What to look out for when viewing a house

The inside of the home may reveal signs for potential repair for you as a home buyer. Spend time to take a proper look around the house. We’ve included here some common signs to look out for, whether it’s something that could be fixed easily and an indication of likely costs. You can also take a look at the outside of the house.

Inside the house

Bathroom

Baths or showers where the sealant has failed is a common problem that can cause significant water damage and yet it can be solved easily and cheaply provided it is not allowed to develop or remain leaking for long.

Signs to look out for:

  • Cracked or failed sealant around showers, basins and baths
  • Damp stains from water coming through the ceiling

Cost to fix —

Less than £550

Fix by —

DIY

Don’t forget to take our house viewing checklist next time you visit a property.

Ceilings

One of the biggest threats to timber is fungal decay. There are two principal types of rot that affect woodwork, wet and dry both created by fungal spores. The main difference being that wet rot requires persistently higher levels of dampness than dry rot.

Both types of rot will damage the wood, but wet rot can be dried out and repaired in some cases, whereas dry rot needs to be eradicated usually requiring replacement together with remedying the initial source of dampness.

Common signs of wet rot:

  • The timber will feel wet
  • Softness of timber under the paintwork
  • When dry, timber will easily crack and crumble
  • Fungal growth
  • Damp musty smell

Common signs of dry rot:

  • The timber will feel dry and crumbly with clear signs of cracking across the grain
  • A whitish cotton wool like fungal growth, red fruiting bodies and blacks thread like strands. These all come at various stages of the growth
  • A smell of mushrooms
  • If the spores have spread there could be reddish dust throughout the building

Cost to fix —

Between £5,000 – £10,000

Fix by —

Tradesman with specialist supervision

Don’t forget to take our house viewing checklist next time you visit a property.

Walls

Any signs of black mould growth is an indication of condensation, which could be a lifestyle problem through creation of too much moisture with inadequate either physical or mechanical ventilation with the current owners. It could also be an indication of poor building design in that the walls or other elements of the house have poor thermal qualities i.e. when the temperature is low then they cannot hold the heat within the property and become cold allowing condensation to form on the inside of the building.

This latter aspect is significant as it could be expensive to solve.

Signs to look out for:

  • Water running down windows and regular pools at the base
  • Dampness on walls and ceilings
  • Black or green mould growth especially in the backs of cupboards on outer walls
  • Musty smell
  • If no obvious cause can be found and increasing the heat or ventilation does not solve the problem you may need specialist help to fix the problem

Cost to fix —

Between £250 – £1,500

Fix by —

DIY or tradesman

Don’t forget to take our house viewing checklist next time you visit a property.

Floors

Generally in older homes the joists supporting the timber floor are bedded into the walls of the property around the ground level, these can become damp and rot. If this is left then the floor could collapse as the timber ends get eaten away by the wood rotting fungus.

Signs to look out for:

  • Springiness in the floor
  • Damp musty smell.
  • Dampness in the wall
  • Raised external ground levels i.e. above the damp proof course
  • Water drips externally leaving damp staining on the wall

Cost to fix —

Between £500 – £2,000

Fix by —

Tradesman

Don’t forget to take our house viewing checklist next time you visit a property.

Doors

If a door sticks then this could be an indication that there is some movement within the property. Doors and window openings are the weak parts of a building as they form breaks in the main structure.

In this picture the situation is exaggerated, but is the result of a weakness in the lintol (support) above the door many years ago.

Signs to look out for:

  • Cracks in the plasterwork, and any ‘rippling’ effects in the wallpaper that isn’t caused by damp
  • Signs of cracks more than 3mm in the exterior brickwork
  • Any signs throughout the property or garden of sloping floors, settlement of paths or driveways in close proximity to drains

Please consult a specialist to find how much it will be to fix.

Don’t forget to take our house viewing checklist next time you visit a property.

Windows

Leaks around the window could mean poorly maintained or rotting timber window and door frames.

Signs to look out for:

  • Whether timber windows look like they have been poorly maintained and show signs of rot
  • For PVC windows, notice any signs of brittle or cracking sealant around the frame

Cost to fix —

Between £1,000 – £4,000

Fix by —

Tradesman

Don’t forget to take our house viewing checklist next time you visit a property.

Don’t forget that these points provide guidance on the common signs to look out for and should not be used in place of a HomeBuyer report. Always seek advice from a qualified surveyor to get a house survey carried out once you have an offer accepted on a property.

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All prices quoted are rough estimates of typical costs only and should be used for information purposes only. Prices will naturally vary significantly depending on the size of the job and the property. Daily rates for tradespeople and material costs will also vary. Some issues could be the sign of more serious underlying problems which could cost significantly more. Prices have been obtained from Building Sheriff and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and are accurate of 7 July 2014. Recommendations to fix by DIY are for guidance only. Please refer to a tradesman if you have any concerns about doing the job yourself.

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