Property expert, Tayo Oguntonade, lists 3 major red flags to look out for when buying a house for the first time

The Great House Giveaway presenter, Tayo Oguntonade, warns first-time buyers to look out for three major red flags when house hunting – and they might be covered up...

Row of suburban homes in London, UK
(Image credit: oversnap / Getty)

The third series of The Great House Giveaway is back on Channel 4 and with it, all the best trials and tribulations that come with renovating a property. Presented by property expert Tayo Oguntonade of @brickzwithtipz (opens in new tab), in this BAFTA award-winning programme, two strangers are paired together, given a budget, the keys to a house, and six months to renovate and make a profit... 

Any avid viewers will know that, as with any reno, it's not always plain sailing. But if seeing a crumbling Victorian terrace restored and revamped to a newfound glory has only tempted you to step onto the property ladder and give it a go yourself, first things first, you need to find the right property. 

It's easy to get caught in the moment, or distracted, when you're househunting – especially if you're a first-time buyer. But Tayo shares why you need to stay alert to notice these major red flags.

1. Serious damp

Damp caused by condensation can often be controlled with a dehumidifier and good ventilation. However, if you're dealing with penetrating damp, often caused by water-damaged walls and leaks via cracks in the walls, you'll need to get to the root of the problem which could end up being expensive.

Rising damp will absolutely need input from a professional, to check any structural issues with the building. Telltale signs are wet patches on lower walls and floors so be thorough when you inspect the house first off. 'Check the top and bottom of walls to see if there is any evidence of moisture or discolouration as this could be an indication of damp.' It's unlikely that even your best air fresheners will cut through that but as Tayo recommends, lift up any suspicious-looking area rugs...

2. Hidden cracks in the wall

Oguntonade says, 'Look out for damp.' It's a major no no, and worst of all, people will try to cover this up.

While common damp is often remedied and controlled with the best dehumidifers, you need to know exactly what you're dealing with and sometimes, it's not so easy to figure out. 

'Some red flags come in the form of cover-ups. For example, we have seen excessive air fresheners used to cover up the smell of damp or large rugs used to cover up damaged flooring so look out for that too!'

Damp caused by condensation can often be controlled with a dehumidifier and good ventilation. However, if you're dealing with penetrating damp, often caused by water-damaged walls and leaks via cracks in the walls, you'll need to get to the root of the problem which could end up being expensive.

Rising damp will absolutely need input from a professional, to check any structural issues with the building. Telltale signs are wet patches on lower walls and floors so be thorough when you inspect the house first off. 'Check the top and bottom of walls to see if there is any evidence of moisture or discolouration as this could be an indication of damp.' It's unlikely that even your best air fresheners will cut through that but as Tayo recommends, lift up any suspicious-looking area rugs...

Modern living room with

(Image credit: Poster Store)

3. Old fuse boxes

Finally, checking the health of your fuse box can be a wise move also before you jump on your first property: 'Pay attention to the electrics as well, have a look at the fuse box and see how old it is as sometimes this can give an indication as to if the property will need a rewire or not.'

Knowing how to buy a house isn't simple, and a minefield if you've rented all your life but if you're truly invested, you should go all the way to really suss out the bones of the property that you're interested in to make the most of it. It's hard enough to stay on budget as it is but avoiding 'problem' houses where you'll be constantly having to get rid of mold or forking out tonnes of cash on professionals to fix structural problems will ensure a happier home buying journey from the onset.

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Camille Dubuis-Welch

Camille is Deputy Editor of Realhomes.com and joined in January 2020. Her love of interior design stemmed from a childhood spent dreaming up weird and wonderful ways to renovate her grandma’s house in France – a greenhouse roof was involved – and it was spending time around very good-looking house plants and in a hardworking kitchen garden that gave her a green thumb. When Camille isn’t sipping coffee and/or writing, she is seeking out cool new Facebook Marketplace finds or tapping into her other creative outlets: painting and clay throwing. She currently rents in North London with her French cat and two others, and hopes to one day renovate the most sustainable house of dreams, somewhere marvellously sunny with a wild, lavish garden and chickens, of course.

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