Buying a house is one of the most expensive and stressful things you can do but on those days when your solicitor is ignoring your calls and your completion date is slipping off into the sunset, you can at least console yourself that once the keys are in your hand everything will be plane sailing. Unfortunately, this is often not the case.
It doesn’t matter how new your house is, how experienced a buyer you are, or how carefully you inspected your new home, there will always be snags and nasty surprises.
When Grumpy Dad and I moved into our new home we were so excited. It was only 10 years old, an absolute bargain, and apart from a fitted kitchen that we didn’t like, it seemed perfect. For the first few days we bustled around the house, excitedly unpacking, but it didn’t take long for the house to start to reveal its skeletons and for such a young house, they were many!
So, as a result of this and other house buying experiences. Here is my list of things to look out for, when you move home.
Light fixtures aren’t something you would necessarily think to inspect when you’re looking over your dream home but in my experience it pays to glance up once in a while. Finding broken or non-standard light fixtures is fairly common and both are cheap and simple to fix if you’re willing to turn your hand to a bit of DIY. However, if you’re not confident enough to change a light fixture yourself you will need to hire an electrician which will be a lot more expensive.
In our new home, I was caught completely off guard when I changed a bulb in one of our kitchen spot lights and discovered that all of the housings were tarnished and rusty. Goodness only knows how they have found themselves in that state but when we redecorate the kitchen they will have to go so I will be replacing them with a set of tilting spotlights from First Lighting so that I can add a little atmosphere to an otherwise flat and cold room.
Electrical sockets and switches
There are dozens of electrical sockets and switches in the average house, but I bet you didn’t think to look at one of them when you viewed your new home, I know I didn’t, but with all the usage they get it’s not surprising that they sometimes get damaged.
Our new home had no less than 3 damaged sockets/switches that were in need of replacement but again, this is a very easy DIY job, so long as your willing to take it on.
Plumbing is my least favourite DIY job, but problems do crop up and they’re the sort of thing that a family in the process of moving, might sweep under the carpet. While spotting a plumbing issue isn’t easy you may be able to see the tell-tail sings if you look hard enough. Look for discoloured patches and badly cracked ceiling boards as this may suggest a leak, also look for patches of fresh paint and question whether the seller is trying to hide something.
When you check the kitchen look under the sink for both standing water and signs that the cupboards have been wet such as discolouration or buckled / peeling veneer. I didn’t do this check and later discovered a fairly major slow leak in the boiler condensation outlet which has ruined the cupboard.
You would be forgiven for being excited if a seller informs you that they’re leaving all of their appliances. We certainly were! But this is a gift horse that you should most definitely look straight in the mouth, otherwise you may find yourself inheriting the cost and inconvenience of scrapping the appliances.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the age and condition of the appliances and if you don’t like the answers just say thanks but no thanks.
Grumpy Dad and I were really happy when we discovered that our kitchen would come complete with a washing machine, dishwasher, and fridge freezer. But our excitement soon disappeared when we discovered that the washing machine smelled, the dishwasher racks were broken making it unusable, and the fridge freezer alternated between freezing and heating our food without warning.
I can’t stress this enough. Get your boiler insured and serviced the moment you move in! You may be tempted to save the money and risk it, particularly if your new boiler isn’t very old, but this is a mistake.
I’ve been caught out by boilers in two separate new homes. The first was uninsured and broke down in the middle of winter leaving me to freeze. After that I learned my lesson so when Grumpy Dad moved in to our new home I insured the boiler straight away and it’s a good thing I did! You can read the long version of my boiler troubles HERE but in short. The previous owners had hidden the fact that there was a leak in the airing cupboard, then we had the insure with the condensation pipe, the thermostat didn’t read the temperature correctly, and then to top it off a very expensive circuit board broke leaving the boiler completely inoperable.
Never trust that a shower will be in good working order as in my experience broken showers are very common!
On two separate occasions I have moved into a new home to discover that the mixer tap on a shower has been broken. Regular mixer showers are as simple to fit as new taps, however if your unlucky enough to get stuck with a broken electric shower you will need to arrange for someone who is qualified to fit a new one but replacing your shower doesn’t need to cost the earth. On both occasions I have had to do this I’ve been able to get a very good deal on a shower at B&Q.
I’m sure I don’t need to stress the importance of fire safety but it’s worth noting that you should never assume the fire alarms in your new home are in good working order. One of the first things that you should do upon moving into your new home is check the fire alarms and this includes checking the expiry dates.
As with most modern houses ours had hard wired fire alarms so we didn’t think to do anything but the most cursory of checks… If you press the button does it beep! However when one of them started to play up I took a closer look and realised that the expiry date was a year past. Replacing the alarm wasn’t a big job but as with all electrical DIY, if you’re not confident you will need to hire an electrician.
If you would like more information on how to keep your home and family safe from fire, take a look at the Fire Service website http://www.fireservice.co.uk/safety/.
State of repair
When you view your house for the first time you will be looking at it firstly, with rose tinted glasses and secondly, at a point when it will be cleaner and tidier than it has ever been before. The house may look like a show home while it’s being sold, but that is no indication of how well it was maintained in the past.
If a seller is intent on making the house look good, you’re unlikely to spot that it has previously been neglected before you have your offer accepted, but you can give yourself a heads up by requesting a viewing a few weeks before you complete. Look for things like staining in toilet bowls, scratched chrome indicating that harsh scrubbing has been required, an abundance of spiders suggesting that the house hasn’t been hoovered or dusted frequently, obvious repairs to walls and doors etc. suggesting that the seller hasn’t cared for the house well.
When Grumpy Dad and I viewed out new home it absolutely sparkled, however when we moved in several months later we realised that the cleaning done before the viewing was a one off. The build up of lime scale in the toilets suggested that they hadn’t been cleaned for years, there were cellar spiders everywhere, many of the doors have dents or repairs where they’ve been kicked or punched, and all of the taps have had the chrome plating scratched off by abrasive pads.
Hopefully this list has given you some ideas for things to look out for when you buy your new home but if you have a tip for new home checks, I’d love to hear them!
*This post was written in collaboration with First Lighting. All comments and opinions are my own.