The mortgage valuation surveyor informed me that there is a possibility of asbestos wallpaper present in the property in Hitchin. What is asbestos, and just how dangerous is it?
Asbestos is the general name given to the group of six fibrous, silicate materials that are now known to be harmful to organisms, when the dust or fibrils are released into the environment (by any number of processes including abrasion).
Asbestos has been mined for hundreds of years, but it was only in the last century that it was found to be so detrimental to health, although it still took until 1999 for there to be an outright ban in the UK, as part of an EU-wide directive, even though restrictions were placed from 1985.
The most common type found in the UK is white asbestos (chrysotile), which was often used in roofs, floors, ceilings, walls and insulation, thereby appearing in all manner of construction materials. From 1986, it was only white asbestos that remained in use in the UK for construction purposes.
Of the other types:
- brown asbestos (amosite) was used in in cement sheets, ceiling tiles and pipe insulation
- blue asbestos (crocidolite) was used in spray-on ceilings, insulation, and plastic and cement products
- green asbestos (anthophyllite), although limited, was used in insulation and general construction, and
- tremolite and actinolite were not used commercially
Often considered to be a ‘miracle’ material before its deleterious effects were understood, asbestos was chosen for its resistance to fire and electricity, its tensile strength, and its sound-proofing qualities, coupled with its relative cheapness to produce.
Commonly called asbestosis, the curly or needle-shaped fibres usually caused mesothelioma (attack on the lining of the lungs, causing cancer). However, breathing in a single fibre will not be injurious, nor will it risk death.
During a survey, your chartered surveyor will not be able to confirm the existence of asbestos, since they will not investigate further than visual inspection because of the dangers highlighted above. However, they will be experienced in looking for it and will report their suspicions in the survey, recommending that it be checked out thoroughly.
Although you are legally allowed to remove asbestos yourself, this practice is thoroughly resisted by experts because of the danger that amateur removals may incur on yourself and your neighbours. Therefore, it is recommended that you appoint an expert to confirm its presence and to safely remove it. The register of expert contractors can be found here: the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association.
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The home I am purchasing in Hitchin is built on clay soil. Will my RICS Level 2 Survey look into this?
The content of soil around the foundations of a property in Hitchin can have unwanted consequences for the structural integrity of the building. Specific issues include soil swelling, or organic matter decomposition, or the rarer ground heave.
Defects and their symptoms can be obvious to the naked eye, or equally they may remain undiscovered (and therefore untreated) for years. If it is present, expansive clay soil can put lateral pressure on a property's foundations, forcing them inward.
When performing the survey in Hitchin, your surveyor will consider the impact that the soil composition has had, and may continue to have, on the property. If soil water levels must be kept stable, uniform spread of the moisture is also important. Your surveyor may be able to offer practical suggestions as to how this can be achieved.
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I want to buy a detached house in Hitchin (SG4 postcode area), and the vendor is asking £660,000. What will a Hitchin surveyor consider when carrying out a professional valuation?
A qualified RICS surveyor will go to the property as well as considering the wealth of area knowledge and factors that have a bearing on the value of property. There are a huge number of issues that could affect house prices (for example, the quality of nearby schools, or whether the garden is overlooked). It can help to benchmark selling-prices recorded for similar properties in Hitchin (in the local authority area of North Hertfordshire).
This means the average price of completed transactions for semi-detached houses in Hitchin in December 2018 was £639,202, which is £20,798 less than the asking price for the cited property. With regards to other types of property, the averages for the same month in Hitchin were:
Information © 2019 HM Land Registry. Retrieved from HM Land Registry website on 22 February 2019
An impartial way to get a formal house valuation is with a RICS Level 2 Survey, which includes a Property Valuation Report (PVR) as a core component. A qualified RICS surveyor will be part of the Valuer Registration Scheme, which reinforces professional standards.
If you need further guidance, why not try our online instant quote generator (scroll to the top of the page and fill in a few pieces of information) or call our team on 0800 022 4428?
