Welcome to the forum.
Apologies, I wrote you a rather epic reply last night only to find this morning that I had not submitted my reply before shutting my computer down ? so I will try once again.
Firstly, let me point out that I am not overly familiar with the Levitt Cartwright house and as such, I don't want to make assumptions about these properties, as the internet is already filled with far too many incorrect assumptions regarding buildings of non-standard construction. So I will do my best to stick with the facts that I do know to be correct.
Before I start, here's a link to a previous question that was asked relating to Livett Cartwright. questions-asked
A little background for you.
Just 2500 Livett Cartwright houses were built between 1948 and 1956, many of them located in the North.
The BRE (Building Research Establishment) has carried out a detailed inspection of these properties and the report can be obtained from the BRE bookshop online.
The BRE also listed this house in their non-traditional housing manual and offered the following brief advice to surveyors.
NOTES FOR SURVEYORS
Minor corrosion of RSJ stanchions, particularly at bases and PRC plinth level. Corrosion of steel windows and PS surrounds. Spalling of concrete PRC panels window sills and door canopies. Deterioration of mortar joints between PRC panels. Corrosion of cast iron flue pipes.
This would suggest that light surface corrosion is commonly found in these properties.
In general, light surface corrosion can be found in all steel framed properties and can vary from a slight surface dusting of rust, which in no way interferes with structural integrity of the frame, to more severe corrosion which could in future impact the integrity.
Obviously, if the surveyor has stated severe corrosion or given any indication that the steel frame or associated structural fixings or components were compromised, then this would have been highlighted, but in the description given above it has only been stated that 'rust is Starting'.
I would expect a far more detailed report regarding the exact level of rust encountered here, however as he has suggested structural repair, I would expect the corrosion he encountered would be significant.
I would always trust the advice of a qualified Structural Surveyor over an Estate Agent, simply because he is qualified to identify such issues. Some Surveyors can be a little bias or dismissive against all non-standard constructions and this can be reflected in the survey report, although I'm not suggesting or implying this is the case here, but it does happen.
If your surveyor is correct, in that the frame needs repair/ replacement and I assume that they are, then this is no light undertaking and, as rightly stated, it should 100% be reflected in the price you pay. Because it will be you who foots the bill and that does not include the additional costs such as seeking alternative accommodation whilst the work is carried out. So this is where your survey becomes a very powerful tool to negotiate a price reduction.
As with all house purchases, don't be lead by your heart. This is a business transaction and it would be advantageous to put on a somewhat cold hearted business hat, when dealing with your finances and future investments.
Of course, these are just my personal thoughts on this matter and you will have your own, as will other people, but if I were buying in similar circumstances, I would draw up a shortlist of positives and negatives relating to my purchase and weigh up the pros and cons.
I would also ask myself the following:
1) Does the asking price reflect the total cost of repair and I mean TOTAL. Not just what a builder may quote me for the work. Think accomodation, travel/ commuting expenses, utility bills possibly on two properties etc, plus the cost of any unseen 'extras' that the builder my charge. (Unless I've agreed a fixed price in advance with penalties if the work goes past the given completion date),
2) Length of time for work to be completed. Repair work can often take longer than initially envisaged so am I prepared to endure this. This applies equally to being able to live in the property whilst the work is undertaken or having to move out. In many ways moving out would be far less stressful.
3) If for any reason I wasn't happy with the surveyors report, I would first ask for a more in depth explanation as to what evidence was seen to warrant such a drastic repair solution. After all, I've paid for the report so I would want answers in plain english, so that I could fully appreciate the reason for such action.
4)I could undertake a second structural survey and compare the findings. After all, despite the initial cost involved, this would far cheaper in the long run, especially if the second surveyors finding did not warrant a full repair. Plus if it did not, I would want to know why, one said yes and one said no. If both surveyors recommended repair, then to be honest, unless there was a significant reduction to the asking price, I would probably walk away.
I think you have already found, that finding the right builder or even just finding a builder prepared to undertake this work is difficult enough. But it is vital, that should you opt to buy & repair, that you select a builder with experience in working with Livett Cartwright properties.
I don't personally know of any such builders but you could always search the local area and approach a few residents who may appear to have had work undertaken. Usually, you will notice that the panels on the exterior are no longer visible.
Brick skins are a good option for the exterior but the builder must always leave the cavity partially ventilated, unlike in a traditional brick house cavity, where the cavity can be fully filled. This is because in a steel framed building, air needs to circulate freely through the cavity to avoid moisture build up on the internal steel structure which can cause corrosion. I would always recommend the application of surface coatings no matter what exterior surface is chosen, providing you can get to them to apply during renovation.
The number one area to investigate on all steel properties is the base of the corner stanchions. This is the bottom of the steel supports just above where they meet the foundation pad. In cases of severe corrosion, this is where it is most likely to occur and can only be viewed by removing the corner panels and exposing the steel frame underneath or, in certain circumstances using a borescope (tiny camera) which can be inserted through a small hole in order to reach and view the stanchion bases.
If corrosion is found, it can always be repaired but with certain construction types, this repair work can sometimes equate to a rebuild of the entire house. I don't know if this is the case with Livett Cartwright but it is certainly something you need to find out before you start.
I hope my whole reply doesn't sound like gloom and doom, because that is not my intention.
I simply want you to make the right choice by weighing up all the options available to you and I hope that I have given you a few more to consider.
Please let me know your thoughts in return.
I do have a copy of a document which I think may assist you greatly but I cannot post it on here. If you would like a copy, please send me an e-mail to email@example.com and I will send it to you.
My best regards