3 common myths about buying a flat: management company, repairs, and flooding 

I’m buying a flat so the management company will take care of any repairs 

In some ways this is true, but in most cases the management company is made up of the individual flat owners. In the majority of cases, flat owners each pay an amount of money to the management company to cover items such as insurance, maintenance and repairs. Sometimes additional payments need to be made if there are insufficient funds to cover outgoings such as unexpected repairs.

In cases whee there is no management company, such as with a two storey terraced house which has been converted to two flats, there may not be a management company.  However, in most cases the leases for the individual flats will set out liability for repairs to the building as a whole.  If there are two similar sized flats then it is likely that the cost of any repairs will be shared equally, but the precise terms would need to be checked.

In a nutshell, in most cases the flat owners are responsible either directly or indirectly, via a management company, for repairs to the building.


I’m buying a ground floor flat so it doesn’t matter what condition the roof is in 

If you are buying a leasehold flat then you will need check the lease clauses. A typical lease will clearly set out a leaseholder’s obligations to repairs and maintenance and will state what proportion of the repairs each leaseholder is responsible for. Many leasehold flats have a management company which will deal with certain repairs, which often includes external repairs. It is possible that each flat owner has to contribute to any works to the roof.

If you are having a survey then it’s a good idea to arrange for the surveyor to have access to any roof spaces (possibly via another flats/s or communal areas) to check for any defects.  See instructing a surveyor. Also, you should enquire with the management company to find out whether they are aware of any defects and whether any repairs are programmed in the near future or medium term.


I’m buying an upper flat so I won’t be affected by flooding

While upper flats are less vulnerable to flooding than ground floor flats and basement/garden flats, you should check the terms of the lease so that you are aware of your liability to any repairs to other flats in the block, including ground floor flats and basement/garden flats.

If parts of the building have flooded previously, then the insurance premium may have increased, or there may be a higher excess in the event of flooding.  In some cases flooding may be excluded from the insurance cover. It is likely that you will contribute to the insurance premium either directly or indirectly through the management company and if this is the case then yes, you may be affected by a risk of flooding.

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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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What type of survey do I need?  Building Survey or Homebuyer Report 

What type of survey do you need before buying a house?  Surveys come with a variety of names such as Building Surveys, Structural Surveys, Homebuyer Reports, and Condition Reports.  Whatever the name, and whatever the type of survey you choose to have, you need to know that the contents of the report are going to give you the information you need to decide whether or not to proceed with your proposed purchase.

A survey isn’t only necessary to advise on the condition of the property and whether there are any defect.  The surveyor may also note issues which require input from your solicitor, or further enquiries or investigations.

Most house buyers would like to know the following:

  1. Are there any defects which need urgent attention?
  2. Are there any defects which require costly repairs which may exceed their budget?
  3. Are there any “unseen” items which are likely to require attention, e.g., wiring, drains, cavity wall ties?
  4. Are there any legal issues such as trespass, eg, overhanging gutters, overhanging eaves, trees, etc?
  5. Are there any factors which may affect buildings insurance such as a flying freehold?
  6. If any recent works have been carried out do they have Local Authority consents? This not only applies to extensions, but other works controlled under Building Regulations including formations of openings in walls, works to kitchens and bathrooms, works to service installations such as wiring and heating.
  7. Does the property contain asbestos? Asbestos can be found in many common materials in residential properties including textured coatings to walls or ceilings, floor tiles, sheet board materials, rainwater goods, some water tanks, man-made slates, etc.   The presence of asbestos containing materials is likely to increase the cost of any repair and alteration works if these need to be disturbed.
  8. Whether there are any known issues in the area such as subsidence, black ash mortar, pitch fibre drains, etc.

 

A mortgage valuation is not a survey

If you are taking out a mortgage on the property then be aware that the mortgage valuation is not a survey.  The purpose of the mortgage valuation is to confirm to the mortgage lender that the property offers sufficient security for the loan.  It is not intended to inform the buyer of the condition of the property and some mortgage lenders do not even pass a copy of the valuation to the applicant (the buyer).

For an average 3 bedroomed house a mortgage valuer is likely to spend around 20 to 30 minutes  carrying out the inspection, compared to around 3 hours for a survey (possibly more or less depending on the age and condition of the property).  For a mortgage valuation the valuer does not normally enter  into the roof space (head and shoulders inspection only) whereas for a survey the surveyor will carry out a detailed inspection of the roof space (subject to safe access being available).

