Buying a refurbished house: what to check

Many people can see the attraction of buying a refurbished house as they can move straight in and unpack rather than spend weeks, months  or sometimes years getting the house the way they want it.  But can you be sure that any works have been carried out to an acceptable standard?  And more importantly, have the works been carried out legally?

 

New kitchen and bathroom

A brand new kitchen is perhaps a one of the most desirable things in a house.  Everything bright and shiny and with no stains to cupboards or worktops left behind by the previous owners.  When buying a refurbished house this may be one of the biggest attractions.  However, some works involved in refurbishing a kitchen and bathroom are controlled under Building Regulations for the purpose of ensuring that works are carried out to an acceptable standard.

Any works carried out to waste pipework are controlled under Approved Document H of the Building Regulations.  Minor works would often be carried out on a Building Notice.  The building contractor would submit a Building Notice to the Local Authority Building Control Department and the Building Control Officer would inspect the work at the appropriate time to check that the works meet the required standard.  Obtain all documentation for any works controlled under Building Regulations.

Don’t forget the things you can’t see.  Everything may look new, but if you are buying an older house do you know whether the incoming water main has been replaced?  Check whether there is any remaining lead supply pipework.  If the cold water supply pipe is lead then this will require replacement.  If this involves disturbing floors, kitchen fittings, etc then this will add to the cost of this work.

 

New windows and doors

The replacement of most windows and doors is controlled under Building Regulations.  The purpose of this is to reduce energy loss.  The FENSA scheme was set up to allow registered companies to self-certify the installation of windows or doors.  This saves time and makes it easier for home owners to replace windows or doors without having to apply to the Local Authority for Building Regulation approval.

Any glazing installed from April 2002 onwards (except new buildings) requires a FENSA certificate to confirm that the windows or doors comply with Building Regulations.  However, if any glazing has been carried out by a company which is not registered with FENSA , or carried out in a DIY manner, then the homeowner will be responsible for applying to the Local Authority to obtain Building Regulation approval.  Sometimes the installer may apply for approval on the homeowner’s behalf but obtaining approval is still the responsibility of the homeowner.

 

PVCu fascias and soffits

New PVCu fascias and soffits save the time and cost of redecorating timber eaves joinery and are another attraction of buying a refurbished house.  However, the new PVCu eaves joinery is often clad over the original fascias and soffits, with the original eaves joinery being left in place.  Depending on the age of the property it is possible that some of the original eaves joinery was asbestos cement (commonly used for soffits).  If there any asbestos containing materials remain then it is important to be aware of their location and condition.

Asbestos cement typically does not pose a problem if it is in good condition and not disturbed.  Ask the vendor if they are aware of any concealed asbestos containing materials (including asbestos cement eaves joinery).

 

Cavity wall insulation

The provision of cavity wall insulation is also controlled under Building Regulations.  CIGA (The Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency) was set up in 1995.  It is an independent body which operates and administers a Cavity Wall Insulation Self Certification scheme (CWISC) in association with the British Board of Agrément.  A CIGA registered installer will assess the property prior to installation, carry out the installation and will apply to CIGA for a guarantee on behalf of the homeowner.

This guarantee is transferable to future owners of the property.  Also, if the cavity wall insulation has been installed by a CIGA registered installer then the installation will comply with the requirements of Building Regulations.

If the work has not been carried out by a CIGA registered installer then the work may not comply with Building Regulation requirements.

 

Additional loft insulation

Improvements to insulation in the loft will help to reduce heat loss and energy consumption.  However, if insulation is provided at ceiling level (to form a “cold roof”) it is important to ensure that the roof space above is adequately ventilated.  This is often achieved by vents in the soffits and/or tile ventilators.  If insulation has been increased, make sure that the insulation does not block any ventilation openings at the eaves.  This can be done by going into the roof space to check whether there is air movement and by checking that ventilation openings are not obstructed.

