Buying a property: websites not to miss

Most people buying a property will be familiar with websites such as Rightmove and Zoopla.  But much more information is needed before making a decision whether to buy a particular property or not.  How do you go about choosing a solicitor or surveyor?  How do you know whether there is asbestos in the property you plan to buy and what should you do about it?  What do you need to know if you are buying a property to let?  Where can you find information if the house you propose to buy is in a Conservation Area?  What should you do if bats are roosting in your new home?  How do you identify Japanese Knotweed?

General advice on buying and selling a house

Visit https://www.which.co.uk/money/mortgages-and-property/first-time-buyers/buying-a-home/how-to-buy-a-house-alm0r9l4yf5x  for general advice on the house buying process.  This site includes information on applying for a mortgage, making an offer, appointing a solicitor, arranging a survey, arranging insurance, exchanging contracts and more.

For further general advice visit also https://www.money.co.uk/guides/how-to-buy-a-house.htm

For advice on selling your home, including choosing between a local estate agent and an online estate agent, visit  http://www.rics.org/uk/knowledge/consumer-guides/selling-your-home/

 

Searching for a property and researching selling prices

Rightmove is a widely used website when buying a property.  It allows you to browse properties on the market and view photos and floor plans.  Rightmove also allows you to register for alerts for new properties coming onto the market in a chosen area.  There is also a facility under “House Prices” to check sold prices, which may be helpful for checking the selling prices of properties in your chosen area.  Rightmove has an App for phones and tablets and is useful for when you are on the go.  Visit  https://www.rightmove.co.uk/

Zoopla is an alternative site for searching for properties on the market and for checking sold prices.  It also includes statistics on property values and trends in a chosen area.  Visit  http://www.zoopla.co.uk/

If you are selling a property, don’t forget to check www.nethouseprices.com  for sold prices in your area.  If similar properties have sold recently it may indicate whether the asking price for your property is realistic.

 

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

Visit  https://www.gov.uk/buy-sell-your-home/energy-performance-certificates to find out which properties require an EPC and which properties are exempt.

Visit https://www.epcregister.com/searchAssessor.html to find a Domestic Energy Assessor to produce an EPC before marketing your property.

 

Appointing a Surveyor when buying a property

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has a search facility to find a surveyor.  The site enables you to enter a town or postcode and a surveying service, eg, Residential Surveys, Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), RICS HomeBuyer Reports, etc.  To find a suitably qualified surveyor in your chosen area visit  https://www.ricsfirms.com/

For information on the benefits of having a survey when buying a property, and different types of surveys visit  http://www.rics.org/uk/knowledge/consumer-guides/home-surveys/

 

Choosing a Solicitor

For information on choosing a solicitor visit  https://www.which.co.uk/conveyancing/conveyancing-process/england-and-wales/find-a-solicitor/  This site provides information on solicitors and conveyancers, gives an indication of typical fees and has a list of FAQs.

 

Asbestos

Any house built or refurbished before 2000 has the possibility of having asbestos containing materials (ACMs).  For information on where asbestos containing materials can be found in a property visit  http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/building.htm

If you are buying a property which contains asbestos containing materials visit  http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/member-of-public.htm

 

Flooding

There has been an increased awareness of flooding in recent years.  For information on flood risk from rivers and sea, flood risk from surface water and flood risk from reservoirs visit

https://flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk/long-term-flood-risk/map

 

Bats

Many rural properties have bats.  If you are buying a property where bats are present visit http://www.bats.org.uk/  and http://www.bats.org.uk/data/files/BatsandBuildings_2012.pdf

 

Buy to Let

If you are buying a property to let then it is essential to visit https://www.gov.uk/private-renting/  for information on rights and responsibilities, tenancy deposits, houses in multiple occupation, etc.

For further information on becoming a landlord, appointing a letting agent, information on buy to let mortgages and insurance visit  https://www.which.co.uk/money/mortgages-and-property/buy-to-let

 

Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings

If you are buying a property in a Conservation Area or a property which is Listed, visit the Historic England website at  https://historicengland.org.uk/advice/your-home/owning-historic-property/conservation-area/

 

Japanese Knotweed

For information on  identification of Japanese Knotweed, prevention of spread, and disposal, visit:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/prevent-japanese-knotweed-from-spreading

 

Mobile phone coverage

https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/mobile-phone-providers/article/mobile-phone-coverage-map

Not something to be overlooked.  Use this link to check the mobile phone coverage map.  You can enter a particular location (town or postcode) although some areas have more results than others.  Many service providers also produce their own data.

