How estate agents can help with bad survey results

It’s a situation no home buyer wants to land themselves in. They’ve found that fantastic property they have been looking for. They’ve fought off stiff competition for the purchase. And they have agreed on a fair price for the home. But, just as everything was going so smoothly, the results from their property survey arrived – and things don’t look good.

This is bad news for the seller as well. They had the price they wanted for the property and were looking forward to completing. Now they are facing a frustrated buyer considering pulling out and the possibility that their property isn’t going to be worth what they thought it was. 

And that leaves, as the estate agent, with the sale that you have worked so hard on in jeopardy as well as with two disappointed parties to placate. Thankfully, there’s actually a great deal that estate agents can do to help remedy the situation when a survey comes back with bad results. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the role the estate agent needs to play, and some of the key things that you can do in order to get the sale back on track and keep everyone happy. 

Explaining what the results really mean

The first step is in providing an experienced analysis of what the results of the property survey really mean. Sometimes the wording used in a survey can spook a buyer and make them think much more negatively about the situation than they need to. 

“Seeing some issues on your building survey is not unusual, particularly if the property is more than 50 years old,” says Nick Green, a financial journalist writing for Unbiased. “Surveyors have to highlight even the most obvious things, which actually may not require that much work to put right.” 

Ultimately, this means that sometimes the negative-sounding language in a survey is actually something that you would see in any survey written on

Providing context for the buyer

Putting the survey results into the right context is another sensible plan and is something that estate agents can assist with. Buyers are not experts in everything property related so digesting a survey can take time and understanding. “Buying a house can be stressful and it is not always in the seller’s best interests to be fully open about its quirks and idiosyncrasies,” says Alan Rance, an experienced building surveyor “the aim of the Buyers Survey is to make the home survey process quicker, easier and more cost-effective for homebuyers”. 

Remember that ultimately a survey is there to protect the buyer – but that can mean that it can appear to expose many of the negative attributes in the report. For a buyer who doesn’t have a great deal of context or experience in property, this might make it seem like the situation is worse than it is. 

Estate agents, whether purely online or traditional, can help with the issue by actually providing valuable context about how common these kinds of problems are, and whether there are easy solutions. 


Helping the seller understand the situation

When a buyer receives a bad survey, there is a lot of emphasis put on how they will respond to the details. But as estate agents, it is important to recognise that the results of the survey hugely affect the seller as well. This may well be the first time that the seller realises that there is something wrong with their property. 

There are elements that the estate agent has to contend with here. Firstly, you may need to placate the seller, and help them to see that with poor survey results the buyer may expect a reduction in price, or for work to be undertaken to resolve the problem. 

However, you must also be prepared to help the seller understand exactly what it expected of them in this situation. Negative survey results are common – and renegotiation is often a part of that process. A seller whose property has had poor results from a survey needs to understand this and accept it. 

Facilitating communication throughout the process

It is important to recognise that while all sides are going to be disappointed by the results of the survey, there is always a solution that can be reached. However, in any case, the only way that you are going to come to an agreement is through open and honest communication. This is something that you as an estate agent need to facilitate. 

You need to be considered the neutral party in the proceedings – and both sides need to believe that you have their interests in mind. A bad survey result isn’t the end of the world, but there is likely going to need to be some kind of compromise made to allow the sale to go through.

Many buyers will expect the price that they pay to go down. Alternatively, they might prefer that the seller takes care of the remedial work themselves. In either case, it is important that each side’s desires and feelings need to be communicated. 

Renegotiating the sale price

A bad survey isn’t something that a buyer is going to ignore. As such, the seller has to accept the need to renegotiate. This can be a painful process for the seller, so estate agents need to do everything they can to ensure that heads remain cool, and that some sort of sensible agreement can be achieved. 

Sometimes surveys will give a concrete impression of the kind of financial costs. For example, there may be damage to a roof that the surveyor estimates will cost £20,000 to fix. However, in most cases the details are not as clear cut. Estate agents can help both sides understand what constitutes an acceptable solution. 

Ultimately, estate agents have an important role to play in helping both the buyer and seller when a survey returns with bad results. Always remember, context is vital to helping everyone understand the situation, and a resolution is never far away.

Written by Agency Express guest writer Annie Button