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Home Condition Reports and drains

publication date: Sep 21, 2008
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drainsAccording to research carried out by drainage specialist UKDN (UK Drainage Network), very few HCRs are being commissioned – and drain condition reports have been almost non-existent. 

Sheila Manchester spoke to UKDN’s marketing manager Stuart Tizick, who outlined how HCRs and additional drainage reports can actually help to secure a sale, and discusses some issues that can occur if drains are not properly assessed.

“Although there is no official data on the take up of Home Condition Reports (HCRs), our research suggests that only a small number are being carried out, and the amount of sellers opting for an additional drain condition report is also low. 

However, encouraging sellers to have their drainage system investigated as part of a HCR – before their home goes on the market – could actually help the sale to go through, as the buyer will have peace of mind that this ‘unseen’ area is in good working order and is free from problems. 

This point is particularly relevant in the current climate, with transactions sluggish to say the least. Reports suggest that in July 2008 home sales fell to their lowest level in 30 years* as a result of the credit crunch and tight lending conditions. So, at a time when it’s more important than ever to secure sales, extra documents like HCRs and drainage reports can actually be a strong marketing tool. They can make a property more attractive, and homes with one should sell more quickly than those without. 

Of course, we understand there are reasons why sellers wouldn’t want to commission these property reports – not only do they present an additional cost, but they can also end up highlighting problems or potential issues. So, understandably, estate agents might be wary about persuading their clients to commission optional reports, which could, in theory, jeopardise the sale. 

But, reports commissioned by the seller eliminate suspicion that they are trying to hide a problem, and speed up the offer, acceptance and exchange of contracts. A buyer will know exactly what defects do and don’t exist when they make their offer (rather than having to wait for a Homebuyer’s report) – which means the sale is less likely to fall through and the offer price is unlikely to change. 

And specific reports – for example on drainage – can only serve to make things more transparent. While drainage is actually included in the HCR – it appears under the services section, along with gas, electricity and water – only the visible parts are inspected (for example the cover on the drainage inspection chamber will be lifted), and the drains are not properly assessed. 

A full drainage investigation is relatively inexpensive, and can quickly prove its worth. After all, if drains are in good working order this is a real plus point, and will make a property more attractive. And if they’re not, at least the seller will have time to rectify the situation, and in most cases the work will be covered by their household insurance. It is better for the seller to find drainage problems sooner rather than later, with the alternative being to wait for the results of the Homebuyer’s report or survey, which could cost them the sale if something is found. It must be remembered that if the buyer is left with a pre-existing drainage issue they will probably struggle to find an insurer that will pay for the remedial works. This is likely to make them withdraw their offer – most people associate drainage problems with expense, disruption and hassle, and repair bills can amount to thousands of pounds. 

Indeed a blocked drain can cause all manner of problems, including effluent backing up, bad odours, pollution, damage to belongings and even subsidence. And, if the pipes need to be repaired or replaced excavation will often be necessary, so tarmac or block paving might have to be dug up and reinstated. If an outside drain collapses it can pollute soil, warranting involvement from the Environment Agency. Some drains can be indoors – if, for example, a property has been extended and the drain has been left in its original position – meaning flooring, carpet and possibly fixed furniture will have to be removed and replaced. 

The condition of a property’s drainage system is best investigated before that property is marketed for sale. And while estate agents might feel that HCRs and additional reports only serve to highlight problems, it must be remembered that a report can give a clean bill of health too, which would encourage a quick and smooth sale. Drainage reports aren’t too costly either – for example UKDN charges less than £150 for a full drainage investigation and comprehensive report.”

* From RICS data Footnote: As one of the UK’s leading independent drainage specialists, UKDN has a fleet of 100 vehicles operating from 10 locations nationwide. Delivering a comprehensive specialist drainage service, the company manages drainage and burst pipe claims and provides subsidence investigation services for most of the UK’s largest insurers. UKDN is a pioneer in leading industry standards, and was the first drainage company to gain WRc accreditation, which defines best practice compliance for the investigation and repair of domestic and light industrial drains and sewers.