A property purchase is likely to be the most expensive investment anyone will make, so it is important to sustain its value by keeping it in good order, for your own safety and security, as well as ‘keeping up appearances’. If ever you need to move, a well-maintained property should sell more easily, and possibly at a better price, than one in poorer condition.
A surveyor’s report is part of any mortgage application, and it may be worth paying for a full inspection because it will highlight any existing or potential structural or maintenance problems, usually recommending a timescale for dealing with them.
Even brand new homes need a maintenance plan, in the same way that you have your car serviced annually, because it is the responsible thing to do.
Nowadays, with the environment getting ever higher on the agenda, maintenance means energy efficiency; the recent Climate Summit in Madrid discussed ideas to both penalise (and reward) consumers as part of plans to cut greenhouse emissions. For example, higher interest rates could apply on borrowings for a petrol or diesel car, or mortgages on ‘draughty’ homes. The finance industry would undoubtedly be reluctant to comply with such measures, without a revolution in manufacturing and construction, but the fact that they are being debated illustrates the potential direction of travel in future.
A well-insulated home reduces energy bills; replacing windows, improving loft insulation and even adding solar panels to your roof, can make a significant difference. Adding a porch to the front of a property may improve heat retention.
Annual boiler checks are advisable for safety, and there is always the danger that it will give up when the weather is at its worst and engineers are all very busy! Replacement is expensive, demanding installation by a reliable qualified engineer, and a good warranty period, usually five to seven years. Have a written quote and make sure you have the relevant paperwork when the boiler is registered with the manufacturer.
Other issues include roof maintenance. In heavy winds, tiles may come loose, so it is always worth doing a visual check, and if you see a problem take professional advice. Thatched properties demand highly skilled full or partial replacement. Unfortunately, most houses and bungalows may suffer the occasional rodent or squirrel infestation; since they not only make a mess, but can also nibble at exposed wires, it is advisable to use specialists, rather than DIY to remove them.
Fire safety is a priority: woodburners must be professionally installed, and recent publicity about appliances – washing machines and dryers – causing fires is a serious concern (so alert your insurer if you have one of the products). If buying a new home, check which products are installed as part of a fully fitted kitchen. The Fire Service may offer guidance on risky appliances.
Garden maintenance, cleaning decking, paving and steps, and clearing autumn leaves, can prevent falls, especially for the elderly and disabled.
Check the locks on windows and doors, as well as conservatories, sheds and garages, to help prevent burglaries and ensure you always have access; it is frustrating when locks stop working (as they do) and a squirt of WD40 may be a temporary solution, but you are likely to need a locksmith.
However urgent the crisis, never just give a job to a tradesperson who simply turns up and knocks on the door (sometimes saying they’ve spotted a problem with your property). So, do your homework, exploring best value and warranties, as well as obtaining several quotes to secure the best deal. Ask friends or family to recommend reliable professionals. Trading Standards at your local council may help, and the Check-a-Trade website is a source of a range of verified skills.
Having the right insurance policies is important, covering emergencies, including flooding and fire damage, and temporary rehousing if necessary.
Major maintenance projects and home improvements to enhance security and energy efficiency – or to make a property more attractive for your lifestyle – are expensive – so develop a strategy. Instead of taking out a bank loan, remortgaging may be the most cost-effective solution.
Before making any commitment, our trained advisers at The Mortgage Centres can assist, with insurance and identifying financial options best suited to your current and future needs, helping to structure a short or long term plan to achieve your ambitions.