Pre-purchase structural survey


Here’s the scenario: I want to purchase a house that may have, in my opinion, some structural concerns, but the realtor and the local construction company have said, when we three reviewed and discussed in person, that it looks normal. However, I think I need an professional opinion, based on the way one corner seems to buckle about mid-point where a cross-beam has been placed in the masonry. I think that neither the realtor nor the local construction company are qualified.

One of the owners of Bonnin da Silva, the local construction company (roofing and masonry), came by to look at the exterior corner. We all three agreed that we saw some cracks/fissures and we all three agreed there was a bit of issue at the corner; Bonnin da Silva suggested putting a metal brace, fastened at the corner and stretching along the exterior sidewall and to the back corner on that same side, as a ‘safety’ measure.

I think it’s time for a pre-purchase structural survey to be done, don’t you?

Also, since it’s not something the realtor nor Bonnin da Silva recommend, how do I handle this diplomatically? I’ll need to let the realtor know I want to schedule this, but how do I articulate?

I’m not sure how old a property you’re thinking of buying but if it’s 19th century or older I’m not sure how much help a structural surveyor will be. It’s unlikely to have been built on any foundation so in times of heavy rainfall or in dry periods the ground could move ergo the house will move a bit, you’ve already had the crack assessed by someone used to working with properties in the area and they have offered a solution so if you’re not happy with them I’d get another macon to have a look and see what they say.

It’s very unusual to employ any sort of surveyor to inspect the property before purchase as houses are normally ‘sold as seen’.


We had a survey undertaken about 3 years ago by - it would appear that it is quite unusual to get a survey completed in France and the vendors and agents were quite offended but in the end there were no major issues found.

His website is Link

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There are a few Chartered Surveyor’s working in France, google will help you find one; I’d stick with someone who is a member of the RICS.

We got a guy who is based in Brittany to check the house out, costs start about 1000€ and go up with travel, size of property, number of outbuildings etc.

Is it worth it - probably, our guy did make a couple of minor mistakes (eg claiming a “ballon” was still connected when it very obviously wasn’t) which undermined my confidence in his report very slightly but not enough to make me think the effort was no worthwhile.

He also gave a rough valuation on the property which was useful and, as my French wasn’t and still isn’t up to arguing finer points with builders or the vendor, handy to have someone on side who’s French was up to the task if needs be.

A 19th Century property could hide all sorts of issues so probably getting someone to check it over would be more valuable.

As to diplomacy we simply explained that we lacked the fluency or time (being back in the UK at that point) to do the job ourselves. I would have thought that any estate agent used to selling to Brits (and perhaps Americans) would have had a at least a few organise a survey anyway, so it shouldn’t bother them too much

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I think to an extent, you are seeing a contradiction here where there isn’t one, ie, objectively it is perfectly normal that a 19th century house would have a few structural issues by now. Compromises may be necessary in that if you want a house that is as 100% sound as when it was built, you don’t buy a 200 year old house. If you want an older property, you have to accept that there will be signs of ageing, warping and suchlike, and be prepared to keep an eye on the issues and do maintenance as and when necessary to keep it solid. But realistically you can’t expect the issues to disappear as if they never existed, because the only way to do that would be to rebuild the house. Remedial action will often take the form of braces and pins to stabilise the house and stop the issues getting any worse. I don’t know what area you’re in or what construction the property is but for example round here the old buildings are half timbered and floors tend to develop dips as the beams warp, you can flatten the floor if you want but the beam is still warped and replacing all beams would mean taking the whole house apart. By all means get a survey done if it will reassure you, but in the end it’s for you to decide whether you can compromise or not.


I don’t think surveys need to reassure per-se (although they might) but it is always useful to go in with your eyes open with an older property.

After all, if your budget is 150,000€ and you buy a property at 50k€ knowing it needs 100k€ of work then you’ll probably be happy. If you blow the whole budget on a 150k€ property that turns out to also need 100k’s worth of work then happiness is not going to be on the cards.


you can always make your purchase subject to the good results of such a survey

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We managed to get ours in before we signed the compromis which basically had the same effect.

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Our Seller included a quote from a local English builder, for 10k to put things right… gave us an idea but, of course, was nowhere near what we wanted to do.

Never did locate the chap… but we used local artisans + OH… and it worked out just fine…

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Hello Mary, just a few words on our experience when buying a old stone house here in France many years ago, on the recommendation of a friend we took along a well establish local Mason to advise us.
After viewing many houses with cracks, his words were always if you can get your fist in the crack then don’t buy it otherwise your ok.

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Exactly. I too was recommended to get a local macon, someone who knew and understood the local buildings to give it a once over.

Thanks Timothy. It’s stated as built in pre-1949. It has a tile roof that needs to be replaced, though, and I believe tile roofs last a century before needing replacement … so this, to me, suggests that it’s older. It, um, well, it rather looks older. :slight_smile:

Hi David, that’s great to know, as well as having Michael Archer’s response. I’m feeling better since I did get to meet with the local mason and have him do a once-over.

On the other hand, I’m feeling worse, since I have indeed, met with the local mason and yet still want to get a pre-purchase structural survey. In other words, I’m kind of caught in the middle: after meeting with the mason, I still didn’t feel like I’d obtained solid information. Not sure if I’m explaining this right…

Hi Paul, I am thinking to do the same as you did, get it done before signing the compromis. Thanks.