Buying a cheap house – what to consider

If you are moving house and have found a cheap house, or one which is for sale for lower than you might expect, it is important to find out exactly why the vendor is prepared to sell for a low price.

When a property is marketed by an estate agent the asking price is pitched to generate interest from buyers but at the same time achieve the best price for the seller.

Many factors affect the value of a property, including size, location, condition, etc.  Some properties may seem cheaper than other similar properties for obvious reasons.  If you are buying what seems to be a cheap house, it is important to know why the seller is prepared to sell the property for a lower price than could otherwise be achieved.  Reasons could include:

  1. It may be in poor condition and require costly repairs.
  2. It may be poorly presented, eg dirty or smell of tobacco or pets.
  3. The vendor needs to achieve a quick sale.
  4. Lack of parking.
  5. It may be located on a busy road or have difficult access.
  6. The area may be less desirable.
  7. Neighbouring properties may be less desirable.
  8. Neighbouring land use may have an adverse effect, eg, business premises which may generate noise.

Less obvious reasons may include:

  1. A defect which you are not aware of.
  2. A short lease.
  3. Restrictions on use of the property, eg, agricultural tie or for occupation by elderly residents, etc.
  4. Planning proposals for neighbouring properties or land which may affect the property either adversely or due to uncertainty.
  5. Difficulty in obtaining house insurance on normal terms, possibly due to a previous claim, eg, flooding, subsidence, etc.
  6. Lack of Planning Permission for all or part of the property.
  7. Lack of NHBC or similar certificate for a new property.
  8. Presence of mine shafts on or near the plot.

The above lists give an idea of factors to consider when buying what seems to be cheap house, but are not exhaustive.

If you are planning to buy a house which is seems cheaper than you would have expected it to be it is important to find out the reason why so that you are in full knowledge of the property you are buying and the area it is in so that you can make an informed decision about the purchase.

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Should I have a survey before selling my house? 

Some people consider having a survey before selling their own property as they think it might ease the sale process and prevent delays.  The survey itself does not typically result in a delay in the house buying process so long as it is arranged in good time and not left until the last minute.

As long as the property you are selling is in a reasonable order, in most cases it shouldn’t be necessary to have a survey before selling your home.

When you have agreed an offer (or an offer “subject to survey”) your potential purchaser will choose whether or not to instruct a surveyor to carry out a survey (if your buyer is buying the property with a mortgage then a mortgage valuation may also be undertaken, either at the same time as the survey or separately).

Reasons not to have a survey before selling your property include:

  1. Most prudent purchasers would instruct a surveyor of their choice to carry out a survey on their behalf, irrespective of whether you have already had a survey carried out.
  2. If the buyer instructs a surveyor then the report will be prepared in their name and will be for them to rely on.  If the seller has commissioned a survey then this would not typically be able to be relied upon by a third party, such as a potential purchaser.  It may be possible to transfer the report into the name of the buyer but this may incur a fee.
  3. If the buyer has particular questions about the property, eg, if the buyer is considering carrying out alterations, these points can be addressed during the survey.
  4. If the seller arranges a survey before putting the house on the market and if there is a time lag between the survey being undertaken and finding a buyer, then the report may not be up to date.

In summary, wait to see whether your potential purchaser wishes to have a survey, and if so, leave them to instruct a surveyor of their choice.  Allow the surveyor access to your property and be helpful with any questions he or she may have.  So long as your buyer arranges a survey in good time the survey is unlikely to result in a delay.

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Three things which might make your house more difficult to sell

There are some steps which can be taken to avoid your property being difficult to sell and avoid delays once you have found a buyer.

Alterations without approvals

Many homeowners realise that they may need Local Authority approvals for major works such as extensions, structural alterations, etc, but some works are controlled under Building Regulations which can easily be overlooked, including:

  1. Installation of a wood burner.
  2. Replacement of windows (FENSA certificate required).
  3. Works to drainage installations (above and below ground).

If you plan to extend your property or carry out any works which require Building Control approval make sure that the relevant aspects of the work are undertaken to meet the requirements of Building Regulations.  Ensure that you keep all documentation for any works you have carried out to reduce the risk of your home being difficult to sell.  Pass a copy of all documents to your solicitor so that copies can be forwarded to your buyer’s solicitor when requested.

