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Red Flag Warning Signs to Watch Out For when Buying a Property

They say an Englishman’s home is his castle, so it is hardly surprising that home ownership is a goal to which many people aspire. Once you own your own home, you have a measure of security tenants don’t enjoy. The place is yours to improve, decorate, and enjoy forever if you choose not to sell up and move on. However, while all this may sound rosy, home ownership can and often does go horribly wrong.

A home inspection can hide a catalog of horrors. Unwitting buyers are frequently duped into spending money on properties riddled with insect infestations, damp, structural problems, and all manner of expensive issues. A good survey will pick up many problems, but before you spend money on a survey, it is sensible to open your eyes and look closely in every nook and cranny of a property that catches your interest.

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Owners often go out of their way to hide issues, so you need to look beyond the stylish décor and attractive furniture. The fabric of the property is far more important than what color the walls are or whether the yard is large enough for a swimming pool. To help you avoid making an expensive mistake, here are some red flag warning signs.

Remember, forewarned is forearmed!


If the property is damp, you will be able to smell it the moment you walk through the door. Damp homes smell musty. Follow your nose and see where the smell emanates from. Look out for salt coming through the wall and mold on walls, timber, and soft furnishings.

There are different types of damp. Rising damp comes up through the walls and floor and can be a real problem in basement rooms. If there are salts and mold on the walls, fixing the problem will be expensive and invasive. Long-term damp problems affect timber, causing it to rot. Replacing a rotten floor is not an easy task, especially if you are living in the property. Think carefully before you buy a house riddled with damp, as even with specialist work you may not completely eradicate the problem.

Thankfully, spotting the signs of damp is not always bad news. A leaking pipe hidden inside a wall or under a floor can be the underlying cause of a damp problem. Damp can also be the result of a blocked drain or downpipe, and in each case, Salt Lake City plumbing professionals can fix this type of problem.

Timber Problems

Timber frame homes are common in North America. Wood is an inexpensive and readily available building material, and when looked after, it is very strong. The problem with timber is that it is susceptible to damp and insect infestation. Pay close attention to any timber in a property. Look for signs of rot, mold or insect damage. Rotten windows are not difficult to replace, but if the floorboards are crumbling away or the roof timbers are showing the signs of damage, you are looking at an expensive fix.

Pest Infestations

Pests are great at hiding, so an insect infestation may not be immediately apparent. Fortunately, there are a few signs to look out for, so be vigilant during the home inspection. Look out for pest droppings in cupboards and along the edge of skirting boards. Be nosy and inspect under furniture and inside cupboards. If there are droppings, traps, or evidence of nesting activity, the property has a serious infestation. Termite damage in timber is very serious as it can affect the structural integrity of the property. Look for holes in wood, shed wings and sawdust. Listen out for strange sounds. If you can hear scurrying sounds from within walls, it is not a good sign. Check outdoors, too, as pests rarely restrict their activities to the back yard and most infestations begin outside and head indoors.

Structural Problems

Stand back from the property and look closely at the roof and walls. Does the roof sag in the middle? Are there any alarming cracks on the walls? Have any of the windows dropped or does the building lean to one side? Structural issues are serious and it is usually advisable to walk away from a property with problems of this nature.

Difficult Neighbors

Always visit a property at different times of the day. Your dream house may be quiet in the day, but the neighbor’s house is party central at night.
It is also worth speaking to the neighbors, to find out whether there are any issues related to the property you should know about.

Images from Linhares Dias House by Bloco Arquitetos

Thallus for White in the City by Zaha Hadid Architects