Electric Stove in Grey Living Room

Rose Tinted House Buying Specs

Author: Lauren Coleman

Over the years James and I have looked at a huge amount of houses. All with the intention to buy, or at least benchmark. However there’s a brand new estate not far from us and every time we drive past I’m always intrigued to have a neb at the showroom despite having no interest in moving whatsoever.

I’d like to think I’m pretty savvy when it comes to cover-ups and other misdemeanours during the house buying process, but I think we’ve all got carried away and made assumptions. We have had many a surprise discovery since living here. One of them being that we completely missed that it was an electrical stove in the living room and not a real one. I think we’d spent so long fawning over the cast iron one in the snug that we were a bit blasé about the one in the living room and instead spent most of the time gawping up at the skylights. Anyway, turns out it was a great mistake to make! Having a faux burner is fabulous for giving a quick burst of heat to the room and there’s far less mess too. (By the way this is a link to a similar burner if you’re interested. You’ll notice it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a real one, and even comes with a remote control which is very novel).

One of the very first houses we viewed was a Victorian terrace on a busy street. It was in desperate need of renovation and I think we’d decided we could do it all for a ridiculously low £20K. (Although it can be done if you look at SJ’s recent RMS feature). Anyway we got a builder round and he pointed out the whole of the upstairs only had two plug points. Obviously we’d have rectified that by having the electrics redone, but since then it’s made me like a hawk when it comes to the positioning and number of sockets.
Some friends of mine didn’t realise until they moving day that their bathroom suite was green not beige as they had originally thought, and I swear blind that from the time of accepting our offer to moving into our first house, the footprint of the building shrank by 25%. When we excitedly got the keys and flung open the front door the whole abode seemed so much smaller than we remembered.
It might be that you haven’t bought a house but have a rented nightmare. Our very own Alice mentioned she moved into a furnished garden flat, two weeks later while sunbathing in her new garden, the owner of the upstairs flat came down to announce the garden wasn’t Alice’s, it was hers. Awkward.

I also can’t end this post without mentioning some unusual possessions that have been left behind when occupants have relocated. In our first rented flat James found every back issue of Smash Hits in the loft, complete with all song lyrics still in tact. Some friends of ours found, let’s call it, a ‘fetish mask’ in their kitchen cupboard as an unexpected moving in present. Now that was a surprise…

Over to you. What were the foibles and cover ups you didn’t notice when you bought your house? Did you have any revelations on moving day that you can share?

For tips on buying and selling do check out our archive features.

Lauren likes Paris, Prosecco and Paint Charts
Follow Lauren on instagram @mrslaurencoleman
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55 thoughts on “Rose Tinted House Buying Specs

  1. I always find it and bing that the item we spend the most money on when purchasing, we often only visit it twice to have a look! I spend longer looking at and thinking about a pair of trousers before deciding to purchase! When my husband bought his first house (before we met), he got the keys and went round on the day it became his, and he realised he hadn’t bought the house he expected as the stairs were in a different place! The trouble with viewing lots of similar Victorian terraces. Needless to say I’ve been in charge of our house purchases since we’ve been together!

    My first house had its roof insulated with 1970s newspapers, an old toilet, kitchen cupboards, glass bottles, you name it. Not a shred of actual insulation. We live in a new build now and had a particularly drawn out purchase so no surprises here thankfully!

    1. You’re so right Natalie!
      Your first house sounds very unique. Bet it took them ages to do that too. Would have been far easy to use real insulation!

  2. Oh my goodness. So many things. The previous owners did a Farrow and Ball splash and dash that hid so so many things. How about an Aga that won’t stay lit for more than 24 hours and can’t be repaired without ripping out the kitchen!! We viewed in August “it’s always off at this time of year.” Nightmare.

    When we redid the spare room, moving floor levels etc, we discovered that this room in our lovely listed 17th century farmhouse was built with breeze blocks and insulated with newspapers from the 1980s. After listing. No they didn’t have permission. Yes it was a terrifying fire risk.

    Oh, and a well under the floors in the kitchen. That’s why that wall struggles with damp. No biggie.

    I expect we will discover more once we move into the barn and begin working in here 😱🙈

  3. In our previous (rented) flat, the kitchen had no drawers. We didn’t realise till we got the keys. It was a bit of a ‘doh!’ moment!