If works are carried out without the relevant approvals, this may cause a delay or a problem if your buyer is taking out a mortgage to buy the property.  Also, a lack of approval may lead to your buyer questioning the quality of work and in some cases may put them off proceeding with the purchase,  and may result in your house being more difficult to sell.

Alterations which are out of character

When carrying out any works it is a good idea to do work which is in keeping with the age and style of the building.

  1. Replacement windows should match the style of the original windows as closely as possible.
  2. An older house which originally had slates or clay tiles is likely to be ruined if modern concrete tiles are used as a replacement.

For older properties, it is worth spending time sourcing suitable materials, eg, good quality used slates or roofing tiles from a reputable stockist or a reclamation yard.

Poor presentation

Perhaps the most obvious is poor presentation.  A property which has been well maintained is generally more attractive to most buyers.  While your property does not have to be professionally “staged” before putting it on the market, there are a number of things you can easily do yourself to make your home more attractive to a prospective buyer.

  1. Clear out any unwanted items.
  2. Tidy up.  Make sure everything has a home.  A tidier home is more attractive and can make rooms look larger.
  3. Spring clean thoroughly.  Don’t forget windows, mirrors, taps, etc.
  4. Tidy the garden.  Make sure it doesn’t look as though hours of work are needed as soon as someone moves in.
  5. Attend to any small DIY matters such as dripping taps.  Make your home look as though it has been looked after rather than neglected.

buying and selling a house

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When should I arrange a survey?

The time to arrange a survey will fall somewhere within a band between agreeing an offer and exchanging contracts.  First of all, remember that a lender’s valuation for mortgage purposes is not a survey.

If your decision to purchase depends on the condition of the house or flat then it is a good idea to arrange a survey in the early stages.  This way, you can decide whether to proceed with the purchase at an early date and before your solicitor has completed their input.  Many house buyers initially make an offer “subject to survey”.  This way, the buyer makes it clear that the offer may be revised if the survey reveals that costly repairs are required.

A buyer who is relying on a mortgage to make the purchase should wait until the mortgage valuation has been carried out and have received a mortgage offer before instructing a surveyor (unless the valuation and survey are carried out at the same time, in which case the additional cost of the survey may be wasted if the property is valued lower than the purchase price and a mortgage offer is not received).

The most important date to consider before you should arrange a survey is the proposed date to exchange contracts.  Once contracts have been exchanged, a buyer is committed to the purchase and there may be financial consequences if the buyer pulls out after this stage.

Remember to allow sufficient time for the survey to be arranged, undertaken and the report completed before exchange of contracts.  Also, allow some time after receipt of the report to read the report carefully so that you are not rushed into making a decision.  Bear in mind that the report may make recommendations for further investigations or to obtain cost estimates prior to commitment to purchase, ie, prior to exchange of contracts, so that you are fully aware of any terms which may require significant expenditure.  And don’t forget to allow for busy periods and bank holidays, and check whether any parties, advisers, etc, have holidays or time off during the crucial period.

 

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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How much does a survey cost? What affects the cost of a survey?

As a rough guide, the cost of a survey for most properties will fall within the range of £300 to £1,200, depending on type of property, type of survey, level of detail, experience of the surveyor, geographical location, whether a valuation and insurance rebuilding cost are included, etc.  For larger properties the fee could be anything upwards of this figure.  If a firm is VAT registered then VAT will be added to the surveyor’s fee and so you should check whether the fee quoted is inclusive or exclusive of VAT.

The cost of a survey will vary depending on a number of factors including:

  1. Size of property.  Clearly, a house with more rooms will take longer to inspect and this will affect the cost of a survey.
  2. Age of the property.  Many older properties have been the subject of alterations and improvements, some of which may be detrimental to the property.  Alterations give the surveyor more issues to consider during the course if the survey.
  3. Type of property, eg, house, flat, maisonette.
  4. Complexity of the property, eg, whether there are any extensions, whether any alterations have been carried out, whether there are any flying or submerged freeholds, etc. Typically, a surveyor carrying out a survey will ask the vendor about any alterations and other works which they have carried out.  However, some surveyors may simply report that a client ‘s solicitor should make enquiries on such matters.
  5. How detailed the report will be.  Survey reports vary considerably.   A surveyor who prepares a detailed report will clearly need to take more notes and photographs than a surveyor who merely reports “satisfactory” “in need of repair”, etc.