 

Broadband speed

Don’t forget to check the estimated broadband speed for a property before you decide to buy.  Use this link to enter your postcode or location to check any measured download and upload speeds.  Again, some areas have more results than others. https://www.uswitch.com/broadband/speedtest/streetstats/

 

And of course, don’t forget to visit other informative posts on this site including:

Is a mortgage valuation the same as a survey?

Buy to let property:  choosing, managing, student lets and landlord’s responsibilities.

Instructing a surveyor when buying a house or flat. 

What should I do after having a survey?

Should I have a survey before selling my house?

 

 

 

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Renegotiating the purchase price of a property following a survey

Reasons for renegotiating the purchase price of a property

Renegotiating the purchase price of a property is an obvious thing to consider if your house survey reveals unexpected defects, particularly if they are going to be costly to repair.  Most purchasers would make an offer “subject to survey”, making it clear that firstly, they plan to have a survey, and secondly, if the survey reveals defects which they were not aware of they may consider revising their offer.   Visit the following:  https://www.gov.uk/buy-sell-your-home/offers

Renegotiating the purchase price of a property may also be necessary if you are seeking a mortgage and the mortgage valuation is less than the previously agreed purchase price.

 

How to renegotiate the purchase price

Renegotiating the purchase price of a property would typically be done through the estate agent.

After receiving the survey report, the buyer should obtain cost estimates from contractors for any recommended works prior to commitment to purchase.  The estimates can be used as a basis for negotiation.

It is important to remember that the seller is under no obligation to reduce the price, even if works are required.  Most sellers would have a minimum price for which they are prepared to sell their property.  This may be based on how much they need to repay a mortgage or how much they need to be able to buy their next home.  However, some purchasers may be in a position to agree a reduced price in order to achieve a sale.  The selling agent may know the vendor’s position and should be able to advise the buyer whether there is any room for negotiation.

Sometimes the selling agent or vendor will ask to see a copy of the survey report.  The survey report has been prepared for the buyer, and the buyer is under no obligation to provide this to anyone.  However, in some cases it may be helpful to show extracts of the report, along with quotations for the works, but this is entirely the buyer’s choice.

If the reason for renegotiating the purchase price is because the mortgage valuation is lower than the previously agreed purchase price then the purchaser may not be able to proceed with the purchase unless the price is lowered or the buyer has additional funds to put towards the purchase.

The success of negotiations will depend on a number of factors including the seller’s financial position, whether the seller needs to sell the property and whether there are any other potential purchasers on the scene who are in a position to proceed and are prepared to pay a higher price.

Remember that the seller does not have to reduce the price and may even decide to not sell the property if it does achieve  a particular selling price.  The success of any negotiation depends not only on the cost of any works but also on the individual circumstances of both the buyer and seller.

 

buying and selling a house

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Instructing a solicitor when buying a house or flat

When buying a house or flat it is important to contact a solicitor as soon as a sale has been agreed.

Before instructing a solicitor, obtain a written quotation with a breakdown of costs.  The costs are likely to include a fee for time spent, plus office expenses and any expenses which may be made on your behalf and passed onto you, such as Stamp Duty, Land Registry fees, etc.   Before instructing a solicitor, ask friends and family for recommendations and don’t make a decision solely on price.

Before instructing a solicitor, visit:

https://www.which.co.uk/money/mortgages-and-property/first-time-buyers/guides/buying-a-home/conveyancing  

What will my solicitor do?

Your solicitor will prepare terms of engagement setting out what they will do and confirm their charges.  They will deal directly with the vendor’s solicitor.

The two solicitors will prepare a draft contract.  This will include details of what is included in the sale.  For example, you may wish to take your greenhouse to your new garden but your purchaser may be under the impression that this will form part of the sale.  You may expect the vendor of your new home to take up and clear away all the carpets ready for new floor coverings but they may find it easier to leave them behind.   The contract will form a legal document and must be accurate.

If you are taking out a mortgage, your solicitor will check the offer made by the mortgage company.  The mortgage company may request further investigations/reports/estimates as a condition of the loan.

