Planning to do your own initial survey – what must you look for? The state of the décor shouldn’t worry you too much as even if the property is well decorated you will probably change it within the first couple of years. What you should be looking out for are any serious defects that could cost a good deal of money to rectify. Here are five potential serios & expensive problems that are fairly easy to spot . ( more of the background is covered in Part 1 ).


Rising damp is relatively rare. What you should be looking out for is penetrating damp or the bridging of the damp proof course (DPC). It is not unknown for an inexperienced builder to overlay an old patio and lay the new one too high. Reducing the height of a patio and relaying is costly.

Roof Covering

Replacing a defective roof on even a modest sized house is very expensive. A layperson should be able to judge if a roof requires re-covering. Take a pair of binoculars with you. (this is how a surveyor will also make a judgment ). What you are looking for are areas of unevenness, missing or cracked tiles or , if it is a slate roof , look for metal fasteners used to fix replacement slates. Try and get into the loft and if possible shine a torch on the underside of the covering – has it been felted? If it is tiles, are the nibs of the tiles perishing? If you can do all these checks you should be able to form an educated judgment of how close to the end of its lifespan the roof covering is.


Repairs to chimneys can be expensive because of the difficulties involved with access. For anything other than a minor repair the area will need to be scaffolded out. First, stand at the front or rear of the property in line with the chimney stack to see if it’s plumb. Chimneys in older properties can start to lean if one side is constantly exposed to the elements and the other is reasonably sheltered. Next, get your binoculars out again and look closely at the brickwork. Is the pointing intact and what is the condition of the bricks? Chimneys are generally more exposed to the elements than the rest of the property and therefore vulnerable to frost damage. When a wet brick freezes the surface can delaminate and fall away.


Because cables need to be hidden in walls and floors re-wiring normally goes hand in hand with a complete re-decoration. What you should look for are the clues to how old the installation is and whether and additions have been done in a professional manner. Start by looking at the consumer unit; if it is metal and has ceramic wired fuses it is probably at least 25 years old. This is not to say that it is necessarily dangerous but it is probably insufficient for modern usage and so may have some add-ons.   Look for evidence of testing. When an installation is tested the electrician will normally label it with a sticker recommending when the next inspection should take place (normally 5 years later). Finally, look out for earth bonding. This is the yellow and green wire that should be clipped on to metal pipes in exposed areas such as the bathroom. If a number of these deficiencies are present you are probably looking at re-wiring.

Gas Central Heating

If the property has gas central heating first try and establish what type of boiler is fitted. There are two main types; system boilers work in conjunction with a cold water tank (usually in the loft) and a metal cylinder whilst combination boilers (often called combis) supply heat and hot water as it is required. If you are unsure ask the Vendor / Agent or if the property is vacant turn on a hot tap and see if the boiler fires up (if it does it is a combination boiler). As a rough guide combination boilers have a lifespan of around 10 years and system boilers about twice that. If you are not familiar with the appearance of boilers through the ages you may not be able to tell how old it is by just  looking at it. Take a note of the make and model and either go onto some of the internet forums or contact the makers to try and establish the age. All replacement boilers must now be “condensing” which are more expensive than the traditional type.

If you wish to discuss the above or are interested in the Property market in Harrogate then please come along and see us and enjoy a free no obligation chat about the property services we provide.