Problems to Watch for When Buying an Older Home


Buying an older home can be an exciting prospect – you get more character and period features than in a new build. However, there are some potential pitfalls to look out for when purchasing an older property. Being aware of these issues and inspecting the house thoroughly can help avoid expensive surprises further down the line.

Structural Issues

One key area to investigate is the structural integrity of the building. Older properties tend to be built with softer woods than modern homes, so may have problems like woodworm, wet rot, or subsidence. Look out for cracks in walls and ceilings, sloping floors, sticky doors and windows. This could indicate movement in the foundations. Have a professional survey done to determine if repairs are needed.

It’s also important to check the roof closely. Look for any loose, damaged or missing tiles or slates, as well as excess moss growth which can allow water to penetrate. Sagging roof linings suggest further investigation is needed. Gutters and chimney stacks should be examined too.


Damp is another common problem in older homes. Rising damp occurs when water from the ground seeps into walls and causes rot, mould and degradation of plaster. Look for a ‘tide mark’ on walls, peeling wallpaper or blistering paint. Condensation damp can cause similar issues if the property is not properly ventilated. Black mould growing on walls or ceilings is a sign that moisture isn’t escaping.


Electrics require close inspection in period homes. Old wiring that hasn’t been updated to modern safety standards poses a potential fire hazard. Look out for scorch marks on sockets or plugs, fuses that blow frequently, or circuits tripping for no reason. You may need a full rewire if the system is outdated.


Older homes often lack proper insulation in walls and roof spaces. This can make them expensive to heat. Look for draughty windows and doors, cold spots on walls, and frost or mould in corners. Consider having insulation added to improve energy efficiency.


Check the condition of any outbuildings like garages and sheds thoroughly. Repair costs can quickly spiral on structures like these. Look for damage to roofing, walls, doors and windows. Check whether there is asbestos. If there is, speak with an asbestos removal company to get a quote for removal. Asbestos removal in Bristol must be done by a professional. Also, assess the safety and legal status of any existing conversions.

Planning/Listed Building Status

If you will be undertaking renovations, find out if planning permission is needed, particularly if you plan to extend or convert attics/basements. Also, check if the property is listed – this limits the changes you can make to the exterior and internal layout. Listing status can also restrict alterations like changing windows, doors or removing period features.

Japanese Knotweed

This destructive weed can cause severe damage to buildings and is very hard to eradicate. Check the garden and surrounding areas thoroughly for any signs of the plant. Seek professional advice if it is discovered, as removal costs can reach into the thousands.

Buying an older property can be rewarding, but a meticulous inspection is vital to avoid expensive repair bills. Having professionals assess any issues identified will give you peace of mind and help identify potential dealbreakers. Take time to consider all these factors before committing to purchase an older home.

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