Visit  http://www.rics.org/Global/RICS-HomeSurveys-a-valuation-is-not-survey-REVISED.pdf

The governing body for Chartered Surveyors is The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.  The RICS has produced information aimed at home buyers about the importance of getting a home survey.

View the following video entitled The Importance of Getting a Home Survey  https://youtu.be/LER9SPvdmRs

What type of survey should I have?

One of the most common types of survey is the RICS HomeBuyer Report.  This is a standardised report format suitable for most types of traditionally built property and is based on a visual inspection.  The Homebuyer Report will be carried out by a surveyor with one of the following qualifications – FRICS, MRICS or AssocRICS.

The Homebuyer Report was revised during 2016 and is now available either with or without a Market Value (Valuation) and an insurance rebuilding cost. The Homebuyer Report was previously only available with the Market Value and insurance rebuilding cost.

The Homebuyer Report includes a description of condition, colour coded condition ratings, comments on defects, advice on maintenance, an overall opinion and summary of condition ratings.  However, the Homebuyer Report does not include a detailed description of the construction of the building or detailed advice on specific defects.  It also excludes cost estimates for any repair works.

However, many Chartered Surveyors produce reports in their own format as an alternative to the Homebuyer Report, many of which offer more detailed information.  When you request a quotation for a survey ask what type of survey she they offer.  Also, ask for a sample report and the surveyor’s terms of engagement to make sure the service you choose meets your needs.  The inspections for some types of survey will be visual only, while others may be more detailed and include lifting a sample of floorboards to inspect the floor structure where this is possible without causing damage.

If you plan to carry out any alterations then inform the surveyor prior to the date of the survey so that these can be considered during the inspection.   For example,  if you plan to build an extension it is useful to know where the drain runs are located, also, if you plan to remove any walls you will need to know whether they are load bearing or not.

Decide whether you require any additional services to the basic survey, such as an insurance rebuilding cost or valuation, prior to instructing a surveyor.  There may be additional  costs if the surveyor has to return, for example to take measurements to calculate the rebuilding cost.

View the following video produced by the RICS entitled Choosing the Right Survey (for consumers)

https://youtu.be/9r92bTZYrvA  h https://youtu.be/9r92bTZYrvAttps://youtu.be/9r92bTZYrvA

The different types of RICS surveys are described in the following 13 page document entitled A Clear, Impartial Guide to Home Surveys

http://www.rics.org/Global/RICS-Home-Surveys.pdf

Choosing a surveyor

It is a good idea to ask friends, family or your solicitor for recommendations before instructing a surveyor.   Remember you do not have to have the survey carried out by the person who carries out the mortgage valuation, you are free to choose a surveyor of your choice.

Obtain quotations from Chartered Building Surveyors but remember that the level of detail within reports may vary and so choosing a surveyor is not solely down to cost.

The governing body for Chartered Surveyors is The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.  They hold a register of all Chartered Surveyors and their fields of practice.  To find a suitably qualified surveyor in your area visit RICS Find a Surveyor  http://www.ricsfirms.com/

Finally, whatever the name of the survey report, and whatever type of survey you decide to have, ensure the surveyor you instruct is local and experienced.  Also, ensure that the survey report will provide you with the information you require, in the detail you require.

See also What should I do after having a survey?

Source:  www.rics.org

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1960s houses: common defects – asbestos, condensation, wall ties, pitch fibre pipes

1960s houses are now around 50 to 60 years old.  Construction methods have improved since that time particularly with regard to thermal insulation and safety.

This article deals with just some of the defects commonly found in traditionally built houses built during the 1960s (some can also be found in houses of other decades).

 

Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) in 1960s houses

Asbestos containing materials (ACMs) were commonly used in buildings in the 1960s.  Common uses include:

  1. Textured coatings to walls and ceilings, including Artex. Some may have had an additional coating (or coatings) applied over the years.  In any one property there may be different finishes which may have been applied at different times.  It is possible that some may contain asbestos while others may not.
  2. Asbestos cement products including soffits, verge boards, corrugated roofs to garages, flue pipes, water tanks, cladding to walls/panels, gutters and downpipes, pipes, man-made slates.  Asbestos cement products at eaves level are sometimes hidden by new PVCu fascias and soffits.
  3. Vinyl floor tiles particularly to solid ground floors, often hidden below carpets or sheet flooring.
  4. Asbestos insulating board (AIB), loose fill insulation, lagging, sprayed coatings.

