How to avoid a property pitfall

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In Covid times, looking around houses for sale was interesting – it was all done virtually. It may become the norm and would actually save you the hassle of looking round something you decide you don’t actually like the moment you step on the doormat.

But there’s nothing better than seeing a house in ‘real life’. Take a damp meter and expect every nook and cranny – and don’t be afraid to linger longer.

Here are some of the major things to keep your eyes peeled for when you’re checking out potential properties.

1. Any damp?

You can normally smell if it’s particularly bad but other giveaway signs include flaking plaster, black speckles on wallpaper or wet patches on ceilings. You might want to take a hint of every room has been freshly painted as this could be a damp cover up!

2. Check the boiler

Don’t be afraid to send a gas engineer round to check the state of the boiler before you buy, especially if you suspect it is old or hasn’t been serviced in a while. A good boiler can cost upwards of £3000 so is not a cheap thing to replace. Make sure you get a gas safety certificate to check there is no leaking carbon monoxide, which could prove lethal.

If the hot water tank is in the attic, that’s a sign it’s old and will need replacing soon.

3. Which way does the house face?

In an ideal world we’d all have a south facing garden to catch the best of those rays of light – if we’re in the UK! In the summer your home will be full or warmth and light, rather than very dark. If you can’t tell which way you’re facing with local landmarks to guide you, don’t be worried about taking along a compass to your house viewing. There may be one on your mobile. A good time to view a house is in the middle of the say to get an idea of light.

4. Big cracks?

With older houses you can expect to see a few cracks. But we’re taking big ones where extensions join or near bay windows. Basically you’ll want to find any issues now so you can ask a surveyor to investigate further – or negotiate on costs to repair.

5. Sneaky tactics?

Don’t forget someone is trying to sell their home, so they’re going to try every trick in the book to make their house look more appealing. Large mirrors to make rooms look bigger, nice candles on to disguise damp, fresh paint, lovely cheese plant hiding a rather large crack by the door frame…so don’t be fooled!

Take photos (if they let you) and ask if they’re leaving anything behind. Even if they’re not to your taste, curtains are always handy to have in every room when you first move in.

6. Enough storage?

However much you cleared out before you move house, throw in a pet and a couple of kids and you’re definitely going to need storage solutions. Check if the loft is boarded (if there is one) as this will give you multiple options for all those suitcases and winter coats. Check under stairs for extra storage for things like shoes, coats and beds as it all needs somewhere to go!

7. Do the windows need replacing?

Windows and frames are a great indicator of the rest of a house. If you can see condensation between panes of double glazing, you need to replace these as they are faulty. If frames are wooden, don’t be scared to touch them to check how sturdy they are.

It may be that you just need new glass as the older frames are of good quality. New windows should always be installed by a registered approved inspector so you should get a FENSA or similar certificate, which can have a guarantee.

8. What’s the local area like?

Yes you’ll probably like to be in walking distance of a paper shop, somewhere to grab a pint of mik and perhaps get a chippy on a Friday night. You may want to be near to public transport? Where’s the nearest bus stop?

Things to check for are nearby transport, for example noisy train tracks, airport runways, flight paths or main roads. If you’re near a school, it’s going to be pretty busy for 30 minutes before and after the bell goes. It might be nice to have a local boozer but do people get rowdy and chucked out regularly!?

It’s always good to have a second viewing at a different time of day to your first, especially so you can check out the parking situation. Will you be able to get both cars outside your property if there’s no drive?

Ask a friend to go with you for the second viewing as they might spot something you haven’t.

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