Red Flag Signs to Investigate Before Buying a New Home

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Buying a new home is a huge step. Most people move through the process of making an offer and booking a survey with a mixture of emotions. It’s exciting to move house, but it’s natural to feel apprehensive. The buying process can be unpredictable, and there are often bumps in the road. One issue buyers face commonly is red flags, which usually appear when a surveyor inspects the property. In this guide, we’ve highlighted some issues to investigate before you exchange contracts and shared some tips to help reduce stress.

Structural Damage

The main aim of a property survey is to assess the condition of the structure of the property. Structural damage, which affects the walls or the foundations, can be problematic for prospective homeowners due to the cost of repairs and renovation work. While some issues may be minor and relatively easy to fix, others can be very expensive. Examples of structural damage and warning signs include wear and tear on timber frames, bulging walls, uneven floors, large cracks, sloping walls and floors and gaps between window and door frames. If you request a detailed, comprehensive survey, the surveyor will provide you with information about the signs they have spotted. They can also make recommendations and offer advice to help you decide what to do next. 

Roof Problems

Roof problems are one of the most common major issues flagged up in surveys. The roof is a critical structure, which protects the rest of the building. If the roof is damaged, or there are significant signs of wear and tear, it’s important to be aware of the potential impact of further damage and the costs involved in repairing or replacing the roof. Leaks, patches of damp on the ceilings and walls and visible red flags, such as missing tiles and holes, can all be a cause for concern for buyers. 

If you are worried about the roof of the property, it’s beneficial to get quotes from reputable roofing firms. You can contact Edinburgh Roofing Company and get advice before comparing prices. In some cases, it may make financial sense to replace the roof rather than carrying out repairs, which will only provide a temporary solution. Fixing the roof can be expensive but it will add value when you come to sell and reduce the risk of problems like damp. 


Subsidence sets alarm bells ringing because it can cause structural damage and it is often expensive to remedy. Subsidence is the gradual sinking of the ground beneath the property, which causes the foundations to fall deeper into the soil. Signs of subsidence include large cracks, which are usually diagonal and may be found on internal and external walls and located close to windows and doors, and cracks that are wider at the top. Cracks can expand quickly and they may be visible after a prolonged period of warm, dry weather. Folds in wallpaper close to the joins in walls and doors and windows that stick when you try to open them can also be signs. 


Damp is a very common problem. It is caused by excess moisture and is usually more prevalent in old homes, particularly those located close to the coast or in rural settings. Damp can be caused by leaks due to holes or cracks in the walls or roof, poor ventilation or rising groundwater. Often, damp is mild and it can be treated, but in some cases, it is a severe issue. You can usually spot signs of damp on walls and ceilings, including discoloured patches. You may also detect a musty smell when you walk into a damp room. If the survey reveals mild damp, it’s wise to take action as quickly as possible to prevent more serious issues and save money. 

Old Wiring Systems

Doing up an old house can be an exciting adventure, but it can also be costly and time-consuming. One issue to be wary of if you are thinking about buying a more traditional home, which hasn’t been updated, is old, unsafe wiring. Old wiring systems present a fire risk and they should be upgraded urgently. If you want to proceed with the purchase, you’ll need to factor in the cost of paying for trained, registered electricians to replace the existing wiring. 

What to Do if You Get Bad News From a Home Survey

If you get your survey back and it is littered with red flags or potential problems, it’s understandable to panic or feel disappointed. The first thing to do is to read the survey and make sure you understand what it is telling you. It’s beneficial to speak with the surveyor if you have any questions about their observations or you’d like more information. The next step is to think carefully about what the survey means for the sale. There may be minor issues that you’re happy to deal with once you move in, or you may feel that there are too many problems or that it would cost too much to carry out repairs. Remember that you don’t have to agree to move forward until the point of exchanging contracts. 

If you still want to buy the house, but you’re unsure whether you can afford it, or you feel that your offer was too generous based on the survey findings, renegotiating is an option. Speak to your estate agent and approach the seller with a revised offer. You may be able to bring the price down to cover some or all of the repair costs, or the seller may be willing to carry out repairs or upgrades before you move if you agree to keep the offer price the same. The final option to consider is walking away. If there is a risk of losing money, or you don’t love the house enough to take on all the jobs that need doing, this could be the best choice for you. 

Buying a new home is exciting, but it can also be daunting. Many buyers find that they have to make difficult choices after they get their survey back. Red flags include damp, roof problems, subsidence, structural damage and old, unsafe wiring. If you’re concerned, it’s wise to speak to your surveyor, find out more about the issues and repair costs and explore your options. 

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