If any asbestos containing materials are damaged, or if any planned works, eg, drilling, sanding, cutting, are likely to disturb any ACMs then have sample/s tested for asbestos content and obtain advice from an asbestos contractor.    Most higher risk works must be carried out by a licensed contractor while other works may be undertaken by a non-licensed contractor.

Visit  http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/

 

High heat loss and condensation

1960s houses have walls which typically allow high heat loss compared to properties built to meet the requirements of current Building Regulations.  High heat loss not only results in higher heating bills, it leads to colder surfaces and often results in condensation.  Condensation isn’t just water running down windows.  Condensation can occur within the structure and on furnishings and it can lead to mould on affected surfaces.  In some instances, condensation can be reduced or avoided by increasing the level of heating and ventilation, but where surfaces are cold, eg, window reveals, corners of rooms, walls behind furniture and where cold bridging occurs, it can be difficult to eliminate completely.

High heat loss (and condensation) can be reduced by increasing insulation.  One popular method is to install cavity wall insulation.  However, not all properties are suitable for cavity wall insulation.  If you plan to buy a house with cavity wall insulation then check the property has been assessed by a CIGA registered installer to ensure it is suitable for cavity wall insulation.  Some properties may suffer rain penetration if they are not suitable for cavity wall insulation.   Following installation, the installer will apply for, and issue, a guarantee.  The CIGA guarantee can be passed on to subsequent owners of the property.  (Similarly, if you plan to install cavity wall insulation in your property then contact a CIGA registered installer to check the property is suitable first).

Visit https://ciga.co.uk/about-ciga/

Lack of safety glass

Some 1960s houses have large windows and glazed doors which incorporate low level glazing.  These houses predate the requirement under Building Regulations for glass in critical locations, eg, at low level, to be safety glass.  Full height or low level glazing which is not safety glass will break easily and this presents a danger to occupants, particularly children.  The glass can easily be upgraded by replacing with safety glass or by applying an adhesive safety film.

 

Wall tie corrosion

The inner and outer leafs of cavity walls are usually tied with wall ties.  Houses constructed in the 1960s were often built using galvanised steel wall ties.  The steel corrodes over time and can cause cracking and/or bowing.  While wall tie corrosion is more common in older properties this is becoming more common as housing of this era ages.  If there are any signs of wall tie corrosion the condition of the ties should be checked to see if additional wall ties need to be installed.

 

Pitch fibre pipes

Pitch fibre pipes were widely used in the 1960s.  They have a tendency to deform under the load of ground, walls, traffic, etc.  This can lead to blockage of the drains or settlement of any structures above the drain runs.  If you plan to buy a property with pitch fibre drains and suspect there may be a problem then it is a good idea to arrange a CCTV survey to check their condition and establish whether they require lining or replacing.

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

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Questions to ask when buying a house

What questions should I ask the vendor when buying a house?

When you first view a property you may ask the vendor questions such as why they are moving, etc, as part of deciding whether this is the right house for you.  As the sale progresses it is inevitable that other questions will crop up but there are some things you may not think about until moving day arrives.  While some of the below may be obvious, others may be overlooked while trying to juggle moving house with work, family, and other aspects of your day to day life.

Before buying a house, remember to ask the vendor:

  1. Where the stop cock is.
  2. How to operate the central heating.
  3. Where all the manhole/inspection covers for the drains are located.
  4. How many keys there are for the doors, including the garage. Also, check there are keys for any window locks.
  5. Which gas and electricity companies currently supply the property.
  6. Which companies provide the landline and broadband.
  7. Which day the refuse and recycling boxes are collected.
  8. When any chimneys were last swept.
  9. Which company currently provides buildings insurance. This is particularly important if the building is a high risk, eg, has flooded previously or is in a high flood risk area.
  10. When any septic tank was last emptied and which company usually carries this out (for private drainage installations).

 

What documents should I obtain from the vendor when buying a house?

