Five ‘red flags’ for house buyers to avoid ‘serious issues’

Sarah Beeny: Things to look out for when viewing a property

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Many Britons see the New Year as a fresh start so it’s a popular time for potential buyers to start their house hunt. While there are no doubt plenty of things you would love to see in a property (new kitchen, large bedrooms, stylish decor and a beautiful garden), there are certain red flags to look out for when buying a home. Property experts at You Convey have shared five of them, some of which can lead to “more serious issues”.

Five red flags to look out for

1. Structural issues 

When viewing a property it’s not always obvious when there’s a structural problem and most properties have a few hairline cracks here and there.

However, the experts warned that if a crack is “wider than half an inch” it’s sensible to have a foundation contractor examine the area, as this may indicate a “weak foundation”. 

Additionally, leaning or bulging walls, leaky roofs or uneven floors can be signs of structural problems so the property pros noted that buyers should keep their eyes peeled on those viewings and shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions to the estate agent and seller.

The foundation of a home is hugely important so ensure you have a thorough survey conducted by a reputable company before you complete the purchase.

2. Unusual smells 

There are likely to be smells in other people’s homes that are different from your own, but strange, unpleasant smells could indicate a “more serious issue”, warned the experts, such as mould.

They explained: “Inhaling any type of mould over time can cause illnesses, contribute to respiratory symptoms and may indicate further problems with the house.”

In cases where the property has been cleared of mould, the problem could be with the drains or plumbing. 

Chances are that you will notice a bad smell within seconds of entering a property but also keep an eye out for signs that the current owner may be trying to mask a foul odour.

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Keep an eye out for lots of air fresheners and candles, if there’s more than a few located in one area they may be an “indication of a cover up”.

3. Water stains 

Buyers should never forget to look up at the ceilings when viewing a house, as any water stains or a sagging ceiling may be signs of a plumbing problem or leaky roof, warned the experts.

They added: “A leaky roof or window can also result in rotted structural wood over time, so if there is a leak it’s vital to find out where it’s coming from to assess how much damage it’s caused, before making any kind of offer.”

Even a small amount of water from a window or a roof can cause larger structural problems if it’s not sorted out.

4. Location 

When house hunting buyers should do their research before buying a home in an area with which they are not familiar.

No matter how perfect the property may seem, if there’s many homes in the area up for sale this could be a “red flag” to look out for, as it could be an indication of problems with the surrounding area. 

The property pros said: “Make sure to do your research so you’re clued up about crime rates, any plans for proposed landfill and any negative press about the neighbourhood.”

Not just the usual research – schools, shops and other house prices – but look at the local newspaper online or the social media community pages.

If you are very keen on a particular property go back at different times of the day to assess traffic levels and speak to the neighbours to sound them out on living in the street.

5. Bargain price

There’s no doubt that everyone loves a bargain, but if the price tag seems “too good to be true” then the chances are that unfortunately it probably is, noted the experts.

They said: “If the price seems like a steal there could be an underlying reason (or several) as to why, which could lead to expensive repairs further down the line.”

Of course there can be genuinely valid reasons for a dramatic price drop, for example a seller looking for a quick sale due to personal circumstances, however it’s always worth asking why.

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