An estimated 100,000 home purchases completed with no property survey in the last year

  • 42 per cent of surveys uncover issues with a property
  • A quarter of homebuyers who didn’t have a survey are hit with unexpected bills for property repairs, of £3,676 (on average)
  • Estate agents reveal purchasers negotiate an average discount of £5,744 when they raise issues highlighted in a survey


New research1 from Direct Line Home Insurance suggests nearly 100,000 home sales were completed in the 2019/20 financial year without a survey of the property. Despite 42 per cent of surveys uncovering issues with a property, nine per cent of homeowners did not have one completed. A quarter (25 per cent) of homebuyers were later hit with an unexpected bill for repair work, at an average cost of £3,676.

Research conducted by the insurer revealed that Britons have concluded more than 2.8 million residential property sales without the completion of any kind of survey, accounting for around one in twelve (eight per cent) of all property transactions in the UK. With nearly 1.2 million properties sold in the 2019/20 financial year2, this could mean that as many as 98,000 of these transactions took place without any form of survey being conducted on the premises.

Of the 11.7 million homeowners who had a survey reveal issues with a property, 40 per cent used this to negotiate a reduction in price or arrange for the issues to be rectified ahead of the sale progressing.  However, 38 per cent of buyers had issues raised but continued with the sale without asking for a reduction in price. A further eight per cent were unsuccessful in securing a price reduction but proceeded with the sale anyway. One in seven (14 per cent) buyers opted to walk away from the property completely, either due to the complications raised in the survey or the inability to negotiate an agreeable discount.

New research amongst estate agents3 reveals purchasers save on average £5,744 (2.4 per cent) when they use issues raised by a survey to negotiate a discount on the purchase price.  Agents also revealed structural (55 per cent) issues and subsidence (31 per cent) are the two concerns raised on surveys most likely to lead to buyers attempting to negotiate a reduction in the house price, followed by electrical (29 per cent) and roof issues (23 per cent).

When it comes to reasons for property sales falling through completely, estate agents name structural issues (56 per cent), subsidence (23 per cent) and roofing problems (14 per cent) as the top three. Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of estate agents say that buyers don’t factor in the cost of repairs or improvements highlighted in a survey when thinking about the total cost of moving.

When it comes to who is responsible for a property survey, 44 per cent4 of UK adults think it should be the seller who arranges this, while 30 per cent believe it is right that the buyer commissions a survey. In England and Wales it is up to the buyer if they wish to commission a survey, however, in Scotland the seller is legally required to produce a Home Report when putting a property on the market.  More than half of Welsh residents (53 per cent) believe the system should fall in line with Scotland’s where the seller is responsible for the home survey, with 43 per cent of people in England thinking the same. In Scotland, a fifth (22 per cent) want to abandon the current model and switch to the buyer being responsible for the Home Report.

Dan Simson, Head of Direct Line Home Insurance, said: “Investing in a survey before purchasing a property can save a huge amount of money and hassle in the long run. Surveys are there to protect the buyer, enabling them to get a better idea of any repairs that might be needed and any problems to look out for in the future. It is important people also research the types of survey available, they range from; basic traffic light reports with guidance on property condition, too detailed reports with advice on defects, repairs and maintenance.

It is also important homeowners inform their insurer of any structural or subsidence issues, as well as any major building work taking place, to ensure the right cover is in place on the policy.”

Despite more than 20 million people saying they would pull out of a deal if subsidence was raised in a survey, almost 550,000 homebuyers say that they would not do anything about it. More than 600,000 people say that they would not do anything to resolve an issue with asbestos raised in a survey, 580,000 wouldn’t do anything about Japanese knotweed and 340,000 wouldn’t do anything about structural issues.

Regional findings

Estate agents revealed Brighton and London (both 18 per cent) as the cities with the highest proportion of buyers who try to negotiate a discount on price following a survey. Liverpool and Newcastle (both 17 per cent) came a close second with Birmingham (16 per cent) completing the top five.

Table one: Prevalence and success rates of asking for discounts on properties by buyers


Percentage of buyers who try to negotiate money off

Percentage of buyers who are successful

Estimated saving (based on average house prices)


18 per cent 

61 per cent 

1.7 per cent (£6,200)


18 per cent 

59 per cent 

1.7 per cent (£8,050)


17 per cent 

69 per cent 

3.7 per cent (£5,000)


17 per cent 

61 per cent 

3.4 per cent (£5,450)


16 per cent 

68 per cent 

2.6 per cent (£4,800)


14 per cent 

59 per cent 

1.7 per cent (£4,850)


13 per cent 

67 per cent 

3.0 per cent (£6,400)


12 per cent 

62 per cent 

3.1 per cent (£5,800)


11 per cent 

66 per cent

3.1 per cent (£5,150)


14 per cent 

63 per cent 

2.5 per cent (£5,744)

Source: Direct Line Home Insurance 2020

According to estate agents, just under two thirds of buyers are successful in negotiating a price reduction, with those in Liverpool the most successful (69 per cent), managing to knock an estimated 3.7 per cent off the total value of the property – a saving of £5,000. Buyers in London are viewed as the least successful, securing a discount just 59 per cent of the time. When they do, they also only manage to negotiate a discount of 1.7 per cent. However, due to higher London house prices this still translates as more than £8,000 off the value of the property.

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Notes to Editors

  1. Research conducted by Opinium among a nationally representative sample of 2,007 adults between 14th – 18th February 2020
  2. Analysis of HMRC data on residential property transaction completions in the UK over £40,000. In the 2019/20 financial year 1,174,260 sales were completed, with 8% of this number standing at 98,099 sales.
  3. Research conducted by Opinium among a nationally representative sample of 2,002 adults between 31st July – 3rd August 2020
  4. Research carried out amongst 100 UK estate agents in February 2020


For further information please contact:

Claire Jarrett

PR manager (Home & Pet)

Direct Line Group

Tel: 01651 832 411

Email: [email protected]

Samantha Stewart

Citigate Dewe Rogerson

Tel: 0207 025 6497

Email: [email protected]

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

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