    We’ve just bought our first house and made some joyous discoveries. A full re-wire as none of the lights were earthed and the plugs weren’t on the same circuit… although that wasn’t completely unexpected as the fuse box was 20 years old. But the most recent ‘fun was an odd smell coming from the boiler cupboard. It wasn’t gas, more like a rotten/musty smell. Took up the floorboards and discovered an open sewage pipe… Not only that, the condensing pipe from the boiler didn’t go anywhere, so there was water just flooding into the sub-floor. We’ve had it fixed but as we’re only a month in, I suspect we may discover more along the way!

    Have to say, there were some more obvious issues we saw along out house hunt – the slug trails across a living room floor was a particular highlight!

    1. Where did you put your cutlery Jo?!
      We’ve had the sewage pipe thing too in the past. The smell was hideous!

      1. We ended up buying a cheap little unit on wheels that had extra storage and drawers. We left it behind as not sure even the landlord realised there was a lack of drawers!

  4. Not my own experiene but one of a neighbour in a new build… the hanging poll in the bedroom wardrobe was a live circuit due to the builders drilling into some electric! How the original builder didn’t get a shock is beyond thinking about. It was discovered by random when an electrician came around in the first week moving in to do some work in the bedroom! Talk about a hazard!

  5. Yes, in our last rental: only one plug socket in each room in most of the rooms, in the kitchen the hole for the sink had been cut in the wrong location and didn’t fit with the washing machine underneath, so they flipped it around so the draining board bit was over the washing machine. However this meant the half the sink was essentially in a corner of the room with cupboards under the counter down the other side so you couldn’t stand directly in front of the sink, you sort of had to lean awkwardly into it. And no, we didn’t have a dishwasher, I just had back pain until I got used to it. We also had slug trails all over the carpet in the living room :/

  6. Oh my goodness! We moved into our Edwardian Terrace just over a year ago. The place had stood empty for almost 15 years before developers gave it a (very!) basic renovation and sold it on to us…we’ve actually been remarkably lucky all in all, aside from the place being extremely cold when we moved in December 2017 (the place hadn’t been heated for all that time and the structure itself was cold, leading to an interesting issue with the plaster staying on the walls now the place is lived in and heated, but that’s another story).

    And so here comes the BUT…we have had to have the floor in our kitchen (which is actually the ‘modern’ extension to the property – about 20 years old) ripped up. It transpires the floor boards weren’t actually floorboards at all and ranged from reclaimed timber that had warped from being outside for ages, to pieces of MDF…and no, I don’t mean those specially treated MDF boards you can get for floors! The problem was identified when it appeared our very heavy washing machine had dropped somewhat and the boards around it were squeaky and unstable. It was only a matter of time before they gave way completely and something – or someone – ended up in the basement below! The one upside to the problem, which is being fixed as I type, is that we can get rid of the thin, cheap lino and replace it with beautiful engineered timber floorboards – so there’s always a silver lining! 🙂

    There’s also an interesting metallic rattle, as if a loose pipe is sitting under the floorboards, in our lounge. It drives Mr. W mad!

    1. Yay to new floorboards Rebecca!
      We had the pipe rattle in one of our bedrooms – whoever did the plumbing put new pipes in and left the old defunct ones in there too. It was a bit of a jigsaw puzzle but we worked out which one to cut out and remove.

  7. I fell in love at first sight of our very first home. A Victorian flat with 10ft ceilings and sash windows.
    Missed that there was no heating whatsoever. And those gorgeous windows? Yup, single pane and draughty.
    What an idiot!

  8. We bought a big Victorian terrace 18 months ago, we knew it was in desperate need of a cosmetic makeover and new kitchen but hadn’t realised the downstairs floor in the hall and dining room were false floors (two stairs high!) That had all the pipework for the central heating running willynilly underneath it. By ripping it out we had to reframe doors, rewire plug sockets and light switches, when rewiring the house the electrician lifted the bathroom floor and found the joists were so wet from a bodged shower installation we by rights should have fallen into the kitchen. This beautiful old lady has brrn butchered by horrendous 1980/90’s DIY. We are slowly putting it back together but it’s an awful lot of work. The only plus point was the false floor was hiding a full length Minton tile hallway. I like to think of it as our little reward for fixing her.

  9. I think part of the problem is also that in the property market some times you need to move really quickly! Well certainly for us when we moved, the market wasn’t great and the houses that were decent were getting snapped up so quickly! We viewed our property the day it came on the market, in the dark (!) and put an offer on straight away. We only got it over the two other offers as we were first time buyers. Crazy when you think about it! X

  10. Our house has had a few bodge jobs in the past, meaning a few discoveries when decorating – the three sockets in our nursery all have different coloured wires and are wired differently; a floorboard that was cut into when the previous owners were installing sky cables wasn’t nailed down again so my partner went straight through when he set a ladder on it; and our living room walls are actually lining paper and not plaster. We also have an amazing massive freestanding bath but you can’t get behind it to clean!

