<iframe src="https://www.googletagmanager.com/ns.html?id=GTM-MH5676" height="0" width="0" style="display:none;visibility:hidden"></iframe>The Local Heroes First Time Buyer’s Guide 2021 | Local Heroes

The Local Heroes First Time Buyer’s Guide 2021

Posted on 4/28/2021

Our Local Heroes Breakdown: Everything You Need to Know

If you’re about to make a move and buy your first house, congratulations. What an exciting time! Big decisions await... but if you’re a little bit daunted by it all, we’re here to help.

In this article you’ll find a list of what to look for when buying a house. So you have complete peace of mind before and after you sign on the dotted line.

From plumbing to painting, doors to drainage, you’ll find helpful tips for every part of your home below – as well as potential costs you should know about up front if things need to be fixed.


  1. Plumbing tips
  2. Heating tips
  3. Electrical checks
  4. Painting and plastering tips
  5. Drainage tips
  6. Appliance tips
  7. Tips for doors and locks
  8. Odd jobs tips

Testing the plumbing in a new property is tricky: asking to run the washing machine or take a bath is not really the done thing! But there are plenty of ways around this:

Before you buy

It’s unlikely you’ll be permitted to do much more than run the taps and ask questions before you get the keys but still, keeping an eye out can make a big difference.

  1. Check out the water tanks

    Unless the house has a combi boiler, there’ll be a hot water cylinder in a cupboard somewhere, and possibly a cold water tank in the loft.

    Watch out for any cracks or leaks – if a hot water tank is running out of water quickly, it can cost over £300 to fix.

  2. Check the roof while you’re checking the water tank

    While you’re up in the loft, check the state of the roof and how well insulated everything is. Houses are like people, they lose most of their heat from the top.

  3. Check the taps and radiators for signs of leaks

    Stains or a build-up of limescale under a tap could indicate a drip. It’s also worth giving your radiators a thorough check. Pay particular attention to the pipes – green marks are often a sign of a leaky valve.

    Fixing a leaking radiator costs around £100.

  4. Look for the WRAS-approved logo

    This is the approval scheme of the UK Water Industry, which shows that products comply with the requirements of the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999.

  5. WRAS Approved logoLook for the WRAS Approved logo on any new water fittings
  6. Flush the toilet

    Listen out for knocking noises from the pipes. There should be a good powerful flush, even with a tap running. Continuous filling is a common issue with toilets so wait an extra minute to make sure the refilling finishes properly.

    If the toilet isn’t flushing properly it will likely cost around £100 to fix the problem.

  7. The shower furthest away from the hot water tank or boiler is most likely to struggle for pressure

  8. Turn on some taps and check the water pressure

    Try a few taps – and the shower if possible – to see if the pressure drops and check upstairs as well as downstairs. The shower furthest away from the hot water tank or boiler is most likely to be under-powered.

  9. Check if the taps are in good condition

    If you’re planning to replace the bathroom or kitchen, cleaning up the taps and re-using them could save you a few hundred pounds.

  10. Look for stains or warped flooring around the base of the toilet

    It could be a sign of a leak which should always be addressed as soon as possible to avoid further damage.

    On average, fixing a leaking pipe costs around £99

After you buy

  1. Find the stopcock

    Once you get the keys, it’s worth checking where the stopcock is. This device lets you turn off all the water in the house and you don’t want to have to hunt around for it in an emergency. (Start with looking under the stairs!)

  2. Check if the pipes are insulated

    Pay particular attention to pipes in outbuildings, as well as the loft. Frozen pipes can be a major problem but getting them insulated is easy and really affordable.

Book a Plumber

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Feet warming on a radiator

If you’re buying a home in the summer, it can be easy to overlook your home’s central heating system. Here are ten things to keep your eye on.

Before you buy

When you’re viewing potential properties, there are a number of things to check or ask which can help you determine whether the heating systems are function correctly.

  1. Find out how old the boiler is

    It’s worth asking for the installation certificate, operation manual and warranty (if it hasn’t expired).

  2. Get the latest Gas Safety Record

    All gas appliances should have an annual service. If the boiler hasn’t been serviced in the last year and you plan to make an offer, ask the owner to arrange this before finalising the purchase or agree to pay a lower price for the property.

  3. If the boiler hasn't been serviced in the last year, factor this into any offer

  4. Check the boiler type and size

    To avoid hot water issues in winter, you need a boiler that’s right for your family.

