When you view a property, it’s important not to just fall in love with its charm and character - decor can be changed, but some less visible defects could cost you thousands of pounds in repairs. While it is important to take in every aspect of a house, you need to look out for any big problems that could be a property deal breaker.
Here are a few defects that should be relatively easy to spot:
Rising damp tends to be relatively rare, so the main thing you should keep an eye out for is penetrating damp or bridging of the damp proof course (DPC). A property’s external wall should have a damp proof course, and the ground levels need to be at least 15 cm below this.
If a homeowner has at any point employed an inexperienced builder to relay a patio for example, and they haven’t properly dug out the old one, the new one could get laid to high, which an expensive thing to fix.
If a property has a defective covering on the roof, this could cost up to £15k to repair. It’s a good idea to take a pair of binoculars with you to a viewing, so you can try and make a good judgement of it’s current state.
Look carefully for areas of uneven, missing or cracked tiles, and ask if you can have a look in the loft. You should be able to see from here what condition the underside of the roof is in and whether it’s likely to need re-doing anytime soon.
Chimneys can be very expensive to repair, as they are generally quite hard to access. Unless there is only a very minor repair required, the chances are the house will need scaffolding, which is very expensive.
Stand directly in front of the chimney and see if it’s plumb - older chimneys often start to lean, meaning one side is more exposed to the elements than the other. Use those binoculars again to check the brickwork and see if the pointing is all intact.
The majority of properties have hidden cables running behind the walls and floors to keep them out of sight. Because of this though, re-wiring tends to only be done when a house is fully redecorated, due to the disruption.
Try and find out how old the electrics are by looking at the consumer unit - if it is made of metal and has ceramic wired fuses, then it is likely to be at least 25 years old. This won’t mean that it is dangerous, just that it may not be sufficient for modern living and may need upgrading.
If the house you are viewing has gas central heating, then try and find out what type of boiler it has - either a system boiler or a combination boiler. If you don’t know, turn on a hot tap and see if the boiler fires up.
Combination boilers tend to last around ten years and system boilers about twenty, so it’s a good idea to try and work when it will next need replacing. Any replacement boilers must now be “condensing”, which means they cost more than traditional ones.