How to spot the 7 top home defects when buying
- By: Ashley Saunders
- July 2018
The cost of buying a home can quickly escalate, especially if you don’t spot any of the most common home defects.
You’ve spent years building up a deposit and looking for your ideal home, only to be landed with an unexpected £3,000 repair bill for a new heating system three months after you move in.
Of course, you should pay for a full survey before completing your purchase as this will highlight if any home defects exist. However, as a survey is based around a visual investigation, there’s a limit to what they can reveal.
We’ve detailed some of the most common home defects that you should look for. If you do spot one of these seven or see one mentioned in the survey report, then you’ll know how to be proactive to solve the issue.
#1 Exterior problems
A lot of home defects can be spotted on the exterior of a building. Whether you’re buying a house or an apartment, it’s worth looking for these things.
As the roof ages, it will subtly show signs of wear and damage. But the time you can readily spot issues, the problem could be far more advanced than you realise.
As re-roofing will cost thousands of pounds, it’s best to look out for the following signs the roof needs repairing when visiting properties.
Look for tiles that are missing, curling, or cracked. Any of these situations might be easy to fix. However, they could all be hiding a bigger problem.
While we’re looking at the roof, look for moss. If you can see moss growing, then it could be that the roof isn’t drying out. As moss holds on moisture, it increases the likelihood of leaks.
Flashing is extremely important for preventing water leaks and damage. If you do spotting missing or damaged flashing, then it needs to be repaired.
Replacement of old defective windows can cost thousands. Also, poorly fitted windows can add thousands to your heating bill. So look for gaps around each window as well as broken hinges.
Poor exterior drainage can lead to problems with the foundations and can create a mould problem. You should inspect the gutters and downspouts as well as the foundations.
#2 Keep an eye out for these interior defects
With our inspection of the outside done, we can move on to looking for common home defects inside. There are many potential problems to look for.
If a home doesn’t have proper ventilation, moisture cannot evaporate and will inevitably cause problems.
Make sure the attic is properly ventilated to ensure that the roof has a long and functional life. Proper attic ventilation allows the intense heat of the sun to escape from the attic space and promote evaporation of moisture that would otherwise damage interior walls and structural elements.
If a house has poor insulation, it will feel very cold in the winter and so will cost you a fortune in heating costs.
Inspect wood in the kitchen and the bathroom as these spots are especially vulnerable to moisture. Wood that’s exposed to moisture rots over time.
As long as it’s not too later and doesn’t need replacing, you can protect wood using special paints.
#3 Don’t forget to check for structural issues
Structural home defects are commonly a result of bad construction and poor design. Water damage can also create serious structural problems.
If you’re unable to close windows or doors, then the house might have poor foundations. Look for crumbling or flaking in the concrete as this could be a sign of structural problems.
Also, look for trees near the building. As trees spread their roots, they can destabilise a house’s foundation and drains.
Changes in temperate or moisture levels can lead to concrete expanding and shrinking, causing cracks to appear. While some are minor and harmless, widening cracks over time can damage the foundations.
If you can see cracks in several rooms, then the property probably has a major structural problem.
#4 Tests the electrics
Faulty electrics can be hidden for years and suddenly cause untold damage. Start by checking the property for loose sockets and wires. It’s likely that some sockets have become wobbly over time and require a little DIY.
Visible cable runs or bad joint are risky and should ring bells in your head. While these should be easy to fix, it should make you wonder about the standard of the wiring in the rest of the house.
After looking for visible danger signs, locate the electric service panel.
With the hood removed, start looking for problems, such as burnt wiring, overloaded circuits, and improper wiring connections. Also, look for DIY installed wiring – these could be disasters waiting to happen.
#5 Check the plumbing for leaks
Like electrical wiring, dodgy plumbing can be hidden for years before it causes a problem yet is one of top home defects we often see.
Listen for dripping and leaks. Both could mean that damage could be about to happen. A small but continual drip onto a ceiling will amount to a large body of water. This water needs to be released. it’s likely your ceiling will collapse, releasing the water.
As you walk around a property, look at the pipework. Check the piping condition in the house for deterioration and leaks.
Be concerned if you see old lead or galvanized steel water supply pipes.
Make a note of any old or incompatible piping material you see. Also, look for faulty fixtures. Incorrect installation of fixtures may lead to clogged drains and avoidable leaks.
#6 Ensure the heating is firing on all cylinders
A poor heating system will increase the cost of your bills and require more maintenance. Therefore look out for coal fires, storage heaters and large rooms with a lack of heaters.
If you spot any coal fires, then be concerned as they consume fuel faster than you can feed it, and so ideally, you’d plan to replace them before you move in. Use Boiler Guide to find local plumbers who can carry out the work.
As you walk around the house look for basic safety concerns such as defective controls, inoperative emergency switches, and evidence of past malfunctions.
Carbon monoxide emissions are another hidden danger and should be investigated carefully. Keep an eye out for carbon monoxide detectors as you look around the property.
#7 Watch out for signs of deferred maintenance
If a property is poorly maintained, then it’s likely that it will have more home defects.
While at first glance, the property needs a new coat of paint, a closer look reveals wall cracks and poor fitting skirting board. Both issues could cost quite a bit to solve.
It’s easy to defer maintenance or believe a fresh coat of paint will solve it. However, years of neglect will create other problems and home defects.
So look for signs where the homeowner has been diligent and has done their best to maintain their property.
I’ve found one or a few of these home defects, what can I do?
As any of the home defects we’ve covered can cost you a lot of money to repair, it’s worth having a plan in place before you step foot in a property.
With any and each defect that you spot, you will need to assess the cost of repair. Even if you can take care of the task yourself, there is a cost involved.
Once you have a costed list, you can then look to either negotiate the price down by this amount or ask the vendor to spend money repairing items on your list.
Take time to spot these home defects
Taking time to spot any of these home defects is worth it and should enable you to save time, effort and money.
The best way ensure you fully cover every defect is to create your own tick box system. This will enable you to focus as you walk around each property.
If you do spot any of these home defects, then consider how you will solve it or if it’s a deal breaker. There are plenty of other homes out there. So stay rational and keep your wallet closed and ask the vendor to fix the issues.