    Conventional boilers are normally ideal for larger families. Combi and system boilers are typically more compact and perfect for smaller households.

  5. Test all gas appliances

    Turn on the oven, cooker, hob and boiler to check if they are stable and if the gas is burning correctly. You can also check that the extractor fan is in good working order with a light bit of paper: put it against the grease filter and switch the hood on; if the paper stays in place the fan is working as expected.

  6. Do a room inspection

    Try to spend enough time in each room to see if there are any cold spots, especially rooms with two outside walls. It’s also worth asking about the insulation in loft rooms.

  7. Is the hot water cylinder wrapped up?

    If your hot water cylinder has a red plastic jacket tied around it then it probably needs changing. Modern foam-lagged cylinders are much more energy efficient.

  8. Keep hold of the boiler instruction booklet

    Ask for the boiler’s instruction booklet to be left at the house. You never know when you might need it.

After you buy

Once you’ve finalised your purchase and are making arrangements to move in, continue your checks to make sure everything is up to standard for your new home.

  1. Ask for the latest Energy Performance Certificate

    The law now requires an EPC when a property is sold, rented or newly built. In it, you’ll find any recommendations and potential issues.

  2. Turn on the heating

    Even if it’s a hot summer’s day, switch on the heating and make sure all the radiators are warm to the touch. If they’re hot at the bottom but not at the top, they probably just need bleeding which is an easy job.

  3. Turn the heating on high - even in summer - to make sure it's working properly

  4. Run the hot water

    Turn on the hot taps in the kitchen and bathroom to make sure they’re working as they should. If not, it could be something as simple as the boiler pressure. Once you’ve adjusted it, if the hot water still runs cold you may have to call in an expert.

Book a Heating Engineer

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It goes without saying that a safely functioning electrical supply should be a pre-requisite for any property. Here are some things to look out for.

Before you buy

    Lots of lampsCheck all the lights throughout the property are working
  1. Check all the lights work

    If there’s any damage on the switches or fittings, be careful. If you can see any signs of repair, ask if it was carried out by a qualified electrician – and if there’s a guarantee.

    If a light isn’t working properly it will cost around £80 to fix.

  2. Check the plugs and sockets aren’t damaged

    Any blackening or scorch marks could be signs of over-heating. You should also check any cables and leads for melting on the plastic coating, as well as signs of fraying. Don’t forget to look at the light fittings hanging down from the ceiling.

  3. Be aware of Building Regulations

    All electrical installation work in a home, garden, conservatory or outbuilding must meet Building Regulations. Apart from some types of minor work, all electrical work must either be reported to the local authority building control or be carried out by an electrician who is registered with one of the Government-approved scheme providers.

  4. Make sure any electrical work was carried out by a qualified electrician

    Any major work should have the right electrical safety certificates. For example, any new circuits installed require a Building Regulations Compliance Certificate (also known as Part P Certificate) and adding to or altering an existing circuit requires a Minor Works Electrical Certificate.

  5. Are there enough power points?

    This might not be a deal-breaker but it’s worth checking how many power points there are in each room. Just to make sure there’s a plug for all your gadgets.

After you buy

Once the property is yours, you become responsible for a safe electrical supply to your home, getting everything set up as soon as possible can ensure you won’t need to worry about it for a few years.

  1. Are the visible cables and leads in good condition?

    Exposed cables and leads can be fire hazards and you’ll need to replace damaged ones when you move into a new house. Make sure any work carried out, before or after buying, is always done by a qualified electrician.

    Depending on how much rewiring you’re doing, it can cost anything from £100 to £550.

  2. Make sure any work carried out, before or after buying, is always done by a qualified electrician

  3. Get an Electrical Installation Condition Report

    Many houses have RCDs fitted in the fuse box these days, to switch off the electricity automatically if it detects a fault. They protect all the appliances on the circuit and can stop electric shocks and electrical fires.

    On average, installing an RCD costs £105.

  4. How’s the lighting outside?

    If you have stairs or awkward walkways up to your property, make sure they’re well lit for visitors who aren’t familiar with your new home.

Book an Electrician

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Knowing whether you’ll need to replaster entire rooms or simply touch up paintwork can make a big difference, especially if budgets are already stretched tight.

