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Six property issues that can be costly to repair

When it comes to buying or selling a home, its market worth can be influenced by many factors. These include its age, location, condition and desirability. However, arguably the most impactful reductions in a property’s value come from the presence of common problems.

We’ve listed six of the most common issues that devalue a property on this page. We’ll also talk about the importance of home surveys and what you should do if your inspection uncovers one (or more) of these problems.

1) Damp

Damp is the presence of moisture within a structure. Usually, it’s caused by poor ventilation. You often find damp in wet or humid areas such as bathrooms, toilets and kitchens, especially when there are no extractor fans or dehumidifiers in the room. If a roof gets damaged or its ventilation gets blocked, it’s also commonly found in the loft.

Despite sounding relatively harmless, damp can lead to more severe problems. Excess moisture will inevitably encourage wet rot growth, which can be profoundly damaging to wooden structures if it isn’t caught in time. You can also expect to see mould growth, leading to peeling wallpaper, compromised plasterboard, cracked seals, and much more. On top of all that, there’ll be an unmissable musty odour. Mould can also cause health issues, such as respiratory problems, if left unchecked for too long, so it’s important to address it as quickly as possible. 

Damp devalues a property because it can cause more serious issues like wet rot. It’s difficult to know whether these problems have set in without a more detailed look into the walls and ceilings themselves, something not possible until you own the house. As such, many buyers are put off by damp, and the home becomes worth less.

To remove the problem, you’ll need to focus on improving ventilation. That might involve cleaning up the old system or installing a new extractor fan. When these aren’t possible, a dehumidifier is a great idea.

2) Rot

Rot is a fungal growth commonly found across the world. It thrives by consuming wood (specifically, the cellulose within it), weakening timber structures like walls, ceiling or floor joists, roof structures and other joinery.

There are two main types of rot – wet and dry. Their invisible, tiny spores are constantly floating harmlessly through the air around us. The rot itself is caused when these spores land on unprotected timber in the ideal growing conditions. These conditions are usually caused by poor ventilation and the presence of water, from problems like pipe leaks, malfunctioning gutters or a damaged roof.

Wet rot, as mentioned above, develops in damp conditions. If any wood in your property becomes constantly soaked, it’ll create the optimal conditions for the fungi to spread. Wet rot needs humidity levels of about 50% or higher.

Wet rot is more common than dry rot but generally less severe. It tends to stay more localised to the damp area, not spreading so aggressively. You might not necessarily notice evident cracking, but the timber will feel spongey and structurally compromised. It’s still imperative to deal with it as soon as possible.

Dry rot is a rarer but more serious problem. Rather than a classification, dry rot refers to just one fungus, Serpula lacrymans. Spores germinate in poorly ventilated spaces with between 18% and 30% humidity levels. Unlike wet rot, dry rot can spread through the wooden structures of a property reasonably quickly. As such, it can be a terrible issue – both in terms of safety and cost.

Rot devalues a home because it needs immediate treatment, especially the dry form. Since the buyer will most likely have to pay for the repairs, the market value of the building decreases. It also makes the home less desirable, potentially driving the price down further.

Removing the presence of rot is very important for the safety of the house’s occupants. It’ll require specialist treatment companies, and you’ll need to get quotes on an individual basis. Once the rot has been taken care of, ensure your new (and surviving old) timber is treated and protected. Check that any leaks have been fixed and install suitable ventilation to prevent spores from germinating again.

3) Woodworm

Woodworm is a general term encompassing several timber-dwelling beetles. Specifically, it’s their larvae. They hatch within the wood and feed off the cellulose as they grow, slowly burrowing through the structure. Eventually, when they reach maturity, they’ll tunnel to the surface and take off, where they lay their own young and die shortly thereafter.

You’ll often find woodworm present alongside wet rot and other forms of decay since these beetles would naturally feed off deadwood in woods and forests. Unfortunately, woodworm young are often in larvae form for between two and five years. Since all their movements are virtually entirely hidden until they emerge as adults, you don’t usually know about an infestation until it’s taken hold.

The most apparent sign of woodworm is a multitude of small holes (about 2mm across) in a wooden structure, beam, or piece of furniture. If you can see frass – which looks like sawdust – around these holes, it’s a sign of an active infestation. If not, the beetles have probably mostly matured and left. You might also see dead adults lying nearby.

Woodworm reduces a property’s value through its risk to structural integrity. The most significant and dangerous location would be within the roof beams. However, it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker and can often be dealt with via specialist pest control services. You’ll also need to safely replace any damaged timber.