 

Survey with valuation and/or insurance rebuilding cost

A survey cost can vary if any additional services are required such as a valuation figure and/or insurance rebuilding cost. This will clearly affect the time input and therefore the cost of the report.

 

Cost of a survey when carried out by the mortgage valuer at the same time as the valuation

If you are taking out a mortgage then there may be an option to have a survey carried out at the same time as the mortgage valuation.  The mortgage lender will choose who carries out the valuation but remember that it is you, the buyer, who chooses who carries out the survey as this will be carried out on your behalf.  While this may be a cost effective way of having a survey, some purchasers prefer to have the survey carried out by a surveyor who has been recommended to them, eg, by family, friends or their solicitor.

 

Surveys on flats

Some purchasers are surprised at the cost of a survey on a flat.  Flats vary significantly.  A flat may be small, with, say, four rooms, but if it forms part of a large building then it is likely that the Surveyor will need to inspect the external parts of the block, or possibly other blocks on the site.  The terms of the lease must be checked before the survey is carried out, and all areas which the flat owner is either wholly or partly responsible for must be inspected.  This may include roof coverings, roof spaces, walls, drives, parking spaces, walls, etc.  In some cases a survey on a flat will take longer than a survey on a small house, and this is likely to be reflected in the price of the survey.

 

Obtain quotations

You can find names of Chartered Surveyors in your area by contacting the RICS Find a Surveyor facility on ://www.ricsfirms.com/

It is a good idea to forward the sales details for the property to a small number of Surveyors to obtain quotations.  When you obtain quotations for surveys, ask for sample reports so that you can compare the level of detail in addition to the price.  Also, ask who will be carrying out the survey and check that you are happy with their level of experience.  Remember that price is not the only factor in choosing 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 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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Buying a 1930s house: what to look for – wall ties, dampness, lath and plaster, textured coatings

Many people are attracted to buying a 1930s house.  Their style and accommodation often meets modern needs with larger rooms and larger gardens than their modern equivalents.  This article deals with some of the issues commonly encountered when buying a 1930s house of traditional construction.

Buying a 1930s house

1930s houses are now in the order of 80 years old.  Some may have been updated long ago and may need updating again, whilst others may not have been touched for decades.  Consequently, when buying a 1930s house there are a number of common defects to look out for.

Roofs

If you are buying a 1930s house with the original roof covering then yes, it will definitely need replacing.

If the roof covering has been replaced using reclaimed tiles then it is possible that the nibs to some of the tiles may deteriorate and lead to early failure.  It is important to check the roof slopes for any slipped tiles.  Also, check that ridge and hip tiles are adequately bedded in mortar and that hip irons are provided at the lower edges of hips to prevent slippage.

If the roof covering has been replaced then check that there is sufficient ventilation into the roof space.  If insulation is provided at ceiling level this creates what is known as a “cold roof” and the roof space will need to be ventilated to reduce the risk of condensation within the roof space.  Ventilation is often achieved with ventilation openings in the soffit.  Sometimes when additional insulation is provided at ceiling level the ventilation openings at the eaves are blocked.  This can lead to condensation (and dampness) within the roof space and this can lead to rot and/or woodworm to the roof timbers and a reduced life of the roofing felt.  Ensure that insulation does not block any ventilation openings and check for signs of rot and woodworm.  Also, ask the vendor whether any timber treatment works have been carried out and whether there is warranty.

Wall tie corrosion

In the 1930’s many houses were built with cavity walls with steel wall ties.  With cavity walls, wall ties are needed to tie the two leafs of the cavity wall together to prevent separation/bulging.   However, steel ties corrode over time.  When the steel corrodes it expands and can cause cracking to horizontal mortar joints at tie positions and in some cases bulging of the outer leaf can occur.

Corrosion of wall ties is a particular problem in coastal locations and where black ash mortar has been used.

In some instances only part of a property may be affected, eg, the side of the property facing the prevailing wind.  If wall ties are thought to be corroded then a sample of ties should be checked by a specialist wall tie contractor or an independent surveyor using a borescope (instrument used to view inside the cavity) to inspect the part of the wall ties within the cavity.  In addition to installing new ties, some wall ties will require removal to prevent further cracking as the steel ties will continue to corrode and expand if they are not removed.  If the walls are rendered externally, then re-rendering may be required after the remedial wall tie works.

