Estate agent advice: ‘Red flags’ to lookout for on property viewings to avoid ‘problems’
During a property viewing, prospective buyers try to get a sense of how well a house will fit their needs: Does it have enough bedrooms? Is the kitchen large enough? Do the bathrooms need updating? It’s important to remember, though, that a house – the single biggest investment most people will ever make – has to do more than just suit a list of requirements. It also has to be in good shape. To help prospective buyers determine the condition of a property, the standard listing contract includes a disclosure form where the seller is supposed to list all the known defects of the house. The seller may not, however, be aware of all the defects, and some sellers may intentionally omit problems, hoping buyers won’t notice them.
Most mould isn’t of the scary toxic variety like, for instance, Stachybotrys, but inhaling any type of mould spores can contribute to respiratory symptoms, headaches, and other illnesses, and the presence of mould may indicate a problem with the house.
Sam explained: “Signs of damp and mould are one of the key issues that you may notice particularly with an older property.
“Ask if it’s ok to have a look behind furniture that’s against walls, especially in colder rooms with external walls.
“Dampness, stains and peeling or patchy new paint are all red flags signalling a problem that could cost a lot of money to resolve, not to mention the health problems around being exposed to mould.”
“If the house, you are viewing or houses in the same street or neighbouring streets have a high turnover (e.g. sold three or four times in the last five to 10 years) it’s also worth investigating why this might be and even asking other local estate agents for information – it’s not always a bad sign but could be a red flag for a variety of reasons.
“Similarly, be sure to also look out for unoccupied properties.
“You can also research any approved or declined council planning permissions to see how the area might change or how likely it might be that future potential planning permissions would be granted on the property you’re viewing — and don’t be afraid to ask locals and neighbours about specific areas.”
Good mobile reception and broadband availability is another issue to be on the lookout for.
In an age of working from home, reliable phone connection and fast broadband coverage have never been so important when looking at potential areas to live, yet are “likely overlooked”, says Sam.
He explained: “Having a bad connection can incur increased costs such as paying for coverage boosters.
“When viewing a home, be sure to check signal bars on your phone when looking around the house to understand which areas of the house have better connection and which don’t.
“You can also view 4G and 5G coverage maps online or use the Ofcom mobile and broadband availability checker by postcode.”
In terms of WIFI speeds, they can vary enormously.
The property pro suggested: “Ask the estate agent how old the property is, whether fibre optic service is available, how far down the phone line the house is located and if they have experienced any issues with internet connection.
“If you are unsure, you can also conduct your own speed test via speed test apps on your mobile phone and seek internet providers advice before making a decision.”
It’s not always easy to spot when there could be a problem with a property structurally, but cracks are a good indication.
Sam explained: “Visible cracks in walls or ceilings might not always look very imposing, but if left untreated cracks could become an expensive issue further down the line.
“Plus, they might indicate there are more cracks you can’t see. Be sure to get these checked during your survey process and make sure to look for external cracks too.”
Not only does the inside of properties need to be checked for problems, so does the garden.
The estate agent noted if the property being viewed has a particularly overgrown garden buyers may want to request a professional survey to check for any signs of hidden poisonous or invasive weeds such as Japanese knotweed, giant hogweed, horsetail, or common ragwort.
Sam said: “Some could be dangerous to pets and Japanese knotweed exploits weaknesses in building foundations and drainage systems, often making buildings structurally unsound – some mortgage lenders have even declined applications because of it.
“Make sure you know what’s lurking in overgrown shrubbery and how it can be disposed of.”