I'm waiting on the formal report but the surveyor phoned me after performing a HomeBuyer survey on a place we're buying to give me the overview, and his biggest concern was a fairly large retaining wall. Well, concern was not really the right word but this was the issue he was closest to being concerned about as a longer term issue, due to the size of the wall and the cost to repair it if needed.
It is about as long as the house and varies up to maybe 8 feet high, retaining the back courtyard of the property back from the private road. It does not, as far as I know, form any part of the house's foundation as the house has a cellar which extends to about the same level as the road.
The wall is original as far as I know, perhaps approaching 150 years old. The surveyor's attention was drawn to the fact there are some cracks in the wall and although there are no signs of these obviously moving or increasing and he makes the point "it's probably been this way forever".
The surveyor's recommendation is that the wall be monitored over a period of 18 months with devices which will show how the cracks behave, at a total cost of £1500. Which is great but we are about to buy now so this doesn't help much. I don't know if a surveyor's "you might want to have this checked" comment carries that much weight or we should have a structural engineer assess it separately - would their report come with any kind of insurance? Certainly in terms of buying the place wouldn't an engineer's report be better should there be problems that make renegotiating the price sensible?
The owner maintains that they have watched the wall carefully for 20 years without any signs of movement and my assumption is the surveyor is being cautious but regardless, what can/should I do here? What if an engineer comes out and says the same thing "you should monitor it for a year or two to see if it needs work?" By then it's too late.
Is this a situation where some sort of indemnity policy might be appropriate, or for a solicitor to hold back part of the purchase funds while monitoring takes place?