    The biggest thing was the porch, though – it’s not actually built into the house, only up to it, so there’s a gap between the front of the house and the edge of the porch wall!

    Love reading everyone’s stories on this! 😂

  11. We were pretty lucky with our place, we viewed it twice before putting an offer in and when we moved in every room was much bigger than I remembered (nice problem to have really), although I had forgotten how much the previous owner loved terracotta (tiles, worktops, floors). In the garden I keep finding Christmas baubles even 3 years after moving in, there’s also two dog collars hanging up in trees, so I’m slightly concerned about what I’ll find if I ever decide to dig up those parts of the garden.
    When my parents moved out of our family home my Dad purposely left odd things behind, scary masks in the loft, giant plastic spiders hidden around (those are just the ones he’s told us about, I suspect there’s more), he obviously thinks it hilarious!

  12. On moving day for our current house after getting sweaty and dirty moving in we were extremely peeved to find out the mixer tap for the bath and shower had broken off and just been glued back on! An emergency plumber was not on the wish list for the first day in a new house. Understandably you do not want to pay out money when you are leaving a house, but there is a common courtesy to ensure the new people can actually use the basic functions of a house.

    I have just put an offer in on a house (fingers, toes and everything in between crossed) and we know there is a lot of work to be done, which may bring up a surprise or two – but the other house we seriously considered looked to be immaculate, we could barely fault anything in it. I have an uncle who is a retired gas engineer and builder and I took him with me to both houses and it was amazing how much he picked up both houses. Although we knew one house would cost a lot of money the work would be straight forward and there not any major issues, but he picked up so many tiny signs in the immaculate house of problems that would emerge over the next couple years and because the well finished rooms would be damaged to rectify them, we could end up spending as much on that house as the fixer-upper. I’m so grateful he came with us and gave us this guidance.

    1. This is such an interesting point Claire. Can we hire your uncle?! Best of luck with the house purchase.

  13. Within moments of opening the front door to our new pad 3 years ago I thought ‘oh dear’. The porch was stuffed with previous owner’s bin bags of rubbish and recycling and the whole place was absolutely filthy (think sticky kitchen cupboards, yuck). It was a lovely spacious house and our preferred location but they’d obviously done a quick splash of white paint everywhere and had arranged their furniture imaginatively during the viewing to hide the numerous holes in the floors and the (live) wires hanging out of the walls.

    We had a crawling inquisitive 9 month old so we moved in one week then out again the next to my mums so we could have it rewired, plastered, new floors etc thus spending all our contingency budget (and more). In a way I’m glad now, in hindsight, that it was in such a bad state as it meant we had to start each room from scratch so it’s how we want it now. We’d really stretched ourselves to buy it and were planning to live with their furnishings for a year or two but that wasn’t possible, There’s still tons to do though and everything we do uncovers yet another bodge job! There was also no attic ladder or light and they helpfully left 30 years of rubbish up there for us. And there were loads of wasps nests up there too, such fun.

    Oh and we viewed it on a Thurs eve and there was an open day planned for the weekend so we had to make an immediate decision at a peak time in a popular area. It had gone on market that day and we’d already had 5 offers rejected as everything was going above max price etc. The owners opened the back door to show us the garden. It was dark and raining and we were both just so excited at the prospect of a garden, any garden will do (we’d been in a tiny flat before). Little did we know.. garden was full of concrete at the end, had a rusting broken shed, an old pond that had only been half removed, the decking was actually rotten and moved underfoot, the fence panels swayed in the wind and there was an out-of-control bamboo plant, which are notoriously hard to remove. Nightmare. I don’t want to ever move again but, if we do, I’ll be so much more aware of what to look for!

  14. The comments on this post have me with my head in my hands. There’s quite a bit of bad luck out there!
    Very timely however as a plasterer has just this second left after coming round to quote us for reskimming walls and ceilings. Turns out, the wall between the living and dining room with the arch was completely botched and will need to be ripped down and redone to be replastered… *Sigh*

  15. After a long, hot day moving into a second floor flat with no lift when 35 weeks pregnant all I wanted was a nice shower. That’s when we found out the boiler which looked to be working fine, was in fact not. So we were without hot water and heating for a few days. Then 2 days later on a Sunday night after I was just brushing my teeth before bed after another long day unpacking when the old bathroom door decided to lock me in!! It took us a while to remember that luckily we have a bathroom window that goes onto a fire escape. So at 35 weeks pregnant there’s me climbing out of the bathroom window onto a ladder on a fire escape two floor up in the dark at 11pm. Nightmare! My husband thinks it was lucky I fit through the window as I was so pregnant.

