There are a large number of fine old buildings around Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster which offer interesting opportunities. However, from a surveyor’s point of view, not all live up to their initial appeal and a number of points need clarification:
Exterior features on such buildings are usually ornate and at least 100 years old hence maintenance and replacement can be costly. Certain buildings have historically taken great care of these aspects such as original stone balconies and ornate stonework but others had been rather less interested and problems tend to build up.
Internally the historic use of asbestos insulation in buildings pre-1960 is an aspect that continually arises. Some buildings have had it removed at considerable expense whereas others have ongoing liability for work. Inside individual flats asbestos can still be found on central heating pipes in walls and floor construction. This is usually found to be the liability of the lessee for specialist removal work. Works often lead to additional specialist costs.
The smiling faces of estate agents and proud owners can sometimes make light of noise problems, for example from noisy neighbours or underground railway. This aspect must always be clarified and any historic correspondence should always be disclosed. On occasions, it can be necessary to meet those living above and discuss sound deadening.
In older buildings, the communal central heating system and plumbing can be a letdown. Flats near the boiler room benefit from good heating and those further away sometimes experience less than perfect heating. In addition in older systems, there is normally no thermostatic control inside flats and management approval will be required for pipework adaptation and radiator replacement to improve the situation. In addition, the older buildings have a plumbing system of old steel with an ongoing corrosion situation and unhygienic cold water storage tanks in the loft where specialist maintenance is now required.
The power of the managing agents in buildings is considerable and they have defined duties which some take more seriously than others. The best managing agents will usually, for a fee, provide you with the last three years service charge accounts and disclose planned major expenditure. A good managing agent will administer a sinking fund of the suitable size to which all residents contribute annually in anticipation of future costs. A bad managing agent is likely to be more haphazard in their approach with poorly planned future expenditure, minimal fund and with a tendency to leap from financial crisis to financial crisis with extra demands for substantial service charge payments.
On all such aspects, we are alert to the issues and the reputation of managing agents and will take what steps we can to guide the client correctly on their purchase.