Before you buy

    Painting & Decorating equipmentKnowing when a wall needs to be just repainted vs re-plastered can save a lot money
  1. Check walls and ceilings carefully

    Plaster should be smooth and even so look out for any large cracks or uneven surfaces. Replastering a room or multiple rooms is unlikely to be the most expensive job in your new home, but the time it can take for plaster to properly dry, especially in winter, could affect your move.

    Plastering walls can cost between £320 and £550 depending on the size of the room. For plastering a ceiling expect to pay between £170 and £400.

  2. Does the plaster look new or different at the bottom of the wall?

    If the plaster looks like it’s been replaced up to about 1 metre above the skirting board, that can be a good sign. It probably means that any rising damp has been treated. Ask what work has been done, and make sure you see the guarantee for the work.

  3. Feel for damp patches you can’t see

    Woodchip or any heavily textured paper can be used to hide damp. Place your palm against the wall to see if it feels cold or clammy.

  4. Check for signs of recent electrical or plumbing work

    Woodchip or any heavily textured paper can be used to hide damp. Place your palm against the wall to see if it feels cold or clammy.

  5. Don’t underestimate the cost of fixing a damp problem

    Rough or uneven plastering around plugs, switches and pipework will tell you something’s been ‘made good’ after the job. Ask what was done, and if the work came with a guarantee.

  6. Don’t underestimate the cost of fixing a damp problem

    Remember that if there’s a broken tile or blocked guttering causing damp, fixing it won’t be your only cost. You’ll also have to pay for redecorating and replastering.

After you buy

Once you have finalised your purchase, you should continue to check and recheck the condition of your plaster thoroughly.

  1. Check for blown plaster behind the wallpaper

    Tap the wall and see if you hear bits of plaster breaking off and falling down behind the paper. It’s easy to get blown plaster off the wall, but it’s a messy, dusty job and you’ll need a skilled plasterer to reskim the walls.

  2. Look for tell-tale signs of rising damp

    Damp doesn’t always come from above. Check the walls lower down (especially behind radiators) for signs of rising damp. Things to look out for are flaky plaster, blistering paint and mould.

  3. Look out for peeling wallpaper

    This can be a sign of damp in the wall underneath. Or maybe the sellers have used unskilled tradespeople to work on their house.

  4. Be patient with plaster

    If you need to replaster some walls before you can move in, remember you won’t be able to decorate right away. Leave the plaster for a week or two before you paint – you don’t want it to come out patchy.

  5. If you're planning on plastering, remember you won't be able to decorate for a couple of weeks while the plaster dries

  6. Ignore small marks and scrapes on the wall

    You’ll probably make a few more when you move all your furniture in. It won’t take long to repaint a couple of walls and door frames – and you can take the opportunity to choose your own colours.

Book a Tradesperson

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You may not be able to see them, but slow running, blocked or smelly drains soon become impossible to ignore. Here are a few ways to get ahead of any problems.

Before you buy

A couple of very simple checks you can make even during a short viewing can give you a great idea of whether there may be an issue with the drains.

  1. Test all the sinks

    Fill each of the sinks and see how long they take to drain. This is a really simple way of checking the state of the pipework underneath.

    Fixing a blocked sink costs about £97.

  2. Flush the toilets to check their drainage

    Slow draining toilets usually mean there’s a blockage or obstruction in the pipes. Properly working toilets should flush strongly, drain quickly and refill correctly.

    Fixing a blocked toilet tends to cost around £100.

  3. Check the bathtub

    One of the most common places to find a leak is around the bath drain. The easiest way to test for this is to put the plug in, fill the bath, and then leave it for an hour or so (don’t worry, you don’t have to stand and watch it, especially during a viewing). If the water level drops over that time you know there’s a leak.

  4. Ask around

    One of the best ways to find out about a place is to talk to people. Try asking the neighbours whether they’re happy with the water pressure and drainage – it can tell you a lot about the house you’re looking to buy.

After you buy

After you have bought the home and have the chance to inspect sections of your pipes and drains closer, you can do more to both check their condition and ensure they continue to drain quickly and thoroughly for years.

  1. Strainers

    If your sinks don’t have them already, add strainers to all the drains. These stop things like food and hair washing down the sink so you don’t have to spend time unblocking the pipes later. They don’t cost much and can save you a lot in the long-run.

  2. Empty the sink traps

    Unscrew the sink traps, the U-shaped bend in pipes under a sink, and check them for any blockages or unusual smells. Just keep a bucket underneath to catch any water.

  3. Test the shower tray drainage

    Test for leaks in the shower by running it for a few minutes and looking to see if any of the water appears outside the shower or on the ceiling of the room below.