If you have had a survey carried out on your behalf (not to be confused with the lender’s valuation) your solicitor should check whether the surveyor has identified any matters which require further enquires to be made or any legal input.  Remember that a mortgage valuation is not a survey.   Bear in mind that your solicitor is not likely to have been to the property and may not be aware of some issues with the property, including:

  • Flying/submerged freeholds.
  • Whether any parts of the property trespass, ie, trees, gutters, satellite dishes, etc.
  • Whether there are any extensions/alterations which may have required Local Authority approval/s.

Exchange of Contracts occurs when everything has been agreed, including a Completion date.  The buyer will pay a deposit to secure the sale.  When contracts have been exchanged you will be committed to the purchase/sale and there will normally be financial/legal consequences if you do not proceed.

Completion is when the property is legally transferred and you will be registered with Land Registry as the new owner.  This is the date when the sale is completed, ie, the day when you will obtain the keys and will be able to move in.

Land Registry

Your solicitor will check the title of the property and whether the property has been registered with Land Registry.   If a property is registered this means that it is registered with Land Registry and ownership is guaranteed by the state.  If a property is unregistered it is possible there could be a dispute about ownership.  The property will need to be registered with Land Registry.  Your solicitor will advise in this respect and this may incur an additional fee.

Your legal adviser will also check whether the property is in a Conservation Area or whether it is a Listed Building.

Tenure

Your solicitor will check the tenure of the property.

If the property is freehold, the owner of the property will own the property outright and will be fully responsible for all repairs and maintenance.  Some houses which are freehold may have a garage which is leasehold, particularly if it is located beyond the curtilage of the site.

If the property is leasehold you will own the property for the length stated in the lease.  The terms of the lease will set out responsibilities for occupying and maintaining the property.  There may also be a requirement to pay ground rent to the freeholder, this is typically a small sum paid annually.  Your solicitor will check the terms of the lease and confirm payments for ground rent are up to date.  Your solicitor should also check the length of remaining lease.  If the lease is “short” this may not be acceptable to some mortgage lenders, and may reduce saleability and value of the property.

Searches

Your solicitor will carry out property searches to establish whether there are any factors which may affect the property which may not otherwise be evident, which may include:

  • Local Authority search
  • Environmental search
  • Flood risk
  • Water Authority search
  • Mining search

They will also confirm other matters particular to the property you are buying including ownership and liability of any private roads and/or shared access roads/paths and location and route of the drains.

 

buying and selling a house

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Buying a modern house – garages, parking spaces, paths and highways

Most people choose to buy a modern house so that they can move straight in and unpack without the bother of having to deal with major repairs.  But there are some issues with modern houses which can easily be overlooked, particularly relating to garages, parking spaces and paths, some of which may have additional costs of ownership.

Garages

Some houses on modern housing estates have garages which are leasehold, even though the house itself may be freehold.  When buying a modern house, the garage may be in a rank beyond the curtilage of the plot and may have residential accommodation above (a coach house above a rank of garages is a common feature of many modern housing estates).  Even if a garage and parking apace are situated alongside the house, if they form part of a rank then there is a possibility that the garage is leasehold.  Your solicitor should confirm tenure, and if leasehold, obtain details of the lease to establish whether any charges are payable, and confirm responsibility for repairs, etc.

Parking space/s

As with garages, if a parking space is situated beyond the curtilage of the plot your solicitor must check the tenure, details of rights of way, responsibility for maintenance, etc.

Footpaths

If there are footpaths in the vicinity of the house, then your solicitor should confirm ownership, rights of way, details for maintenance and whether there is a charge for maintenance.

Highways

If the public highway and pavements have not yet been adopted by the Local Authority then your solicitor should confirm details for adoption and whether any areas will be privately owned.

Generally

The items above should form part of a solicitor’s routine enquiries but it is useful for a potential house purchaser to be aware of such issues at an early stage in the house buying process particularly if there are additional costs of ownership. These may require clarification by a mortgage lender before a mortgage offer is confirmed.

See also House viewing tips:  things to consider when viewing a house  

and if you are buying the property to let then see also Buy to let property:  choosing, managing, student lets and landlord’s responsibilities. 

buying and selling a house

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House viewing tips: things to consider when viewing a house

Many people enjoy viewing a house and picturing life in a new home.  But don’t make the mistake of arriving for a viewing thinking that this is the place for you.  Have an open mind.  Don’t just focus on the good points, consider the downsides too.  It is a good idea to:

1. View the house more than once and at different times of the day. In addition to viewing the property internally, drive past on different days of the week to get a feel for the area.  There may be certain times of the day or days of the week when traffic is busier, and this may not be obvious from a single viewing.

