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Looking beyond the décor

Don’t let a fancy new Farrow & Ball colour or beautiful interiors distract you from your house viewing. 

House sellers will use every trick in the book to make their home look, smell and feel so desirable that you would happily move in tomorrow. Breadcrumbs under the grill, fresh flowers and a new lick of paint can all deflect the untrained eye into thinking things really are as good as they seem. However, if you want to avoid some of the most common mistakes when buying a home, you need to look beyond the décor to make sure you see the whole house - warts and all.

And this goes the other way too. Don’t write off a home just because the colour scheme doesn’t fit with your sofas or the carpets are sticky and threadbare. Being able to see the potential beyond other people’s tastes and styles will help you find the perfect home for you.

To get a good idea of the condition of the building and decide if it really does warrant a second viewing, here is a checklist of things to look out for:

Looking beyond the decor
Looking beyond the decor

  • Internal Walls – Are there any damp or flaky patches? Is the wallpaper peeling off in the corners? Are there any large cracks? Most cracks are just part and parcel of an old property. A good rule of thumb is if you can get a pound coin into the crack (3mm) then it may need more investigating.
  • External Walls – Take a good look at the property from the outside. Any visible darker patches could indicate a damp problem or issues with the guttering.
  • Electrics – Check the property has a RCD protection in the fuse box. In what sort of condition are the visible cables, light fittings and light switches? Are the plug sockets over-loaded? While it is always recommended to get an electrical installation condition report before you buy, looking for any telltale signs now will help you begin to draw a fuller picture of the current electrics – and what work you might have to do to get them up to date.
  • Doors and Windows – In what condition are they? If there is condensation inside the doubled glazed panes or signs of mould on the window sills, there could be a problem with the window seals and ventilation. If the door frames are warped and not opening or shutting properly, it could be a telltale sign of subsidence.
  • The Roof – Replacing a roof is an expensive business. Check for missing tiles, and if there is a flat roof, check how it has been sealed.
  • The boiler – The quality of the boiler is one of the top considerations for a viewing. A quick look will tell you the boiler’s make and model. Ask when it was installed and check it out online. Turn on the hot tap and see how long it takes to get to the right temperature. A very old boiler might need replacing or be very energy inefficient to run.
  • Storage – Don’t be swayed by a beautifully styled bedroom. Clever lighting, beautiful bedspreads and luxury carpets can all make a room more enticing but think about where all your clothes will go! Is there actually room for a bed and wardrobe, let alone a dressing table and drawers?

While it is very tempting to let a house capture your heart on a first viewing, it is also very important to listen to your head and see beyond the décor to save any expensive disappointments later on down the line.