We're purchasing a home in Hitchin. What will our house surveyor investigate during the survey?
This is a question that is often asked by buyers in Hitchin of our surveyors, because they know that homes can still be subject to roofing woes even if the rest of the building is in good condition. From ceiling joists to dormer windows, from purlins to flashings, the whole roof will be reviewed and inspected by the surveyor.
The surveyor may find, during the inspection, a number of relatively minor issues that, without remedial work, may become a more serious – and expensive – problem to resolve. These include:
- missing, loose or cracked tiles
- worn felting
- blocked gullies and gutters
- leaking skylights
- blocked drainage
- mould and rot (internally and externally)
- weathered materials
- worn or cracked flashing
- timber pests and rot
- roof sag
It may be inconvenient to have scaffolding to perform repairs, especially in the busy parts of Hitchin, but it is a health and safety necessity. A contractor in Hitchin with a good reference can provide a quote, which you may then be able to use as a bargaining tool or renegotiation with your vendor. For a highly recommended and experienced roofer, you could try contacting:
- J R Roofing Hitchin Ltd., 5 Swinburne Avenue, Hitchin, SG5 2RG (Tel: 01462 422300)
- Roof Smart Ltd., 1a Benslow Lane, Hitchin, SG4 9RE (Tel: 01462 237729)
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What will the property surveyor look for on a smooth, stucco-coated home in Hitchin?
Stucco is simply a kind of smooth plaster render that is applied to brick or masonry, where it hardens to form a smooth, flat finish, or it might be used in making decorative mouldings to complement the rendered finish.
Comprising aggregates and binder to harden the mixture and water, stucco is durable, weather-resistant and is applied in thin layers, and is common on some Regency-period, Georgian and Victorian properties.
However, it can be problematic, and Hitchin RICS Level 3 Survey focus on issues such as lateral hairline cracking revealing the underlying mortar joints, or where dampness below flashings or where the render has been applied to ground level has resulted in detachment or delamination from the brick or underlying substrate. Problems need to be sorted out as soon as they are identified because they will worsen quickly the longer they are left. Wire mesh is often used, but this is not advised since it can hasten deterioration should the metal rust. And the damp-proof course may be left inoperative should the render be applied over the top of it and below its level.
Remedying significant problems with stucco may be expensive as the skills are becoming harder to find, but it is not recommended for the homeowner to attempt repairs themselves. Hairline cracks or other minor issues may be solved by applying another layer of stucco, or even simply a coat of paint.
Our chartered surveyors are familiar with all types of structures and building methods, so why not give us a quick call now on 0800 022 4428 to organise a visit to your planned purchase in Hitchin?
Does the RICS surveyor inspect the safety of the gas appliances at the bungalow in Hitchin?
Everyone is aware that the volatility and the highly inflammable nature of natural gas make it a very dangerous substance if not regulated and checked by qualified experts. It is also for this reason that, where there is a gas supply to a property, your chartered surveyor will inspect the system.
All work on gas appliances and connection to the mains must comply with the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, while any new heat-producing gas appliance installed (e.g. a cooker hob, or gas fire) requires the Local Authority to be informed so that it will comply with building regulations in order to gain the requisite approval.
A certificate of works will be provided by a qualified Gas Safe engineer, and this will be sought and checked for validity and status by the surveyor during the inspection. Regulations legally require landlords to complete appliance and installation inspections annually. Non-compliance penalties include heavy fines and possible criminal records.
As part of the survey, the chartered surveyor will visually check all the accessible parts of the gas system, such as the meter location and position and any gas-connected fixtures like chimney breasts or flues. However, if there are any fittings, they won't be dislodged for inspection, and neither will they remove covers or piping since they are not qualified to do so.
Where the surveyor identifies any area for potential concern, they will note this in the survey report, with recommendations for any remedial action to be taken, alongside a measure of severity. Where a problem is deemed critical, if only for a qualified engineer to check and assess the situation, any significant cost can be used to open up conversations with the seller about the possibility of offsetting such a cost by reducing the asking price.