  4. Take a walk around the outside of your house

    If dirt next to the foundation slopes towards your house it could lead to damp, mould or even structural damage. So make sure it’s always clear.

  5. Look up at the rain gutters

    When it’s raining, make sure the water flows freely through the downspouts away from your home.

  6. Check more serious issues with a CCTV inspection

    If you think there may be a more serious issue with your drains or pipes, get a specialist with high-end CCTV equipment to look inside your pipes and pinpoint any problems.

Book a Drainage Engineer

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Integrated oven switched on

Often appliances like a washing machine or a fridge come as part of the package when buying a new home. Here are some things you can check to save a headache down the road.

Before you buy

  1. Any cables that are staying shouldn’t be fraying

    Don’t worry about electrical appliances that the sellers are taking with them. But check any other cables for signs of fraying or splitting, particularly if they have pets. Puppies love to chew.

  2. Are the appliances in good working order?

    Make sure the cooker, boiler and any other appliances aren’t subject to a manufacturer’s recall. You can check at electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk

  3. Check the covers and casings

    Check the covers and casings on every appliance, especially the boiler. A damaged casing could lead to a leak or an electric shock.

After you buy

  1. Test the smoke alarm

    If it doesn’t make a sound when you press the test button, make either replacing the battery, or installing a new smoke alarm, an urgent priority.

  2. While everyone should always have a functioning smoke alarm, a carbon monoxide alarm can be just as important

  3. Test the carbon monoxide alarm – if there is one

    And if there isn’t, get one. You can’t see or smell carbon monoxide, the only way to detect it is with an alarm.

Book an Appliance Engineer

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Keys in a door

Getting those keys is going to be a big moment! It’s worth double-checking you’ve got all the ones you need – or even upgrading to something smarter.

Before you buy

  1. Are the locks secure?

    If you’re worried about security, have you thought about upgrading to smart locks for some extra peace of mind? This means you could open your door by tapping in a code, giving a voice command or just by using your phone.

  2. Who else has a key?

    The chances are no one has picked up a spare key to your home. But if you want to be sure your home is completely secure, how about changing the locks?

After you buy

  1. Get all the keys you need

    Whether you change the locks or not, make sure you have enough keys for everyone in the house. Get a few spares to give to friends and neighbours in case you lock yourself out.

  2. Make sure you have enough spare keys for everyone in the house, as well as extra copies to give to friends and family

  3. Do all the locks work correctly?

    In case of an emergency, make sure you check all the locks in the house, as older locks or worn-down keys might not work properly. More often than not, a spray of WD40 will loosen stubborn locks. If not, you may need a professional locksmith.

  4. Have you talked to your insurance company?

    Some insurance providers will make you replace the locks as a condition of your policy. The new locks will probably have to conform to British Standards Institution guidelines. You can find a copy of them here.

Book a Locksmith

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Man assembling a flat pack cupboard

Finally, here are a few simple little things you can do when you first move in.

  1. Check doors for sticking or jamming

    A quick spray of our old friend, WD40 will often do the trick. If not, you may need to try replacing the hinges or shaving a little bit of wood off the bottom of the door.

  2. Will you be able to hang your blinds or curtains?

    Before you buy any curtains, check your windows have the right fittings. Changing them can be costly and time-consuming.

  3. Where will you put your TV?

    Check there’s room for your TV and stand in the lounge. Or if you plan to hang TVs on the walls, make sure they’re solid enough to take the weight.

    The average cost of hanging a TV is £60.

  4. Check the grouting around bathroom fixtures

    Look out for any gaps or mould in the sealant around the tiles, shower tray, bath and basin. You should be able to clean a lot of the mould away but if it’s really bad – or there are bits missing – you’ll need to replace it.

  5. Look out for carpet dents

    Heavy furniture that’s been left in the same spot for years can create dents in the carpets – but here’s a little tip to get rid of them. Put an ice cube on the dent overnight, use a fork to restore the fibres then vacuum the carpet dry.

Book a Handyman

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Some quick maths…

If you add together all the potential issues we’ve flagged around plumbing, heating, electrics, plastering and drainage it cost you well into the £1000s to get things fixed.

So don’t be afraid to bring up any potential costs to see if you can get a better price on the property.

And there you have it

It’s a long list but buying a home is a big deal. Best of luck with it all – we hope your new home makes you very happy!

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