While some of these documents would typically be obtained by your solicitor, make sure you obtain copies of any:

  1. Service documents for the central heating.
  2. Service documents for any other gas appliances, eg, fires, cooker.
  3. Receipts/documentation for any recent works.
  4. Planning Approval and Building Control approval documents for any extensions to the property.
  5. Building Control documents for any recent works requiring Building Control approval such as any structural alterations, works to drainage installations, etc.
  6. FENSA certificates for any windows and/or doors replaced since April 2002.
  7. Documentation for any alterations to, or upgrading of, the electrical installation.
  8. Valid warranties for any other works, eg damp proofing, timber treatment.

Getting answers to the above at the right times should go some way towards a smooth move and help you settle into your new home as easily as possible.

See also Checking broadband speed and mobile phone coverage.

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Important things to check when buying a flat

The choice between buying a flat and a house not only varies from person to person, but also depends on personal circumstances which can change over time. This article looks at some of the pros and cons of buying a flat compared to a house.

Guidance on buying a flat

The choice between buying a flat and a house not only varies from person to person, but also depends on personal circumstances which can change over time.  This article looks at some of the pros and cons of buying a flat compared to a house.

 

Advantages of buying a flat

Many people choose to buy a flat for ease of maintenance, particularly flats with no gardens.  Maintenance of the building is normally shared with other flat owners either through a Management Company or by provisions with the lease.  This can be an advantage to those who do not wish to have full responsibility for such issues.

If you do not live at the flat or are away for long periods then important issues such as maintenance and insurance will be dealt with by the Management Company or Managing Agent on your behalf, even in your absence.

 

Tips on buying a leasehold flat

Consider having a survey carried out. This would typically include an inspection within the flat you propose to purchase and the relevant external areas.  As flats vary significantly, including the size of blocks/developments, obtain confirmation from your surveyor as to the extent of the inspection.  The survey will help you to determine whether the block is being maintained by the Management Company and/or the other leaseholders.

In addition, your solicitor should:

  1. Establish whether there is a properly formed Management Company. If there is a Management Company there will be regular meetings and accounts will normally be submitted to Companies House annually.  Where flats are in a smaller block without a Management Company the lease will normally set out responsibilities of the individual flat owners.
  2. Confirm the service charges to the Management Company and what this includes, eg, buildings insurance. Larger blocks with lifts are likely to have higher service charges.
  3. Check the remaining length of the lease of the flat. A property with a short lease may have reduced saleability and in some cases may not be mortgageable.
  4. Check whether any Ground Rent is payable to the Freeholder.
  5. Check details in the lease. Some works may require approval from the Management Company, eg, replacement of windows.  Also, some leases may have a restriction on pets.
  6. Check whether any repairs are programmed to be carried out in the near future.
  7. Check the level of funds available in the Management Company’s account.
  8. Check whether there is an asbestos register for the common parts.
  9. Check whether a Fire Risk Assessment has been carried out on the block. This is particularly important for blocks of 3 storeys and more where escape from the building in the event of a fire may be more difficult.  Check whether any upgrading works are necessary, eg, provision of fire doors, smoke detection and alarm system, etc.
  10. Whether there is an allocated parking space for the flat and/or visitor parking. This is particularly important for flats in a built up area.

Whilst most flats are leasehold, some areas have a number of freehold flats.  If you are considering buying a freehold flat then you must give careful consideration to maintenance and insurance of the building.  You should also consider saleability in the event you wish to resell the property as some mortgage lenders do not lend on freehold flats.

 

See also vital questions to ask when buying a house.

 

 

 

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Choosing between buying and renting a property

The choice between buying and renting not only varies from person to person, but also depends on personal circumstances which can change over time.

Deciding whether to buy or rent a property

While many people would prefer to own their own home, others prefer the flexibility of renting.  Some people may rent in the short term while they save for a deposit to buy their first property while others choose to rent in the long term.  This article looks at some of the pros and cons of buying a property compared to renting.   The choice between buying and renting not only varies from person to person, but also depends on personal circumstances which can change over time.

 

Advantages of buying a property include:

  1. You can make alterations to your own taste.
  2. Have the security of your own home.
  3. If you have a mortgage, you will own your own home at the end of the mortgage term.

