Buying a house? Want to spot the most common faults and defects that can cause problems and expensive repairs? You’ve come to the right place.
Unless you’re an expert at buying a house, you won’t have much experience of checking a prospective property and knowing just what to look for and what to ignore before considering making an offer.
In fact, most of us are fish out of water when it comes to making an evaluation. But knowing what to be on the lookout for right at the start could save cash and time – all of which you’ll need lots of on your property buying journey.
In the following blog, we’ve identified the 10 things that we think are most important to check on your initial viewing before you start paying for surveys or further investigation.
So you can hopefully feel a bit more at home when buying a house.
Is there damp?
Damp is a problem that will send many prospective property buyers running for the hills. If you’re thinking of buying a property, checking for damp should always be the first check on your list. Sensibly so, as it can be costly to put right and is also an unsightly and potentially unhealthy problem to share your house with.
Things to look out are the very distinctive musty smell when you walk into a room (but if the property is unoccupied, this may just be caused by lack of heating or ventilation). Inspecting around the ceilings and skirting boards should give you a visual indication of damp that will cause plaster to flake and leave watermarks. Be particularly wary of fresh patches of paint that could be used to cover up these telltale signs.
Your survey from a local damp proof specialist will usually identify damp issues, but may not go into detail. However, depending on the type of damp, it can often be really simple to sort out.
Cracks are another thing that are much misunderstood when it comes to buying a house. Most older properties (and indeed many new builds) may have a few hairline cracks in the plasterwork here and there. And many newbie property buyers will see these as a sure-fire sign that the building is on the verge of collapse. Not the case, as these are most likely to be caused by plaster drying out, or slight movement in whatever surface (such as plasterboard) the plaster has been applied to; especially in the case of ceiling cracks. Though they don’t look great, they can normally be solved by a local plasterer who’ll help identify the root cause and put things right.
What you need to be on the lookout for are big cracks. Sounds obvious, but it’s true. The bigger the crack, the more you have to worry about. The main areas to check before buying a house are where walls such as extensions join and around bay windows, as these are most likely to part company with the rest of the house. Bowed walls are also another no-no. As are doors that don’t quite fit into the frames – this could be an indication of structural movement (or a terrible joiner). If you spot any of these, a structural engineer should be consulted to check things out as your survey (depending on the level you go for) may not provide a thorough investigation.
What’s in store?
We all know how much junk (sorry, essentials for living) we accumulate over the years. And all these bits and pieces will need to find a home when you find yours. At this stage, you probably won’t have done the big clear out and rid yourself of all that unwanted clutter. But you’ll need to think just how much you’ll be bringing with you – and where it’s all going to go. Storage space is often overlooked when buying a house and crafty sellers can rid the rooms of wardrobes and cupboards to make the space look bigger. So keep an eye open for existing storage or the potential to add shelves and storage areas in alcoves, attics and cellars. If you need a de-clutter, a local waste disposal expert can help.
Which direction home?
Got a compass app on your phone? No? Then download one now. You’ll need to know which way your property faces, and not just to give your garden the benefit of maximum sunshine if horticulture is your thing.
Finding out the aspect of your property could mean the difference between summer lie-ins and 5am wake ups; and gloomy, cold rooms or unbearably hot conservatories. Here are some handy tips to know when buying a house: A south-facing house will benefit from passive heating as your home is kindly heated up for free by the sun. It’s also the aspect your garden will love as it means maximum sunlight for your plants to grow. However, a south-facing conservatory and even skylights can become mean uncomfortable indoor temperatures. North facing walls can be best if there’s lots of glass as this will pick up heat without turning the room into an oven.
Also, remember that in southern Europe a south facing house will get hot very quickly so many people prefer north-facing ones at this latitude.
Let there be light
Want to buy a property but you’ve noticed lots of mirrors? Can’t seem to spot the curtains? These are all tricks to make the property seem more light and are a sign that it could be a little gloomy. Another trick is replacing light bulbs with more powerful ones so if you can, try and check out the wattage if you can to find out if they’ve been pepped up for your benefit.
Windows are one of the most expensive parts of the home to replace, so make sure you give them a thorough check before buying a house. If the property has wooden frames, make sure you examine them carefully for signs of rot. Also, check they open and shut smoothly, particularly if they are sash windows.
If they are double glazed, look for condensation between the panes of glass in the sealed unit. This means they have failed and need replacing by a window specialist.
How does the roof look? When it comes to buying a house, checking the roof is a tricky one because unless you’ve bought your ladders, chances are you won’t be able to see. Even a roofing rookie should be able to spot loose tiles or dodgy guttering with help from a pair of binoculars, so try and borrow a pair if you don’t own one already. They can prove invaluable when it comes to spotting things the naked eye can’t.
The cost of replacing a roof can be hefty, so forewarned is forearmed when it comes to negotiating that price down. A local roofer should be able to help you spot any potential problems.
Avoid unexpected shocks
If you’re thinking of buying a house, out of date or just plain dodgy wiring is another part that many unscrupulous sellers will try and cover up. This could be as simple as fitting shiny new sockets and ceiling roses to give the impression of new wiring beneath. A good idea is to check the consumer unit and see whether that’s brand new, too. If it is, chances are the electrics are up to date. If in doubt, always ensure your survey covers wiring or speak to an expert. Try and consult a good local electrician to put your mind at ease.
Plumbing the depths
Again, check the waterworks and heating systems before buying a house, as these can be expensive to sort out if things aren’t right. A quick look at the boiler should tell you its age and condition. Run the taps to check the water pressure is good (nobody wants a trickle instead of a torrent) and always ask to see the heating and hot water working. If the property is old, make sure that the old lead pipes have been replaced. A professional opinion from a local plumber could save you lots of money and hassle.
Noisy neighbours can soon turn your dream home into a nightmare. When you’re thinking of buying a house make sure you book viewings for the daytime and evening and try and be totally quiet for a minute or two to get an idea of the noise you can expect to hear. This is where an evening viewing can be useful, as you’ll get a true impression of the neighbourhood noise to expect at different times of day.