Dampness

Dampness in 1930s houses can be due to a variety of causes including cavity bridging, high external ground levels, a defective or bridged damp proof course, lack of cavity trays above openings, defective rainwater goods and/or plumbing leaks.

It is important to investigate the cause of dampness so that you know what works are required and who will be the best person to employ to carry out the works.   Don’t automatically employ a damp contractor.  A damp contractor may be the right person to deal with rising dampness and timber treatment, or tanking, but if the dampness is due to an overflowing rainwater hopper then it would be better to employ a general contractor.  It is possible that there is more than one cause of dampness, e.g., lowering external ground levels may help but dampness may persist if there are other defects which may be contributing to the dampness.

Don’t confuse penetrating dampness with condensation.  If corners of rooms have mould then this could be due to condensation, particularly if the house hasn’t been heated and ventilated sufficiently and if there are areas lacking in insulation.

Also, if wall plaster contains salts this may give damp readings even if the original source of dampness has been rectified.  Salts often remain in plaster which have previously been affected by dampness and will absorb moisture from the air.  Any plaster which contains salts should be hacked off and replaced as part of any damp proofing works.

Suspended timber floors

Suspended timber ground floors require ventilation to the sub-floor void to prevent high moisture levels which can lead to rot and woodworm to timbers.  Check there are sufficient sub-floor vents and make sure they are not blocked.  If suspended timber ground floors are springy this may indicate rot and/or woodworm to the floor timbers.

If the house has an extension with a solid floor check that there is still adequate ventilation to any remaining sub-floor voids.  Depending on the configuration of the house it may have been necessary to provide ventilation via ducts through the solid floor.

If timbers are built into damp walls then they may be damp and/or rotten and/or have woodworm.

If there has been insufficient ventilation to the sub-floor void  now, or at any time previously, then there may be beetle infestation/woodworm.

When buying a 1930s house, if there are any signs of rot, woodworm and/or dampness then it is a good idea to investigate the condition of the hidden floor timbers before exchange of contracts.  It is also a good idea to get quotations for any repair works and timber treatment before exchange of contracts.

Lath and plaster ceilings

Lath and plaster ceilings are common in 1930s houses.    They are formed with a series of timber laths fixed close together.  Plaster is then applied, using the laths to form a key.  Lath and plaster ceilings can become bonded over time and fail, i.e, collapse.  Failure of lath and plaster ceilings can occur due to water damage/leakage, rot or woodworm to the timber laths, or vibration.

When buying a 1930s house, check any lath and plaster ceilings for cracks and tap at regular intervals in each room to check whether there are any hollow areas.  Replace any defective  lath and plaster ceilings with plasterboard (unless it is a Listed Building with restrictions on the ceilings).  A cheaper alternative may be to line be the underside of the ceiling with plasterboard.  Replacing ceilings is an extremely dusty and messy operation and if possible it is better to carry out this work before moving in.

Textured wall and ceiling coatings

Some textured wall and ceiling coatings (including Artex) contain asbestos.  These were widely used during the 1970s but have also been used in other decades.  If such coatings are damaged, or if are likely to be disturbed by any planned works then samples should be tested to check for asbestos content.  If works are planned to more than one area of a property then it may be necessary to take samples in a number of locations as it is possible there could be different coatings within a single property (coatings may have been applied at different times).  It is also possible that the same area of wall or ceiling has more than one layer of textured coating.

Some works to textured coatings can be carried out by non-licensed workers and may not need to be notified, whilst other works may require notification to the HSE.

Visit the Health and Safety Executive website for further information on textured coatings:

http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/essentials/coatings.htm

Wiring

Even if a 1930s house has been rewired, unless this has been carried out recently the electrical installation is unlikely to meet current standards.  If you are having a survey carried out on the building then this will not include a test of the electrical installation as this is a specialist matter.  Have a qualified electrical contractor inspect and test the installation to check whether any works are required to update the installation.  Many buildings insurance policies require electrical installations to be checked at regular intervals.

Lead pipework

Check whether any parts of the water main, including any hidden areas, are lead.  Replace any lead feed pipework with potable pipework.

 

The above are some of the common issues which should be considered when buying a 1930s house.  However, this list is not exhaustive and is intended as general guidance only.  When buying a 1930s house, consider instructing a surveyor to find out the true condition of the property.

See also How much does a survey cost? and  What should I do after having a survey?

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