4) Subsidence

Subsidence is a scary-sounding problem – the ground sinking beneath my house? No thanks! It’s actually relatively common throughout the UK. However, it’s still a fairly serious issue. It requires a well-thought-out ongoing maintenance plan if you decide to proceed with the sale at all.

Subsidence is caused by the ground underneath a building contracting, falling or sinking. It’s most common in locations with clay-rich soil. As the water absorbs into the clay, it expands, but shrinks as the water leaves the ground. Now occupying a smaller volume, anything above it will lower the same amount. You also often find subsidence in areas with a mining presence (whether historic or not) or around woods, forests and large trees, as the roots suck up all the moisture in the earth.

If a home survey uncovers signs of active subsidence, it should make you pause. Subsidence can lead to significant structural damage since the home could be under different stresses than it was designed for. Likewise, if the report shows evidence of historic subsidence, be wary. It’s worth getting a detailed survey carried out by a structural engineer to ensure the building’s safety.

It’ll also be complicated to get a mortgage when you find subsidence, whether active or historic. Cash buyers can do whatever they want, but they could be taking an unnecessarily large risk. Most homebuyers, dependent on mortgages, will be put off the purchase.

Subsidence significantly devalues a property because it makes it challenging to sell. The homeowner will be forced to take a significant chunk off the asking price – probably somewhere around 20%.

5) Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed is a plant native to Japan transported over to the UK by botanists in the Victorian era. It grows incredibly quickly and, with no natural predators or competitors in this country, along with highly favourable growing conditions, it spreads like wildfire.

The danger of Japanese Knotweed is that it can easily penetrate tiny cracks in foundations, brickwork, stone, mortar and concrete. It can then continue to spread and grow and, if left untreated, could ultimately undermine a property’s structural integrity from the ground up.

It can be difficult to spot by yourself. The red stems first appear in early spring, and by the end of summer, it can stand at 3m tall with white flowers. However, if you only view a property for an hour or two once or twice, you might not notice it. We’d recommend hiring a chartered surveyor who knows what they’re looking for.

Japanese Knotweed is so damaging that it’s illegal to plant or spread it. If a home is found to have the invasive plant, it requires a treatment plan. It usually takes at least five years before you can claim to have fully eradicated it. The dangers to buildings and the environment and the costs of dealing with it can significantly devalue a property.

Earlier this year, new legislation came into effect, making it significantly easier to exchange homes with the presence of Japanese Knotweed. The impact is now assessed by a surveyor’s honest, professional inspection.

6) Roof and loft damage

Damage to the roof, such as improper installation, freak weather, falling trees or wildlife, can damage a roof, exposing the loft space to the elements or inhibiting the built-in ventilation.

As rainwater piles into the roof, it damages the sensitive timber and plasterboard, leading to damp, wet rot, dry rot, mould and other related issues. If water has found its way in, you’ll probably need to replace all the affected areas, particularly keeping an eye out for rot.

A hole in the roof will also increase heating bills substantially. The roof acts as insulation, trapping the heat in a house and helping to regulate its temperature.

Another reasonably common roof issue is the presence of wildlife, such as starlings or wasps. Legally, you have to get specialist help to remove wasp nests and similar pest habitats. When it comes to birds, you usually have to let the chicks leave naturally before covering up the hole through which the parents come and go. In the meantime, you’ll have to ensure they don’t place flammable nesting materials on hot lamps or risky wiring.

For all the above reasons, roof and loft damage devalues a property. Roofs are expensive to fix, but they must be as quickly as possible.

What should I do if my home survey finds a common problem?

At GB Home Surveys, our highly experienced team of RICS-registered chartered surveyors will be more than happy to carry out quick, efficient and comprehensive home surveys on any property you’re thinking of purchasing.

Inspections often uncover some of these common issues that would devalue a property. It’s best to chat to us once your survey’s complete for tailored advice, but we’d usually recommend submitting a lower offer based on any problems. For an optional extra fee, we can also estimate the repair costs.

Check out our Choose Your Survey page for more information on the RICS home surveys we conduct. Alternatively, please feel free to contact us at contact@gbhomesurveys.co.uk or 03333 600 685. We’re always pleased to have completely commitment-free conversations where we chat about your options and what’s best for you. Interested? We look forward to hearing from you.

Looking for a quote, or maybe you have a question? Get in touch today.

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