to the wall with cracks in. Could this be the potential problem and need a replacement lintel or helix system installing?

    Also my mortgage advisor is trying to get me to get a structural report combined in with the valuation (which is £200) but I'm of a mind to get a structural engineer out first to rule out subsidence before going ahead with the mortgage application. What do you guys think?
     
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  9. plastic_peanut

    plastic_peanut

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    Pay the £200 extra and see what feedback you receive. It’s an expensive time but you may kick yourself if you don’t. Worst case is you then fork out for a full structural survey but in the grand scheme of things if it stops you spunking thousands on a money pit it will be worthwhile.

    Always a challenge when trying to buy in a particular catchment area. When there is limited choice you may need to accept it is a doer upper
     
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  10. ^woody^

    ^woody^

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    I'm not sure how that will work. A valuation should be by a RICS valuation surveyor, and the structural survey should be by a IStuctE Chartered Engineer.

    The valuation should take account of whatever the structural survey finds.
     
  11. Fishwalker

    Fishwalker

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    Hi. I've instructed a full building survey that includes a report on the cracks, as well as roof, damp, electrics, plumbing, etc etc. It's with a well respected surveyer but all the 3 I called where booked for the next 2 weeks so I can't do much but wait now.

    My mortgage advisor says to wait for the outcome before applying for the mortgage with a basic valuation at that point (£200) and then if all goes well I'll apply for searches with my solicitor.

    So it's costing £600 (£495+vat) for the full building survey, then £200 for the valuation, then £200 for searches.

    I keep veering from excited to a doomed sick feeling though. The extension they've done is fab with 2 separate room patio door exits to the garden and a further front and side entrance. They've obviously spent more money than they are asking for in return with the main 4 years ago so it's not a flip and run job. They bought it for 149k in 2007 and are asking 180k in North England. The extension cost 50k apparently and it has engineered Oak flooring, a new bathroom and downstairs utility/toilet area! A real period feel too. Unfortunately it's in a medium flood risk area at 3m above sea level. I said I wanted to live on a hill next and look what I've let myself in for!
     
  12. oldbutnotdead

    oldbutnotdead

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    That extension looks quite new & there's a rather large diagonal crack in the wall above where (presumably) the extension is knocked through into the main house. Have you had sight of the Vendor Information Questionnaire yet? And you might want to enquire from the local council whether they did the building regs on the job & how much for a copy (that'll give you data on the beam used & hopefully the foundations underneath).

    Be aware-2007/08 was top of the market up here (North-East). Hopefully you've got a feel for prices in the area (never mind agents windows, get onto Rightmove & see what things actually sold for in the last couple of years)
     
  13. ^woody^

    ^woody^

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    Just make sure that the building surveyor who will do the building survey is actually qualified and comptetent to comment on the cracking.

    Most surveyors wont be, and RICS rules will prevent comment on things outside the surveyor's competance. So you may end up with a note that cracks are present, but no comment on the cause or work required to rectify, and they typically refer you to a structural engineer - for another fee of course.
     
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