2. When viewing a house, take someone with you.  It’s worth having another opinion on the property.  There may be things you hadn’t spotted yourself.

3. After viewing a house, take a walk.  Walking gives a different view of the area.  Check out neighbouring properties to see whether they are well maintained.  You may even meet some of your prospective new neighbours.  Look out for any neighbouring land use or businesses which may affect the property.

4. When viewing ahouse, imagine what it will be like at other times of the year and in different weather conditions. For instance, a house on a north facing slope may have plenty of sun in the summer but may spend weeks in the shade in the winter. A house in an exposed position might take the brunt of the weather during a storm.  A house on a steep hill may be difficult to access during icy weather.

5. Don’t just view one property, even if you think the first property is perfect for your needs.  Viewing other properties may reinforce your decision to make an offer on a particular house, but similarly it may open your eyes to others which are more suitable.

6. Ask the vendor if you can take photographs.  Sometimes you might remember the positive features, but photos may remind you of other aspects which may easily be forgotten.

7. If you are buying a property to let, see “Buying a buy to let property”.

Above all, don’t rush into making a decision.  Don’t be pressured by the estate agent or anyone else even if there are other potential buyers on the scene.  Buying the wrong property will be an expensive mistake.  Make sure you have considered all important issues and be fully aware what you are taking on before exchange of contracts.  If you are unsure about the condition of the house or want further information on any defects then instruct a surveyor.

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Moving house in autumn – heating, insulation and freezing pipework

When moving house in autumn there are a number of items which take priority over longer term plans.  Alterations, and sometimes even decorating, can wait until a convenient time, but first it is important to make sure your new house is prepared for the winter months ahead.

If you are moving house in autumn remember to:

  1. Check that the heating system is functioning and have the system serviced (unless this has been serviced recently). Ideally, ask the vendor to show you how to operate the system before completion takes place.  If the system has recently been serviced then ask for the documents.
  2. Check that any plumbing pipework and water tanks in the roof space are fully lagged to reduce the risk of freezing. The same applies to any pipework in unheated outbuildings and pipework to outdoor taps.
  3. Check whether cavity wall insulation has been installed if the house has cavity walls.  Cavity wall insulation can reduce heat loss and improve the level of comfort within a house, but note that not all properties with cavity walls are suitable for cavity wall insulation.  See also 1960’s houses:  common defects. 
  4. Check gutters, gullies and drains to make sure they have not become blocked by leaves, etc.
  5. Check any paved areas to ensure they are draining adequately and are not ponding. Any areas which pond may become slippery with algae and/or ice.
  6. Check the level of insulation within any roof spaces.  Don’t forget the roof spaces to extensions, bay windows, etc.  If insulation is insufficient, then topping up before the cold weather arrives should help improve the level of comfort within the house.

When moving house in autumn, a few simple checks should help to ensure that you are prepared for the colder, winter months ahead.  If you are unable to check the house for yourself, consider instructing a surveyor.

 

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Buying a house with double glazing – misted units, ventilation, condensation

When buying a house with double glazing you might think great, no draughts, lower heat loss, etc.  However, double glazed units can fail and require replacement, particularly older units.

Double glazed windows have now been in use for several decades.  Early double glazing was often in either a timber frame or a metal frame, sometimes with insulation within the frame members.  Some of the older units had narrow sealed units which were not as effective against heat loss as more modern units.  Today, the vast majority of double glazed windows, whether replacement windows or used in new housing, have PVCu frames.

Double glazing is virtually essential for a modern dwelling to enable it to meet the requirements of Building Regulations in respect of heat loss.   The sealed air gap (filled with air or another insulating gas) between the two panes of glass reduces heat loss from the dwelling and prevents condensation on the glass itself.

When buying a house with double glazing it is important to check for the following:

 

Failed double glazed units

The sealed double glazed unit can fail either due to a defect in manufacture, damage or deterioration over time.  This can be identified by misting/fogging, ie, condensation occurring between the two panes of glass which form the double glazed unit.  The amount of misting can vary from day to day depending on weather conditions.   Once a sealed double glazed unit has failed it cannot be repaired.  It may be possible to replace the unit only, or it may be necessary to replace the whole window.  If only one or a small number of units have failed then other units of the same age may fail in the not too distant future.