Gas is potentially hazardous and, should you have any concerns about it, call a Gas Safe engineer. If you smell gas, call the free national Gas Emergency Services number immediately on 0800 111 999.
Local highly-rated Gas Safe engineers in the area can be identified or located at the official Gas Safe Register site.
Looking for advice on the next steps to take with your survey? Try Surveyor Local’s instant quote generator by filling in the form at the top of this page, and then call our advisers on 0800 022 4428 and they will help you with setting up an appointment with a chartered surveyor.
We are buying a property in Hitchin but are worried about pests; what can we do?
Houses will often be free of major pests, but, if you do have specific concerns, you should seek advice from your surveyor or a trained specialist. Regrettably, pests can be very expensive to resolve and carry serious health risks. Evidence of their existence may not be easy to find (for example, skin irritation or spots of blood on bedsheets may indicate the presence of bedbugs).
Remedies for pest infestation can be disruptive to residents and may require you to move out during the work in extreme cases. Speak to a pest control specialist, such as Melford Environmental Services Ltd., Melford House, Stevenage Road, Little Wymondley, Hitchin, SG4 7JA (Tel: 01438 722393), to discuss remedies and get a quote.
Since the RICS is unclear on infestations with regards to the survey process, if you have any particular concerns, you should raise them directly with your surveyor. Call Surveyor Local on 0800 022 4428 for more advice.
When I went to see the building I am planning to acquire, I noticed that there was some evidence of an overload of the fuses; will a Hitchin survey report on electrical system condition?
One of the main areas that your chartered surveyor will look into when they’re inspecting the property you are considering buying is the electrics, reporting on any findings where they suspect any part of the system to be in hazardous condition.
All new electrical work needs to be covered under the British standard regulations (BS 7671), which are properly called the Electrical Installation and Wiring Safety Regulations and cover domestic, commercial and industrial properties. For residential properties, it covers all wiring, the circuit-breakers, residual current devices (RCDs), sockets, and so on, while also focusing on special areas such as bathrooms (e.g. heating or shaving sockets), swimming pools (internal or external), ponds, or portable outdoor equipment.
As part of the building regulations approval in an extension or new-build, or where the electrical circuits have been updated, an electrical certificate, signed off by a qualified electrician, needs to be supplied to comply with the requirements. This document will be sought and checked by your Surveyor Local surveyor.
In addition, the IEE (Institute of Electrical Engineers) recommends that a periodic inspection be completed every 10 years on private residential property, or every 5 years if you are renting out the property to tenants, or you own a commercial building. Again, your Surveyor Local chartered surveyor will identify the Periodic Inspection Review document’s existence and confirm its validity and status.
When preparing a Hitchin RICS Level 3 Survey, an RICS surveyor will inspect all accessible parts of the electrical system, noting the location and likely age of the fuse-board, and includes a visual assessment of the superficial parts of the wiring, without taking anything apart for safety reasons. In addition to verifying areas connected to the mains (e.g. the whereabouts of the meter or consumer unit), the surveyor will also choose a selection of sockets and light-switches to ensure they are operating normally.
In the survey report, the surveyor will highlight all of the findings, including identifying those areas that they are unable to access, which might need further investigation by a qualified electrician. Where there are areas of concern, particularly where the electrical circuits and wiring don’t conform to the British standard, the surveyor will recommend that immediate action be taken. It is wise to obtain a couple of quotes for any major rewiring activities, as this can be used to enter into renegotiations over the asking price with the seller.
Local highly-rated electricians in the area include:
- Oliver Russell Electrical Ltd., Unit 3, Caldwell Lane, Hitchin, SG4 0SA (Tel: 01462 646696)
- Home Counties Electrical Safety, 1 South Place, Hitchin, SG5 2NN (Tel: 01462 757326)
Get your instant Hitchin home survey quote by filling in the simple details in the form at the top of this page, and call Surveyor Local’s team of waiting advisers on 0800 022 4428 to be assigned one of the best chartered surveyors in the Hitchin area.