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It's never too late....

Buying a new home is one of the most exciting things any of us do – and is almost certainly the most expensive purchase we will ever make. Whilst this can be a stressful period, the buzz of collecting your keys on moving-in day is fabulous.

Sadly, some unlucky home-buyers find that their problems just begin after they have stepped over the threshold of their new home, when they can encounter all sorts of nasty surprises. Most – but not all – home horrors can be avoided by paying for a full structural survey before purchase, but other property pitfalls can be just bad luck.

Here are ten of the worst culprits for turning your dream home into a property nightmare:

Rat infestation

Sharing your new home with rodents is no one's idea of fun! Seriously unpleasant, costing and damaging to your home – and even your health – rats are a nasty surprise. Rats carry diseases such as salmonella, e.coli and tuberculosis, as well as carrying fleas, mites and ticks – so even your poor pets are in peril. Even if you see a rat in your garden (as opposed to your house) – act quickly! They can get into tiny spaces so block all possible entry holes and check your pipework as broken pipes are an invitation to these rodent horrors.

Japanese Knotweed

This botanical freak can rapidly take over your garden as it grows up to 10cm per day and just 1cm of underground stem can produce a new plant in 10 days – if only the roses grew the same way! Even worse is the damage that Japanese Knotweed can do to your house once it penetrates the walls. Tarmac and concrete prove no barrier and this scourge of our suburbs can bring down walls and erode foundations, and can also cause flooding by blocking water pipes. In the worst case, homeowners have been told to demolish their entire house and rebuild it. Once you have pulled out the Japanese Knotweed you must call your local authority who will advise where you can dump this – as it roots so easily you must not be tempted to use compost heaps, or to dump it on open ground.


This frequently occurs in areas where there has been previous mining activity or where properties have been built on clay soils. It is stated that up to 70% of subsidence occurs where tree roots are sucking out the moisture from the soil, but can also be caused by water leaks washing the soil away beneath the property. Signs of subsidence include cracking plasterwork or brickwork, sticking windows and doors and rippling wallpaper (which is not attributed to damp). A bad case of subsidence may mean underpinning the house – a very expensive exercise, often costing tens of thousands. Insurance may cover some of this problem, but this is one area where having a survey on the property is a good thing as it is easily detectable to the trained eye.


Heave is the opposite problem to subsidence – just as damaging and potentially expensive to rectify. It refers to the expansion of the soil beneath buildings, which basically pushes up the property, or part of it, upwards. This is often caused when trees which require a lot of water are removed from around the property and therefore the clay soil becomes wetter and swells. Leaking drains also cause the same problem. A good surveyor would spot the problem before you purchase a property, but if this has been overlooked your insurance policy may cover you for repairs.


Not worms at all, but the larvae of wood-boring beetles, of which there are four main types in the UK. Don't be fooled into thinking that these only affect old buildings, they also like the fresh, new timber which new builds provide. They can cause untold damage including the serious structural weakening of joists, floorboards and other woodwork in your home. Damaged timber may need completely removing and replacing, which can be an expensive and messy job. If your woodwork resembles a dartboard (with lots of tiny holes), starts to crumble or you begin to see rather a lot of beetles around the place, you may need to call in expert help.

The neighbours from hell

Usually you cannot find out whether you will have good or bad neighbours until you start living next door. The most common problem is the noise they can produce, 'car wars' over parking spaces, arguments over garden boundaries, party walls, overhanging trees or building works. If you have to seek legal advice the outcome can be expensive, so try and mediate in the first instance.


Devastating to homes, destroying belongings and damages fixtures and fittings, flooding has been a fact of many people's lives this summer. Before you buy a property, check to see if it is on a flood plain by visiting www.environment-agency.gov.uk for flood maps and a wealth of useful information. If being on a flood plain doesn't put you off the property, check the level of insurance you may be required to pay as you may find the premiums are too expensive. It is worth calling Westhill Insurance Services who's team of experts can advise you with regard to flood insurance and will work to ensure you have the best cover at the best possible price. We are independent and can look around the market for you and you may find that your dream home can be yours after all – definitely worth a call.

Negative Equity

This is what mortgage borrowers dread the most and is where the value of your home falls below the amount you owe on your mortgage. Unless you have significant savings or other assets this can leave you trapped in your home and in your current mortgage deal. You can't eliminate the risk of negative equity, but you can reduce this by putting down the biggest deposit you can afford, or paying off more than the minimum monthly required payment.


Given the summer we have had, damp is something we are growing accustomed to! However, in properties this is a common problem – but one which a surveyor should spot. If you don't have the full structural survey the vendor may be able to fool you with a lick of paint and some air freshener. Damp is bad for the property and bad for you especially if you are prone to respiratory illnesses such as colds, chest infections or asthma. Some cases can be easily treated – but left untouched, severe damp problems can cost a fortune to put right, and you will need to redecorate also.

Don't put that here!

Imagine settling into your dream home, only to find that the long awaited by-pass has just got the green light, or a new high speed rail link is to be situated at the bottom of your garden! You never know what the future will bring, but a good solicitor or conveyancer will search the local registers for planning proposals and let you know if you are in an area where something may occur to the detriment of your peace or value to your property.

If you have had a survey and you have done all you can to make sure your property purchase is as sensible as can be, then that is as much as you can do. If something does go wrong in the future, then having the right insurance in place could save the day. Westhill Insurance provide a first class service at the best possible price. As an independent insurance company we will shop around, so that your building and contents insurance gives you the best possible cover and provides total peace of mind, at a price you can afford. Westhill Insurance Services also specialise in really 'tricky' properties – listed properties, those on flood plains, timber framed houses, to name but a few – no matter what type of property, our friendly and professional team will work hard to find the right insurance. Don't leave it to chance, get covered as soon as you purchase your property and make sure the roof over your head has the best possible cover!

Contact Westhill Insurance Services, today.

Posted on 30th July, 2012