Thorough preliminary research will safeguard your finances from being thrown down the drain
Take note of the surrounding areas – if the approach is though a low standard neighbourhood or an industrial estate it could reduce the desirability of the house to future buyers.
Go back to the house several times at different times of day to get an accurate view of the place – what seems like an idyllic country lane could turn into traffic hell during rush hour.
Check out the upkeep of the area – are the gardens well kept? Is there litter lining the streets? Is there graffiti on road signs?
Cracks can be evidence of active or dormant structural movement. Large continuous diagonal cracks could mean a serious problem. Underpinning, which would involve digging beneath the walls and pouring in concrete foundations to stabilize the property.
Bowed walls usually occur when the roof needs repairing and in some cases the wall will have to be knocked down and rebuilt, which is expensive.
Damaged render – cracks in render aren’t necessarily a sign of a major structural problem. However, it’s best to check the wall beneath it isn’t also damaged
Roofs – look out for broken and missing tiles, damaged or missing lead flashing. Is the roof bowed? If so, it could mean replacing the whole roof and there could be damage to the structure.
Dry rot – is easy to spot because it smells like mushrooms and looks like strands of cotton wool. It penetrates the timbers, destroying them. Chemical treatments cost are quite expensive but you will also need to pay for repairs and solving the damp problem by improving ventilation.
Climbing plants – can conceal any problems that lie beneath. Check that the growth hasn’t got between or underneath the roof tiles, allowing in damp. Damage will vary, but if the plants are removed the house should dry out and it’s likely that it will only need repointing.
Structural and defects survey
It’s always advisable to get a detailed structural and defects survey carried out by a surveyor, particularly if you notice any damp patches, bulges, or cracks.
Research property values in the area – no matter how nice your completed house is there will be a ceiling price that it’s unlikely to break.
Study the characteristics of local houses to get an understanding of the kind of design that could be successful when you come to apply for planning permission.
Speak to estate agents to see what’s happening in the local property market – they will know whether an area is on the up and therefore a good investment.
Find out the standard of local schools – a good school can increase the value of a house if it’s within its catchment area.
Easy access to local shops will be attractive to future buyers.
Check public transport – good links to the nearest town or city will add to its appeal.
Restrictive covenants can be placed on properties that stipulate what you build and how you use the land, so it’s worth looking into before money changes hands.
Wayleaves give rights of access to people so that they can maintain an adjacent property or access services that run across you land.
Border and boundary issues
Make sure the boundaries are clear and fixed by checking with the owners, your solicitor and on site – if a neighbour has been using a strip of land that belongs to the plot unopposed for over 12 years they have the legal right to lay claim to it.
If the property is connected to the mains services, find out which ones.
Check whether the services are shared with or cross other properties – you may have to pay maintenance and repair charges.
If it isn’t connected to services, work out how much it will cost to connect to see if it’s a viable option.
Properties with planning permission
Study the paperwork relating to the property – is it outline or full planning permission?
Are there any conditions? If there are conditions that involve a third party, get the vendor to arrange and pay for any legal documents that need to be drawn up before you buy.