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What to look out for when buying a home

29th Aug 2023

Buying a house is an exciting time, but sometimes people abandon reason in the face of a house that looks perfect on the surface. The beautiful face of your dream house might be hiding costly repairs and major issues so it’s important to take some time to look out for potential issues. Below are ten potential problems you should look for now to prevent headaches further down the line.

Space for Growth

First and foremost, it’s easy to overlook space issues when you fall in love with a home. However, you must consider whether the home has enough space for you and a growing family. Some newer homes may not have enough storage space, so it helps to figure out where you’ll store things. How big are the built-in units? Is there a laundry room? A downstairs cloakroom? What does the storage space look like in each room?

You should also consider whether your existing furniture will fit in your new home. While many buyers purchase new furniture in the months after buying a home, you need to make sure the rooms are big enough to hold your existing furniture.

If your family is still growing, you should carefully consider whether your family has the space to grow in this home. Is there enough space if you have another child? If you have two?

Shared-Access and Services

Shared access like a driveway, or shared services such as a septic tank, should be carefully evaluated before you purchase a home. Even if you’ve met the neighbours and think sharing access and services won’t be a problem now, what happens if they move, and the new neighbours aren’t as accommodating, or you have a disagreement? Will bad neighbours have a major negative impact on your experience or make it difficult for you to sell? Check the land registry and make sure the share access or services is official and not just a gentleman’s handshake between previous occupants.


Damp is often a sign of a bigger problem, like a leaky roof or plumbing problems. Sometimes it’s easy to spot, because of a mouldy smell, flaky plaster, or watermarked interiors. However, signs of damp aren’t always obvious. Some sellers repaint rooms to conceal damp, so it’s important to be wary of freshly painted rooms with perfect paint.

Take time to inspect the walls in built-in units. One couple was shopping for a home and didn’t find signs of damp anywhere. During inspection, their surveyor found damp and developing mould in one of the bedroom wardrobes!

Structural Issues

Structural issues are often some of the costliest to fix, so it’s good to look out for issues early in the buying process. While some hairline cracks are normal, big cracks can be a sign of an even bigger problem. Examine around extensions in the building and bay windows as these areas are particularly prone to cracks when structural issues exist. In general, any cracks more than a few feet long should be examined by your surveyor. If you can fit your finger in a crack, it’s more likely to be a sign that there’s a major structural problem. Your mortgage company will likely also require a structural report to confirm the condition of the property.

Roof Problems & Leaks

A roof only lasts 15 to 20 years, so the age of your roof can play a major factor in unexpected expenses down the road. Even if there aren’t any signs of leaks, an old roof will probably need to be replaced within your first years of living in a home. Ask the current owners when the roof was last replaced or any work that’s been carried out in recent years. This gives you an idea of whether it’s been well maintained or not. Check for any slipped tiles or cracks, guttering and ridge seals to spot any potential issues. If the roof is flat or almost flat, then check for unsealed edges or cracks in the substrate which may cause leaks and major water damage, both of which are costly repairs.

Plumbing Problems

You won’t be able to spot most plumbing problems without an expert’s opinion. However, you can run taps to make sure there’s good water pressure and how long it takes for the water to heat. Take a moment to figure out if radiators work, check if visible pipes are insulated, flush toilets, and check underneath the basins for any leaks at the joints.

On older properties pre 1970 may have lead piping, therefore you will need to get these replaced at some point. Old boilers may also need replacing, which can cost thousands of pounds so get the seller to have a boiler service and inspection as part of the sales agreement or get them to take out boiler indemnity insurance which could cover you for any future issues with the boiler.

Electrical Problems

There are a variety of electrical problems that plague homes and lead to costly repairs. Make sure the house has enough power points for your needs. Adding power points later is an expensive addition. Since the number of power points is often overlooked when looking for a new home, this is a good thing to consciously consider. Especially if you are looking to reconfigure the use of a space, knock down walls and generally mess about with the layout.

Watch out for signs of faulty wiring, such as power points that don’t work, light switches that don’t do anything, fuses being tripped when putting on several appliances at once. Older properties may require a full or partial re-wire, so if the property you’re looking at is over 30-years old then be mindful that a rewire may be required.

Window Conditions

The external window frames can often give you a good idea of how well the sellers took care of the home. If they’re in great condition, the owners likely took care of most things in the home.

However, you should keep an eye out for window issues since window replacement is an expensive update. If you can push your finger into a wooden frame, it’s rotten. If double-glazed windows have condensation between the two pieces of glass, the windows are faulty. For new windows, ask the sellers to provide a FENSA or similar certificate. This ensures the quality of the installation and informs you of the windows’ age.

If you are looking at a listed property or one that sits in a conservation area or national park, be mindful that you may need to adhere to strict rules regarding the outside of your property and double-glazed PVCU windows may not be allowed. This means that hardwood is likely the material of choice and will require regular upkeep.

Attic Conditions

Even if you don’t plan to use the attic, you shouldn’t ignore its condition. Is it easy to access? Can it be used for storage space? Could you convert it to bedrooms later? One of the most important things to look for in an attic is how well it’s insulated. If an attic isn’t properly insulated, you may spend more heating your home during winter months. With energy costs increasing this is something you should be looking at or getting your surveyor to review.

Other Considerations

Is the house a listed building? Which way does the house face and where does light come in during different parts of the day? If there are solar panels on the roof, then are these in a 25-year rental agreement?

It may also help to visit the home during different parts of the day to consider outside noise and lighting. Is the home sound-proofed enough that you don’t hear your neighbours? Is the neighbourhood noisy or near a busy road? These things cannot be changed easily, so it’s important to consider them before making a purchase.

Buying a new home is both exciting and terrifying. If you think you’ve found the perfect home, make sure to take the time to carefully look for any existing issues. Just because a home looks like it’s move-in ready doesn’t mean it isn’t concealing major issues. With this list in hand, you’re ready to scope out any potential issues.


At 3mc, we have a team of expert advisers who can discuss all your mortgage requirements. If you would like to discuss your options, give the 3mc team a call on 0161 962 7800.

All calls are recorded for training and monitoring purposes. 3mc for intermediaries only.


*Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage. 3mc (UK) Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register https://register.fca.org.uk/s/ under reference 302992. Please note: The FCA do not regulate Business Buy to Let Mortgages.