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Knotty problem of Japanese knotweed deters homebuyers

Japanese knotweed

Japanese knotweed is so much of a deterrent that it would stop most people from buying a property, as they would find it too difficult and costly to deal with the highly invasive weed.

That's according to a new survey, in which an overwhelming majority (78%) of those polled by YouGov, conducted for Japanese knotweed eradication firm Environet UK, said they would not go ahead with the purchase of a property if Japanese knotweed was growing in the garden. Many (69%) said they believed it might not be possible to remove the plant.

Others (53%) expressed the view that it would be too expensive to get Japanese knotweed specialists in to deal with the non-native species and eradicate it from the site. Indeed, if mortgage providers see in a surveyor's report that the weed is on the property, they will insist that professional removal be carried out - and a guarantee that it won't grow back for at least five or ten years - before they approve the mortgage.

Meanwhile, 57% of those who took part in the survey said they didn't think they had the time to deal with Japanese knotweed in the garden of a property they were thinking about buying. Even if they did, it would take up too much of their time to focus on Japanese knotweed eradication.

The fast-growing weed, shooting up by 20cm per day in the summer, has been a scourge for homeowners since soon after it was introduced to Britain in the 1840s. The difficulty with Japanese knotweed is not just that it grows incredibly quickly, but because of the deep underground root system it develops, too.

House price crash

It's not only buying a house that has Japanese knotweed growing somewhere on the site that has people worried. If they want to sell the property at some point, they might find it difficult, or even be well out of pocket. In a case in Swansea, which has been particularly badly hit by Japanese knotweed, an elderly woman found that when she went to sell her home, its value had almost halved due to the plant growing over from nearby unregistered land.

It is not against the law to have Japanese knotweed growing on your property, but it is illegal to allow it to spread to neighbouring land. Almost half of respondents to the YouGov survey (49%) were aware of their legal obligations in this regard. The entrenched network of roots makes it almost impossible to deal with yourself, so many people call in Japanese knotweed specialists to do the job and provide a guarantee.

They are able to ensure the roots are fully dug up, while not disturbing the surrounding environment, and that none are left in the ground to later shoot up and start growing ferociously all over again. Firms like market leader Environet provide a standard, insurance-backed guarantee that the weed will not grow back for five years - and if it does, customers are covered for further work. The guarantee can be upgraded to ten years or renewed after the initial five.

Japanese knotweed shouldn't be "deal-breaker"

"Homeowners are right to be concerned about the threat posed by Japanese knotweed. Attempting to deal with it by cutting it down repeatedly, burning it, burying it or using common weed killers simply won't work as the plant can lie dormant beneath the ground, only to strike again when people least expect it," said Nic Seal, founder and managing director of Environet.

"Yet for those wishing to buy or sell a property, it doesn't have to be a deal-breaker. Japanese knotweed can be dealt with once and for all, within a matter of days from discovery, so there is hope for buyers who may have otherwise walked away from their dream home," he said.

The survey also found that most people in Britain are aware of Japanese knotweed and the threats it can pose to properties, including structural damage, and why Japanese knotweed eradication is so important. Altogether, 75% of those polled had heard of the risks. This was especially the case in Wales (95%) and southern England (80%), where there are high numbers of Japanese knotweed infestations.

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