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  • Writer's pictureSophie Baylis

Period living - What to think about when buying an old home

Updated: Mar 20, 2022

Buying a home can be a daunting task – and buying an old home can be even more challenging. It’s easy to be seduced by a quaint cottage or rural farmhouse, but older properties come with impractical quirks (creaky stairs, squeaky doors, wonky walls and sloping floors to name a few) and all the associated maintenance costs. Plus, the longer you live there, the more quirks (and costs) you'll find! That doesn’t mean you can’t make changes – planning permission permitting – but it does mean you may need some expert guidance.

First steps

If you’re thinking of buying an older property, there are a few things to think about. First and foremost, ensure the building is solid and structurally sound.

Typical signs that there may be structural problems include:

👉 Cracks in the walls

👉 Bulging or leaning walls

👉 Doors and windows that don’t open or close smoothly

👉 Uneven floors

👉 A sagging or leaking roof.

If you do notice issues (for example, cracks in the walls, uneven floors or a sagging roof) contact a surveyor or engage the services of a structural engineer. He/she will be able to advise on the best approach to resolving the problems and what costs are involved.

Step two: check for damp

A small patch of damp might seem unimportant, but if left unchecked, it can be expensive to deal with. What’s more, health conditions such as asthma can be exacerbated by damp, creating an unhealthy environment to live in.

Common signs of damp include:

👉 Mould or mildew on walls, floors or ceilings

👉 A musty smell

👉 Floors or ceilings that are cold or wet to the touch

👉 Dark or discoloured patches on walls or plaster

👉 Peeling wallpaper

👉 Excessive condensation on windows.

There are two main types of damp: penetrating damp, which tends to move horizontally across walls or ceilings, and rising damp, which moves vertically up walls. The best way to check for damp is to use a surveyor, who’ll be able to spot the signs, identify what type of damp it is and pin down the most likely cause. Your surveyor will also advise on how to resolve the problem and the likely costs.

WARNING! When you’re looking around an older property, always make sure that damp patches haven’t been covered up with fresh paint.

Be mindful of previous repairs

Always check the quality of previous repairs or alterations. Shoddy workmanship can – and often does – lead to costly problems in the future, so look for:

👉 Potentially unauthorised alterations or additions

👉 Extension or additions that are badly designed and built

👉 materials and building techniques that aren’t sympathetic to the house.

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