Top safety checks to make before buying a house

Check the electrics

There are several obvious items to check when purchasing a property, such as the structure, the roof, checking for any damp and the health of the boiler – many of which will be picked up by surveys.

However, a survey will not tell you anything about the state of the electrics. Research by Electrical Safety First found that one in five home owners believed electrical checks were included in the recommended home survey report. Their research also found that only one third of buyers had their electrics checked before purchasing their new home.

Without the correct electrical checks being carried out, you can be at risk of high bills, electric shock or even a fire. To correctly check the electrics, a registered electrician should be brought in to inspect that all is safe.

The average cost to fix an electrical problem identified after moving into a property is £1,704 according to Electrical Safety First so it is certainly worth making sure you carry out the correct electrical check before purchasing your new home.

Key signs to look out for are:

  • Ensure plugs and sockets are not damaged
  • Check that visible cables and leads are in good condition
  • Check light fittings are not visibly damaged
  • Check combustible materials are not stored around the fuse box or electricity meter

Ensure the home is gas safe

You cannot be sure when the appliances and pipework in your new property were last serviced, unless the previous owners provide you with a Gas Safety Record. If they are unable to provide you with this, you’ll need a Gas Safe registered engineer to carry out the necessary checks before you move in.

According to the Gas Safety Register the most common heat producing appliances which should be checked are:

  • Gas fired boiler
  • Gas fired water heater
  • Gas fire
  • Flued cooking range
  • Gas cooker
  • Gas hob
  • Warm air heater

Once moved in, your appliances should be checked regularly. If they are not, you could be at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning – which can be fatal. Read more on the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning here.

Check the central heating

A good heating system is essential to a property’s comfort, so it is important to check that it is functioning correctly and efficiently.

There are a few signs to look for before you purchase your new home to check whether the central heating is up to scratch.

Turn the taps on to make sure the hot water is working, this could indicate what the condition of the boiler is and also how strong the water pressure is.

If the central heating is on when you visit your potential new home, check how hot the radiators are. This should give a good indication whether there is sludge in the system or not and whether it could be costly to repair.

One key question to ask the previous owners is ‘how old is the boiler?’ A good indicator of age is whether the boiler is floor standing or wall mounted. A floor standing boiler is likely to be at least 12 years old and will need replacing if it breaks down, as the parts to fix it will be obsolete.

Check for damp

Buying a house infested with major damp issues can prove problematic. To detect damp before you buy a home, scrutinise the ceilings, windows and walls for any damp staining (which could indicate leaks), damp or mould on the walls and timber frames showing signs of rot.

As well as this, look for odd paint jobs, as any discolouration or recent patch decoration could be an attempt to hide damp from prospective buyers.

Problems with wallpaper are another tell-tale indicator of damp in the home. Check that the walls are flat, any ripples could mean damp or even worse, signs of movement in the property which can be very costly.

Here are the main areas where damp can usually be found:

  • Basement
  • Floorboards
  • Walls and ceilings
  • Bathroom
  • Cupboard with small heater