If you are buying a house with double glazing and note one or more failed double glazed units, ask the vendor when the windows were installed and check whether there is a warranty to cover failure.  If there is a valid warranty, check whether this can be transferred into your name.

If the whole window requires replacement then contact a FENSA contractor to obtain a quotation and replace to ensure that the work is carried out in accordance with Building Regulations.

 

Insufficient ventilation

The purpose of double glazing is to reduce heat loss, reduce the risk of condensation on the glazing and help to maintain a comfortable temperature within the home.  However, as homes have become better insulated they sometimes suffer condensation due to a lack of ventilation.  It is important to provide adequate ventilation to a dwelling to allow excess moisture to escape and reduce the risk of dampness, condensation and mould.  Condensation isn’t simply water running down a window, it can also occur within furnishings resulting in dampness, a musty smell and possibly mould spores within the fabric.

Ideally, windows should have a combination of large opening casements and smaller top hung opening vent lights.  Windows should have locks so that they can be locked in an open position without reducing security, enabling windows to be left slightly open at night to prevent a build-up of moisture.  If there is mould on window frames and around window openings then this is a sign of inadequate ventilation.

If you are buying a house with double glazing, check whether trickle vents are provided.  Trickle vents allow background ventilation and can help to avoid a build-up of moisture and the risk of condensation.

 

Checklist

  1. Check the configuration of opening windows.
  2. Check whether windows can be locked in an open position.
  3. Check whether there are trickle vents (usually found in the head of the window frame).
  4. Check the working order of window handles.
  5. Check whether there is any misting or fogging within the double glazed units.
  6. Check that any replacement windows have been installed by a FENSA contractor (if replaced since April 2002).
  7. Check whether there is a warranty for any replacement double glazed windows or doors and whether this can be transferred into your name

See also buying a refurbished house. 

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Buying a house in a rural area – services, bats, agricultural ties

Buying a house in a rural area has many attractions including cleaner air and a slower pace of life.  However, there are a number of issues which should be considered especially for those moving from a town or city.

Points to consider when buying a house in a rural area:

  1. Services – check which mains services are connected to the property.  While most properties will have mains electricity and water, not all homes are connected to mains gas.  Many properties in rural areas have a private drainage system.  Ask the vendor what services are connected to the property and also what services are available in the area, eg, the property may not be connected to mains gas but there may be mains gas nearby.  If the property has private drainage then ask the vendor for details such as whether there is a mini sewerage treatment system, septic tank, soakaway, etc.  Check when any septic tank was last emptied and which company usually carries this out.  See Instructing a Surveyor

 

  1. Bats – bats are common in rural properties. They often nest in outbuildings and/or the roof or cavity walls of the house itself.  If you live in a house with bats it may not be obvious but they can be detected by the presence of droppings.  Bats are protected and there are controls on carrying out works on properties with bats.  Ask the vendors whether they are aware of any bats roosting in the house and/or outbuildings.  For further information on bats visit http://www.bats.org.uk/     

 

  1. Rats and mice – rats, mice and other rodents are common in rural areas both within residential parts and outbuildings. There are a number of methods of controlling rodents including traditional traps, poison or friendly traps (which allow a mouse to be caught alive and then set free away from the house).  Whichever method you choose, it is important to keep rodents under control as they can multiply very quickly.

 

  1. Conservation Areas and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) – if you are planning to buy a house in a rural area/village it is important to check whether it falls within a Conservation Area.  Conservation Areas aim to control what works can be carried out in an area in an attempt to prevent inappropriate development.  However, the downside is that these controls will also affect works you plan to carry out to your own property.  Contact your Local Authority to check whether the property you plan to buy falls within a Conservation Area.  To find out whether a property falls within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) visit http://www.landscapesforlife.org.uk/visit-aonbs.html 

 

  1. Agricultural ties – a property with an agricultural would normally have an occupancy restriction, typically restricting occupancy to persons employed, or last employed in agriculture in the area.  In some instances this restriction can be extended to others, such as widows or widowers of someone employed or last employed in agriculture.  If you propose to buy a property with an agricultural tie, or any other form of occupancy restriction, check the details of the restrictions with the Local Authority.  Properties with an agricultural tie typically sell for a lower price, ie, have a lower value, than similar properties without an occupancy restriction, so if you are considering purchasing a property which has a lower price than you would have expected, this may be because it has an agricultural tie.

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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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