 

Laminated flooring

New laminated flooring looks clean and does not have the disadvantages of carpets which have been in use for many years.  However, it is important to know they are not covering defective floors, otherwise they may need to be taken up.

When buying a refurbished house look for signs that might indicate that timber floors may be damp, rotten or have woodworm:

  • Check each floor for springiness which may indicate rot, woodworm or inadequate floor structures.
  • Walk around the outside of the house to check for high ground levels. Ideally, external ground levels should be 150 mm (6″) below the damp proof course.  If the external walls are damp the ground floor timbers may also be damp, rotten and/or have woodworm.
  • Check that vents are provided at regular intervals to the external walls at low level to ventilate the sub-floor void. If the void below a timber ground floor does not have sufficient ventilation then this may lead to rot and/or woodworm.

 

Electrical work

Most electrical works are controlled under Approved Document P of the Building Regulations.  This can be achieved by employing an electrician registered with one of the government approved schemes who can self-certify any works.  Obtain the Building Compliance Certificate/Part P Certificate to confirm any electrical works have been carried out to the required standard.

 

New central heating

If gas fired central heating has recently been installed, check whether this was carried out by a Gas Safe contractor and obtain any documentation.

 

Recently redecorated rooms

Moving into a house which has recently been decorated through sounds perfect.  But when buying a refurbished house, can you be sure that new decorations are not hiding defects such as cracks?  Look for other signs of movement such as sloping floors, racked doorways, cracking externally, bowing walls, etc.

 

Generally

Above all, don’t get carried away by the newness if the interior.  Remember to check that the house as a whole has been maintained.  There is little point having smart and newly decorated rooms if the roof leaks or if the wiring needs to be replaced.  If in doubt, instruct a surveyor to make sure that there are no major defects.

 


 

 

 

 

 

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Buying a house in Spring: what to look for

Spring usually sees a surge in properties on the market.  This is a time when gardens will be at their most attractive with an array of flowers and new vegetation in contrast to the preceding months.  Also, many families who are relocating hope to complete their move in time for their children to start their new schools in September.  When buying a house in Spring don’t get carried away.  Its important to stop and think about what sort of home your proposed purchase will make at other times of the year.

 

Rainwater gutters and downpipes

If there hasn’t been very much rain for some time it might not be obvious whether the rainwater gutters, downpipes, gullies and hoppers are functioning.  When buying a house in Spring, it is a good idea to check joints of gutters and downpipes for signs of leakage such as staining and make sure rainwater hoppers are not blocked.  Also, check that gutters are adequately supported with brackets at regular intervals and check that all gutters have stop ends.  Examine walls carefully for any signs that rainwater goods have been leaking or overflowing.

 

Drives and paving

Drives and paved areas may look fine during a dry spell but it is important to look for clues to determine whether they are adequate during wet weather.

Check for signs of ponding to low areas such as stained areas or silt.  Puddles on the drive or patio are not ideal and can be a hazard when they freeze in cold weather.  Areas of ponding can also cause the surface to deteriorate more quickly, particularly after sub zero temperatures.

If the drive (and any other hardstanding areas) are steeply sloping then look to see where rainwater will run.  If paved areas slope towards the building then there may be a torrent of water during heavy rainfall.  Rainwater should ideally fall towards gullies or drainage channels and be discharged into surface water drains or to a soakaway.

 

Gardens

When buying a house in Spring, remember to check there are sufficient paths to access important areas of the garden such as the garage, sheds, bin store and the washing line.  Some external areas may be acceptable during dry weather but may turn to mud in wet weather.  You may not mind walking across the lawn to a shed or bin store in the spring or summer when the ground is dry, but the same route could quickly become a quagmire during wet weather.

 

Natural light

On a bright day in spring or summer rooms can look much brighter than on a dull day in the autumn or winter.  When buying a house in Spring, consider the size, location and orientation of windows to assess how much natural light the same rooms are likely to have during the winter months.  If certain rooms are likely to need lamps during the day it is better to know before you decide to buy the house.

See also instructing a surveyor when buying a house.

 

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