Buying a new home is never an easy process. Even if there’s no chain and you’re buying in cash, there are hundreds of potential problems that can arise during the process of making the purchase on the legal and conveyancing side alone. Before you reach the point of instructing a solicitor to look at the legal matters, though, you might want to take a closer look at the home you’re about to buy. A much, much, closer look.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to look at common issues that affect older homes. That’s not to say that new homes don’t have issues of their own – they often do, and they can be disastrous – but an old home has been battered, weathered, loved and lived-in for years (perhaps even decades), and over that time several issues can occur. We’ll outline the most common ones for you below.
In practice, the best thing you can do before agreeing to buy a property is to instruct a specialist to come and survey it for you. A mortgage valuer will only perform a cursory check, and will only pick up on glaring and obvious issues. A qualified surveyor will go into detail and identify problems that the naked eye alone can’t see. Getting a professional report done won’t be cheap, but it’s probably cheaper than paying for remedial work after you’ve moved in. Think of paying for a report like paying for a spin on an online slots game. The majority of the time, you won’t win anything, but you accept that not winning is part and parcel of playing online slots. On the occasions when your online slots game pays out its jackpot prize on website like Amigoslots.com, you’re very happy. You won’t win any cash by paying for a report, but your ‘jackpot’ in this case is avoiding making a large and expensive mistake in purchasing a defective house!
You’re (probably) not a qualified surveyor, but even without any specialist training, you should be able to identify basic issues. If you see anything we’ve identified below, don’t even consider buying the property.
Not all single-pane windows are defective. Having single-pane windows means your heating bill will be higher, and you’re more at risk of breakages, but a well-fitted single-pane window wouldn’t be considered defective. A defective window is one that allows water to permeate through it – even to the slightest degree. As soon as water gets into a window frame – no matter how little water there may be – the windows are doomed. A wet window frame is a gateway to dry rot and mold, and the longer it’s been going on, the worse the problem is likely to be. Even though the window may not be showing excessive signs of water damage, there could be damage to the interior or exterior facade, or even structural damage brought on by damp. Look for tell-tale stains in corners or breaks in the flashing around the window frame.
Having an insect infestation isn’t necessarily a sign of having a dirty home. In fact, some insects won’t live in dirty homes. They might have chosen to come and live in your prospective new home because it’s clean, safe, and warm – but that doesn’t mean they should be treated as guests! Unfortunately, there’s an almost endless list of potentially harmful critters that might be living inside the walls of your house, and old homes are more at risk than new ones because they’ve had years to breed. Insist on checking out the attic, because that’s where you’re most likely to find bees, wasps, and even birds. Down in the cellar are the ants and the rodents. Between the walls, there could be anything, and it could be chewing through your electrical systems. Keep a sharp eye out for obvious signs, such as droppings or abandoned old nests.
Anyone with clear vision can spot a cracked or leaning wall, and nobody should buy a home that has one. Not every sign of subsidence or heave is as easy to see, though. Your selling agent might give you a strange look, but take your shoes off and walk through the property in your socks. Pay attention to how the floor feels, and where the lumps and bumps are. Is one side of the floor higher than the other? Are there gaps or spaces in the floorboards? A door or a window that sticks is also a sign that a wall has moved since the door or window was put there, too. Bring a spirit level with you, and check for bulges or distortions in supporting walls. Correcting issues like these can cost thousands of dollars, so insist on getting a full structural report if you see an issue – and also insist that the seller pays for it. If they won’t, then this isn’t the home for you.
Old Electrical Systems
Old light switches and kooky plug sockets can be a charming feature in a home, but they can also be a liability. The house of the 1960s wasn’t built with the type of demand we place on electrics today in mind. The builders of that era didn’t foresee a family with multiple laptops, televisions, phone chargers, tablets, games consoles, Bluetooth speakers, and all the other gadgets plugged in every second of every day, and might not be able to cope with it. If you’re buying a home from a couple who’ve lived in it for a very long time, find out when the wiring was last inspected or updated. If the answer was pre-2000, you’ll want a full electrical survey done before you even consider making an offer on the home. At best, you could be looking at fuses popping on a regular basis, and unreliable light fittings. At worst, you might be subjecting yourself to a significant risk of electrical fires. If the electrics are out of date, ask yourself similar questions about the plumbing.
All of the issues we’ve detailed above are easy to pick up on, but we can all be guilty of overlooking the obvious when we think we’ve found our ‘dream’ home. Take a step back before you go with your heart, and let your head handle the practicalities. If it truly is your dream home, you should still be able to buy it – it may just need a little work doing before it’s ready for you to move in.