DIY Quick Check Survey for house hunters
All too often, we fall into the trap of house hunting with our hearts and not our heads. Research from TrustMark UK revealed that this leads to homeowners spending thousands of pounds on unplanned maintenance costs. So here is a quick and easy DIY checklist when you are viewing a property to avoid any nasty surprises.
Your DIY survey when viewing a property
As a starting point, the top things house hunters should be checking for in general when viewing a property are:
- Smell and signs of damp– looks behind furniture, look in corners, feel walls that look damp. Are they very cold or worst, wet?
- Boiler efficiency – how old is the boiler, who installed it, when was it last serviced?
- Heating – check for efficient radiators; if turned on, are they warm at the top? Are there signs of leaks or rust? Do radiators have thermostatic valves so you can turn them off in unused rooms? How is the heating controlled? What fuel is used? Is the hot water tank insulated and is there lagging on pipes?
- Insulation – is the loft insulated? Ask if any additional cavity wall insulation has been added too, when and by whom
- Drafts – hold a hand up or put your cheek nearby to check for poorly insulated windows and doors
- Double glazing – flush fitting to external walls, condensation or signs of moisture between panels.
- Japanese knotweed in the garden – read our guide to find out how to spot it
- Poor decoration – badly fitting kitchen units and doors, fitted wardrobes and other built-in units around the home
- Cracks in the plastering of internal walls and visible gaps in the pointing between bricks on external walls
- The quality of the bathroom suite, fixtures and fittings
- Leaking gutters, or incomplete guttering, signs of blockages around external gutter drains
- Water damage/ Flood risk – signs of water marks on floorboards, ceilings, and tide marks on lower walls or skirting boards
- Plumbing – signs of longstanding leakages i.e. on U-bend pipes
- Wiring and electrics – up to date fuse boards and circuit boards (see below)
- Roof maintenance – missing slates, chimney stacks
This is a great place to start but nothing can replace a professional surveyor to report on the condition of a property you’re looking to buy. Find a Local Surveyor today with our free tool.
Look closer at the electrics
When it comes to wiring and electrics we suggest you check the condition of the fuse board and look for an installation certificate. As a general rule of thumb:
- Old fuse type = poor
- Modern circuit breaker type = reasonable
- Latest button press trip type = good (and all circuits will have been checked when this type was fitted)
There are some clear signs that can help you tell the age of electrical installations in a home. These are:
- Cables coated in black rubber (phased out in the 1960s)
- Cables coated in lead or fabric (before the 1960s)
- A fuse box with a wooden back, cast iron switches, or a haphazard mixture of fuse boxes (before the 1960s)
- Older round pin sockets and round light switches, braided flex hanging from ceiling roses, brown and black switches and sockets mounted in skirting boards (before the 1960s)
- Wall-mounted light switches in bathrooms (before the 1960s)
There are also some simple, visual checks that homebuyers can look out for. These are:
- Ensure that sockets are not damaged or have burn marks on them
- Check that visible cables and leads are in good condition
- Check that light fittings are not visibly damaged and that down-lighters are in good working condition
- Check the condition of the main fuse board (consumer unit). Is it a new or would it need updating?
You could also ask if the following relevant documents are available to ensure all electrical work is up to standard in the property, particularly if you know work has been carried out to the property or if it was previously rented:
- Electrical Certificate (Installation/Modification)
- EICR (Electrical Installation Condition Report) (to indicate any work needed)
- Building Regulations Compliance Certificate (also known as a Part P Certificate)
- Minor Works Electrical Certificate
Relevant documents such as warranties, receipts, evidence of compliance with building and planning regulations or proof of maintenance services carried out will be asked for by your conveyancing solicitor. But if the homeowner of the house you are viewing is amenable you could use this viewing as an opportunity to ask whether these documents are available. You don’t need to see them now, but you could explain it would be reassuring for you to know now that they are there. The main ones are:
- A receipt of the last boiler service, service history (if any), any warranties in place and user manual
- Evidence of compliance with building regulations (ie a completion certificate) for any changes to or installation of new heating system, new windows or doors, additional new rooms or conversions
- Renewable energy technologies – type, age and condition, any current warranties, any service / maintenance history, any tied finance like Green Deal, evidence of good roof integrity if roof mounted solar panels
- If solar panels are installed (PV & Thermal), buyers should ask whether the installation was done correctly, and if in a block of flats who owns it and is responsible for its maintenance? Check whether this will cause an issue with obtaining a mortgage
If the property comes with a garden, or outside space we suggest you check:
- Trees and Hedges generally: Trees in your garden which may block light and cause a nuisance, e.g. leaf-fall, or trees in neighboring gardens / in the street causing the same. Hedges will require regular maintenance
- Tall or well established trees in your garden or a neighbouring property with roots close to dividing walls or external walls of the property
- Are there any tree protections? Tree Preservation Orders AND Conservation Area designations (as these restrict what you can do to trees in terms of pruning and/or removal.)
- Signs of invasive species i.e. Japanese Knotweed
We advise homeowners to seek professional advice – this is a starter guide only. Please go to our Find a Local Surveyor page to get details of chartered surveyors providing full buildings surveys in your area.
With thanks to TrustMarkUK.