What should I do if my survey says the property has a damp problem?
OK, there are three steps to this:
Step One: How does the surveyor know?
Some surveyors carry a damp reader with them. Its a small handheld device that they can press against walls or floors and it will display the level of damp in the plaster (walls) or screeding (floors).
They may have seen some visual evidence such as brown patches on plastered walls or they may simply have smelt what could be damp or could be a poorly ventilated bathroom or kitchen.
Understanding how the surveyor came to their conclusion gives you an idea of how real the damp issue might be.
Step Two: How concerned is the surveyor about the damp?
If the surveyor believes there is a serious damp issue he will have placed a retention on his valuation. This is where is agrees the property is worth the offer you have made but would not recommend paying the full sum until the possible damp is inspected by a specialist.
If this is the case he is very concerned, otherwise by flagging that there may be damp he or she if just making you aware but he does not think it affects the property value so don't think there is a clear path to renegotiating the price!
Step Three: Get the damp checked by a specialist
Surveyors are not damp specialists, the don't know for sure if the damp should be treated (because sometimes low levels of damp should be left alone, especially in period properties).
Asking a damp proof company to check the situation and provide an estimate for any work is the best route forward and the only one if a retention is involved.
Then it is a delicate balance of considering the cost of the works versus punting for a price reduction from the vendor. Much will depend on the state of the market - if the vendor feels there are plenty more buyers out there they might not be open to negotiation.
The vendor may also view the work as unnecessary - especially if they have lived there for some time and never found the damp an issue. In some cases they can be right, not all damp should be treated as it can make the problem worse by pushing more concentrate moisture elsewhere.
For the full detail on different types of damp and how they should be handled during a property purchase pick up a copy of my ebook How to Really Buy a Property.