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A first time buyer's guide to spotting damp

For many people, house hunting is an exciting experience. With each property you view, as well as deciding whether or not you can picture yourself living there, you need to be on the lookout for signs that may point to underlying issues that could end up costing a lot of money to put right.

Damp happens when there's an unwanted build-up of moisture or water in the floors, walls or ceilings. It can be off-putting to see, especially if you're a first-time buyer but it's actually quite a common problem, particularly in older buildings. Damp can be caused by:

  • Leaking pipes
  • Porous bricks
  • Damaged or missing roof tiles
  • Moisture from surrounding soil

Not only is damp unsightly in a home, but if left untreated it could impact your health, especially if you suffer from respiratory problems like asthma. The cost of treating damp can run into thousands of pounds, so knowing the tell-tale signs when viewing potential homes is a must. Some things to watch out for include:

  • Mould and mildew on floors, walls and ceilings
  • A damp, musty odour in the rooms
  • Walls and floors that feel very cold or damp to the touch
  • Peeling or lifting wallpaper
  • An excessive build up of condensation on windows
  • Dark or off-colour patches on walls or plaster.

Indicators of rising damp in particular include:

  • Damp and off-colour patches appearing to rise up the wall
  • Damp or rotting skirting boards
  • Flooring (including vinyl, tiles and carpet) that's lifting
  • Staining on the walls
  • A white, salt-like residue on walls.

When viewing a property, don't be afraid to feel the walls and ask to lift up carpets and vinyl, and peer behind big furniture which could be disguising a damp problem. If you spot any signs of damp, it's worth asking if it's an old issue as it could have already been treated.

Getting a survey

When you put an offer down on a property, it's a good idea to get a thorough survey done, as this should flag any damp issues whether you've spotted them or not. It will also let you know about any other issues and rate them by their severity.

It will likely be a condition of your mortgage that a basic survey is carried out, but you can pay for a more in-depth inspection if you have any particular concerns.

Damp is not the be all and end all, and depending on the nature of the issue, it won't always cost lots to put right. That said if you've fallen in love with a property that has damp, you might want to get a couple of experts in to offer advice and quote for treating the issue. Depending on how much it will cost, you could use it as a bargaining tool to negotiate a lower offer.

Home insurance with Hastings Direct

Once you've had an offer accepted on your first home, one of the things you'll need to do is arrange buildings and contents insurance. You can save money by combining the two types of cover into one home insurance policy.

Hastings Direct home insurance features a range of benefits as standard, plus optional extras such as home emergency cover, home key cover and home legal expenses. Getting a quote takes just a few minutes.

Home insurance

We know how important your home and its contents are to you. That's why we offer home insurance that covers you for the unexpected expense that theft, loss and damage can bring. Plus, you can choose from a great range of optional extras.

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Log in to MyAccount to manage your policy online. You can view and download documents at your convenience. If your policy number starts with 'XA' you can also make payments and changes to your policy online.