If I were to make it to 100 years old, I doubt very much that I will be the sprightly young man I once was – no running a marathon or dashing up three flights of stairs – likewise with an older property you have to expect it to have some ‘issues’.
Normally I am not one to be too serious, but if you are looking to buy a home please take note of what is below, sometimes you will see the problems but I am sad to say that on occasion the vendor will hide them from you and they can be costly.
SCHOOL CATCHMENT AREAS:
Is the property in the catchment area of the school you want you children to go to? “Of course it is, I see children in that uniform going to school in the morning from this street” – the vendor is trying to tick one of your boxes when you ask this question and they probably do not have any idea if that is true (unless they have children at that school, in which case they will assume the catchment area hasn’t changed).
The catchment areas change constantly as does the area you will be living in (new homes being built increase the area coverage and change boundaries).
Check with the school or local authority and for a guide take a look at various property portals, don’t rely on someone who is trying to sell you their home.
OLD HOME SYSTEMS:
Its cupboard searching time ! Hidden inside these you may find, the Hot Water Cylinder, the Boiler and fitted kitchen appliances – thumbs up if they are there !
If you ask the age of any of the above and get the customary “Ohh, I don’t know”, then you can bet they will need changing at some point in the near future.
It may be the vendor really doesn’t know when they were fitted, but more likely that they understand these systems will need replacing soon and therefor will be reflected in any offer the purchaser makes. Just looking at it you can sometimes see that it is fairly modern, if not check on your phone and you can find out instantly (and also if you can get a good phone signal at the house).
I have never had a bad neighbour and if you ask a vendor about theirs, they will tell you names of theirs and gatherings that they have together and how they help each other out.
If a vendor has something to hide, asking about their neighbours will show on their faces, they know that they are about to let you move into a property where the neighbour plays the trumpet in the garden at 4.00am and the look they will give as they answer it is one of defeat, whilst the lie pours out.
Have a wander up and down the street, have a chats with neighbours, tell them you are thinking of moving into the area and ask what the street is like – they will tell you all the dirty secrets if there are any, to save you going through what they do.
In the league table of hidden problems, this one is way out in front and is the easiest to hide. Normally though, it is the easiest one to fix.
Whether you are buying an apartment, bungalow or house and you are looking around at all the space, the views from the windows and planning where your furniture will go – look to the heavens – I don’t mean hope for some divine inspiration, I mean look at the ceilings!
Most ceilings are white and will show any kind of discolouration (it will normally look like a tea stain) or if the vendor has tried to hide it, that part will be slightly whiter than the rest due to the new paint (if they are trying to hide it, it is very rare they would paint the whole ceiling).
If you are able to, swipe a finger across it – if you finger is dusty or clean then it may well be an old stain and dry. If you get little paint flakes on your finger then it is still a problem.
(The house I have just bought had a small bubble on the Artex in the utility room, directly above that room was the en-suite – although I couldn’t rip the bathroom apart in front of the vendors, I did ask them if there had been a problem – they hadn’t noticed it before, but did tell me about the leak from the other bathroom! When I purchased the house, I removed the bath panel, found out that the over flow had unattached it’s self and 10 minutes later the problem was resolved)
If above the ceiling is the tiled roof or a flat felted roof, things could get a bit more complex, it could be something simple like a slipped tile or a rip in the felt, to an expensive re-roofing job (your surveyor should be able to tell you).
It’s hard to say this, but stop looking at all the things you make you want to buy the house and look for the negative stuff, it more than likely will not put you off wanting to buy the home, but instead put your mind at rest.
This time I want you to look at the walls – the ground floor in particular – due to gravity damp will only rise to roughly a meter from ground level and in 2 out of 10 cases you may see patches on the wall (sometimes hidden by furniture) in the other 8 cases the damp is not visible and your surveyor will locate it for you.
Dampness at a ground floor level can be corrected with a damp proof course, so if you are looking at buying an older property ask the vendors if one has been done (they come with a guarantee – do not be put off if one has been done).
Sometime you may see a patch of dampness in the middle of an external wall or if that room is next to the roof, you may see patches in the corner – my general experience is this issue arises from the guttering either being broken or blocked and once fixed the dampness will start to dry out. (again your surveyor will tell you).
This one is very hard for the vendor to hide, if the roof is bowing you can see it, if the bay window has dropped there are cracks everywhere, you cant miss it.
Look for cracks around the walls, the little hairline ones are normally fine and can be caused by shrinkage, its the big ones that you can stick your finger in that cause the biggest concern. Don’t just look inside though, look at all the external brickwork – you may see the odd cracked brick which should be fine, but if you see a crack running up the outside of a wall then it maybe time to appoint a structural engineer.
Ask the vendor about it, they may have the complete history behind it and show you information covering works that have been done – if they say they have “never seen that before” then they are possibly hiding something !
Please don’t expect an older property to be in greatest of condition, instead if that age of home is your choice go in with your eyes wide open and expect a degree of work to be needed – then you can be guided by your surveyor.
The vendor can only ever seem to make appointments for you to view at 2.00pm and when you arrive you can park right outside and wander up to view your next home. Try driving around at different times of the day and weekend, it might be a different story.
I will always remember a beautiful home I was instructed to sell, located at the bottom of a cul-de-sac. When I arrived every lawn in the street was pristine, every home fitted in with a certain “Post Card” look and the neighbours were all nattering away with coffee in their hands, it felt like a film set! Whilst taking the details and internal photographs the vendor asked me three times in different ways if I would be taking the external photograph today – the alarm bells rang so I just asked “Why? What am I missing?” – I was told to pop back on Monday to see why.
Monday came, as I turned into the street I had to brake sharply, I must have taken a wrong turn – this street was jam packed with cars and vans of all sizes, both sides making it almost impossible to drive down – at the bottom of the Cul-de-sac there was a footpath to the town centre and people would park in the street from 8.30 to 5.30 to save paying parking fees. The vendor had been honest, which allowed me to be the same, the house was sold on the second day !
Whenever you decide to go looking for your first or next purchase, take off those rose tinted glasses and have a good nose around, ask all those questions you think you shouldn’t and hire a good surveyor if you are worried about anything (a £400 pound fee is better than a £400,000 mistake!)