Sur­veys: Do I re­ally need one?

French Property News - - Ask The Experts -

I’ve heard that the French don’t re­ally do sur­veys, so do I need to do one? In the UK I wouldn’t dream of buy­ing an older house – we’re look­ing for a char­ac­ter prop­erty in the Loire Val­ley – but should I take the ‘when in Rome’ at­ti­tude to sur­veys in France? What sort of things would a sur­vey cover that I wouldn’t be able to spot my­self? And what ball­park cost would I be look­ing at for a sur­vey for a three-bed­room house? If I go ahead with a sur­vey, at one point should I or­gan­ise it – be­fore or af­ter I’ve signed the ‘ com­pro­mis’ sales con­tract? Name sup­plied

John Snell of Brit­tany House Sur­veys (brit­tany house sur­veys. com) replies: It’s a myth that the French are not both­ered about the con­di­tion of sec­ond-hand houses and gives the non­sen­si­cal im­pres­sion that French build­ings are mirac­u­lously im­mune from de­fects.

In fact, most French buy­ers will con­sult a tech­ni­cally qual­i­fied pro­fes­sional – usu­ally an en­gi­neer or ar­chi­tect but also per­haps a char­tered sur­veyor or a roof­ing or tim­ber specialist. In French, a sur­vey is broadly de­scribed as ‘ une ex­per­tise’, the sur­veyor be­ing an ‘ex­pert’. The Com­pag­nie Na­tionale des Ex­perts Im­mo­bilier (CNEI) reg­is­ters and reg­u­lates the many pro­fes­sion­ally qual­i­fied, ac­cred­ited and in­sured ‘sur­vey­ors’ in France in much the same way as the Royal In­sti­tu­tion of Char­tered Sur­vey­ors. The main ob­jec­tives of a pre-pur­chase sur­vey are to: De­cide whether to pro­ceed with the pur­chase To an­tic­i­pate (and by im­pli­ca­tion bud­get for) any re­pairs the prop­erty might re­quire To con­sider whether any closer in­ves­ti­ga­tions (le­gal or tech­ni­cal) are re­quired to sat­isfy the first two aims. Con­duct­ing your own ap­praisal of a build­ing’s con­di­tion re­quires an eye for de­tail, emo­tional detachment, an en­quir­ing mind and a ba­sic un­der­stand­ing of build­ing pathol­ogy. For ex­am­ple, a few slipped or miss­ing slates from a roof are cheap and quick to re­place, but it raises two im­por­tant ques­tions. Why did they de­tach? Is the whole roof hook-sick/tired? And when did they move? Has the roof sup­port frame been ex­posed to weather for a long time?

With French houses, the prin­ci­pal is­sues re­volve around wa­ter (damp) caused by rain, ground source and hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties.

A sur­vey should also con­sider the im­me­di­ate en­vi­ron­ment, look­ing at out­build­ings, bound­aries and con­sid­er­ing po­ten­tial en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems such as noise or pol­lu­tion.

A sur­vey on a three-bed­room prop­erty with a con­ven­tional lay­out will prob­a­bly cost about €500.

If you go ahead, al­ways al­ways get it done be­fore you agree on a price and cer­tainly be­fore you sign. It gets peo­ple’s backs up if you bat­ten down the price and then go back two weeks later ask­ing for €3,000 off to sort out a damp prob­lem.

Once you sign the com­pro­mis de vente you only have a 10-day cooling-off pe­riod and it can be dif­fi­cult, if not im­pos­si­ble, to get a sur­vey, quotes from trades­men and a rene­go­ti­ated price all within this tight time-frame.

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