Disadvantages of buying a property include:

  1. You will be responsible for maintenance and insurance of the property.
  2. If house prices fall and you have a high mortgage you might find yourself in negative equity.
  3. If you need to move to another area, eg for work, you may need to sell the property. This may take longer when the housing market is slow.
  4. If you have bought the property with cash you will have a large amount of capital tied up in the property, money which is not available for other purposes without selling (or arranging finance).

 

Advantages of renting a property include:

  1. The landlord will normally be responsible for maintenance of the property.
  2. The landlord will normally be responsible for insuring the building.
  3. If you want to move you would typically only have to give one months notice to a landlord. This can be particularly useful if you need flexibility, eg, you might wish to move to a different area for employment.
  4. You can live in a property without long term commitment. This can be useful if you are new to an area and do not yet know which area most suits your needs.

 

Disadvantages of renting a property include:

  1. You will normally need to get permission from the landlord/agent before decorating.
  2. When rents are high it may be more difficult to save for a deposit to buy a first property.
  3. In some areas there is less choice of rental properties than properties for sale and you may find it more difficult to find a property which suits your needs.
  4. A rental property may not feel like “home” particularly if it is short term.
  5. If you rent in the long term you will never own your own home and will have to continue to pay rent.


 

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Buying an old house

When choosing an older house it is important to establish the condition of the property and be aware of any works which are required in the short, medium and long term.

Buying an old house – old versus modern

While some people prefer the benefits of a modern house, others might only ever consider buying an old house.  To some people, the characteristics of an older house can outweigh the disadvantages.  This article has been written with Victorian houses in mind, although some of the points can be applied to houses of other ages.

 

Choosing an old house

When choosing an old house it is important to establish the condition of the property and be aware of any works which are required in the short, medium and long term.  Some properties may require extensive works but this usually has the advantage of allowing the owner to carry out works to their own taste.   On the other hand, it is possible that a property has been maintained and modernised by the present owner, leaving a buyer able to move into their new home and carry out any minor works when time and budget allows.

Whatever condition the property appears to be in, the first step is to arrange a survey.  This will:

  • Help you establish what works are required so that cost estimates can be obtained from contractors. You can then decide whether the works fall within your budget and whether you are prepared to proceed with this particular property with full knowledge of what is required.
  • Help you decide whether to renegotiate the purchase price. However, you must remember that the vendor is under no obligation to reduce the purchase price (and in some cases cannot afford to), and if another potential purchase is ready to proceed then it is possible that you may lose the opportunity to buy the property.

 

Advantages of buying an old house can include:

  1. More character and individuality.
  2. Larger rooms, higher ceilings. Some modern houses, particularly those on high density estates, have small rooms and minimal circulation space.
  3. Interesting features, eg, fireplaces, picture rails, deeper skirtings, plaster cornices, window seats, and exposed beams.
  4. Traditional materials, eg, stone walls, stone floors; slate, clay tiles or thatched roofs rather than concrete tiles.
  5. Original walls and partitions are more likely to be of solid construction rather than modern lightweight partitions and are likely to provide better sound insulation.
  6. Mature gardens.
  7. Useful outbuildings.

 

Disadvantages of buying an old house can include:

  1. Higher heating bills. Solid walls (instead of insulated cavity walls) will allow greater heat loss.  More heat will be needed for larger rooms with high ceilings particularly hall/stair/landing areas.
  2. Draughty windows and doors (unless they have been replaced). Draughty fireplaces.
  3. Lead pipework. Any water supply pipework which is lead should be replaced with modern potable pipework.
  4. Sloping floors and distorted door openings.
  5. Check the cause of any cracking, eg, settlement, expansion and contraction, wall tie corrosion, etc.
  6. If a property is a Listed building then approval will be required to carry out certain works.
  7. Increased maintenance, particularly if windows, doors and joinery at roof level are timber.
  8. Dampness, rot and/or woodworm.
  9. The electrical installation may need upgrading or rewiring may be required.
  10. The heating and hot water system may need upgrading or replacing.
  11. Presence of asbestos containing materials, eg, textured coatings, floor tiles, sheet board materials, rainwater goods, man-made slates.
  12. Mice and/or rats particularly in rural areas. Also, possibility of bats nesting in roofs or outbuildings.

 

See also  How much does a survey cost? and  Is a Mortgage Valuation the Same as a Survey?

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