Looking for a new home some pointers
When looking for a new home, consider these pointers when viewing the property.
This could help you avoid going down “blind alleys” so to speak, and racking up survey costs unnecessarily for unsuitable properties you end up not purchasing.
Typically the main deal-breakers tend to be in these broad headings :
- Structural Defects
- Major roof issues
- Non certified or non approved extensions, alterations or conversions.
- Damp , Dry rot or timber defects.
The other types of repairs or defects are usually repairable and whether to purchase or not , tends to come down to whether the purchase price reflects the condition and level of defects and how much they would cost to put right.
Things to look out for :
Structural Defects :
You are most likely not a surveyor, but there are some common sense tell tale signs too look out for at the viewing stage, prior to making an offer when you are looking round as follows :
- Open a couple of windows if you can upstairs and doors : If they do not open and close properly this could potentially suggest movement if the openings are not plumb and square (or distorted)
- Look to see if windows and door openings seem square (i.e. not distorted, head of opening leaning downward on one side etc.) : this can be an indicator of a structural issue.
- Floors and skirting : When walking around the property are there humps and depressions on the ground floor ? (Indicators of potential heave or subsidence) Disproportionate gaps between skirting and floors around the edges of the room can be an indicator of movement.
- Bounce to floors : Do the upper floors bounce underfoot when you are walking around (can be an indicator of insufficient support or that a wall has been removed causing over-spanning of the joists). Also casually when walking around upstairs, look for signs of disproportionate gaps at skirting and for any generally leaning of the floors for similar reasons as above.
- Ceilings : Take a general mental note as to whether ceilings are distorted or leaning and whether you see any opening up of cornice / coving mitre joints in the corners of the rooms (can be indicators of movement)
- Cracks : When inside and outside discretely look at the walls , architraves, skirting for signs of cracks, shrinkage cracks tend to be uniform thickness and slight in nature. Movement related cracks tend to be curved and wider at the top (in the case of subsidence) or at the bottom (if heave related) and are more significant in magnitude than common shrinkage cracks. There are normally other features which will tend to suggest a mechanism or trend of movement if movement is taking place together with the crack such as a distorted window. door floor or ceiling or a combination of all of the above. There are other causes for cracks such as point loading for example which are really beyond the scope of this rough and ready pointers list.
Major Roof Issues :
- Sag or spread : When outside, look up at the roof and see whether the ridge line dips in the middle or if there are depressions in the planes of the roof slopes (This can indicate sag or spread due to failures of the roof structure itself).
- Slipped or missing tiles : If you see missing tiles or tiles in the gutters this can be an indicator of tile fixing failure. You should bear in mind that tile fixings work harden and snap over time and as they were installed at the same time they can let go en masse or in a frequent manner. Re covering a roof is costly.
- There are a lot of pointers we could have put here from the perspective of being inside the loft space, however it occurred to us that often vendors do not allow viewers into the loft-space on a viewing.
Non certified or non approved extensions, alterations or conversions :
- Ask the Vendor whether any extensions they have made have the necessary planning and building regulations approval as a lack of these documents can lead to offers of future buyers being reduced under the heading of regularisation costs. A lack of building regulations approval for a structural change, conversion or extension can leading to buildings insurance issues when a claim is made as often insurers will only cover Compliant signed off structures.
Damp , Dry rot or timber defects :
- On a general viewing you will not probably be able to touch the walls or probe with a damp meter and you might not have this equipment. However with dampness there is often mildew and sometimes an associated damp and musky smell and you could keep a look out for these signs. Mildew at low level or staining at low level to a wall on the ground floor can be potentially rising damp related (rising damp normally rises up a wall approx 800mm above floor level) if the signs of dampness are concentrated at very low level to the wall this can indicate rainwater splash-over or rebound related dampness and therefore a look outside will confirm whether there is a levels issue in relation to the damp proof course (Should be at least 150mm or more between finished ground level and dpc level).
- Mildew in the corners of ceilings is often just condensation related due to lack of ventilation (look out to see if there are extractors in bathrooms and kitchens ducted to outside). Mildew all along the top of a wall can indicate prolonged gutter over-spill combined with lack of proper sarking beneath the tiles or eaves cloaking.
- Internally look for signs of plaster bulges or strange muddy musky old dog type smells around them which can indicate dry rot attack. Usually of dry rot is pushing out plaster there will often be a crack in the centre of the bulge.
This is not a fully comprehensive guide but hopefully will open your eyes somewhat when doing a viewing such that you might be able to move forward in a more informed way and prevent wasting money unnecessarily.
Ps. Do not rely on this completely, do still have a proper professional survey prior to purchase.