  16. I’m sorry to say it but this has really cheered me up – its not just us!. This house went to sealed bids so I’ve always been a bit “oh God did we overpay” and since we’ve moved in we’ve found so much bad DIY I could weep. Trying to strip the wallpaper in the playroom which is the first room we’ve done and there are, I shit you not, about 11 layers of lining paper, wallpaper and paint in there. I reckon we’ll get at least an extra inch on every wall. Its also that awful 194 style “sticky” wallpaper. You know, the self adhesive type.

    They did sell this house “needing work” but cripes, I wonder if we bit off more than we can chew. The oven here is on its last legs. The previous couple had been here 30 years and when we text them to say “the lighter isn’t working on the gas” they said “yeah it never worked for us either”. SO THE OVEN IS AT LEAST MID 1980s. It only goes up to 170 FFS. My Yorkshire puddings are screwed.

    Our issue if anything is that the previous owners can’t let go. They still have pretty much all their post coming here and “pop around to get it”. They also keep asking if they can “just take X the kids planted / did / made”. BUGGER OFF. At least we know they really loved the house and didn’t want to move. Made more obvious by the HYSTERICS they had when they handed over the keys. AWKWARD.

    1. What is with the wallpapering over and over wallpaper. Don’t these people know how satisfying it is to use a wallpaper stripper?

  17. Oh my, us too! When we moved into our lovely 1860’s Lodge House, my husband went to change a light bulb only to find the whole thing disintegrated in a shower of Bakelite(!) revealing all the wires were the same colour! Cue rewiring the house, then it’s been removing two horrible stone fireplaces, which were glued onto the wall with about 10cm of cement and huge rusty old nails just to be sure! Now we’re onto stripping the wallpaper in every room, which seems to be stuck on using glue of animal origin, judging by the smell! And just don’t get me started on the bathroom – I feel dirtier after my shower than before, ew. It’ll all be worth it in the end, though – for all that, they don’t build houses like that any more!

    1. Denise it definitely will be worth it in the end. I’m allowed to say that because you said it first 😉

  18. When we moved in our house was, no exaggeration, absolutely bogging! The seller was apologetic- she’d just run out of time. But you know how other people’s dirt just gives you the heaves.. And in the very iced up freezer I found an ice tray with moulds in the shape of a certain part of the male anatomy! The lady who lived there really didn’t look the type…

  19. We bought a cottage which had not been lived in for years, had no kitchen and a filthy bathroom, no central heating and rotten windows. We got the keys one week before the baby arrived and there’s a photo of me looking delighted on our dilapidated porch. What was I thinking?! We couldn’t move in till 10 months later and two years later the renovation is still in progress and has cost far more than we expected. We found mice nests and wasps nests in the attic, holes in window frames we had thought were solid, lining paper on all the walls and asbestos in the fireplace but we bought after one viewing on sealed bids as everything was over budget and I fell in love with the romance of it. I keep looking at new builds but it is starting to look beautiful again! Not the best idea with a newborn though… this thread makes me feel better!

  20. The previous owners of our house had done so many botch jobs as they’d never planned to stay in the house long term – the most comical of these was painting around a wardrobe in one of the bedrooms – leaving a big pink rectangle on the wall for us to spot on moving day!

  21. Having picked up the keys from the agent we arrived at our new house to discover the seller still in the house having not packed a single item. 😱
    We finally got in at 10.30pm to a house full of bits and pieces that she hadn’t had time to pack or simply didn’t want to take with her, including a dog who now lives next door.
    Having lived in it for a few years now we’ve discovered our fair share of bodge jobs and oddities; the conservatory coming away from the house, previous extension with no insulation or planning permission, 3 radiators in the garage and a terribly fitted bathroom. Since starting our own work we have discovered 2 patios under the raised patio which they didn’t have permission for as it was built over the sewer pipe for the whole road. Nightmare. 🤦🏻‍♀️

    1. Oh god Hannah, that does sound like a nightmare. Hopefully you’re coming through it all now and won’t find any more surprises.

  22. We’ve just bought an ugly little 1990s semi in a fantastic location; we bought it in a hurry as there was so much interest in it. The workmanship is awful! All the walls are lined rather than plastered; stripping the wallpaper over it without damaging it has been interesting :/ the floorboards in the study are shorter than the length of the room, and considering it’s a modern box, none of the lines are straight / at right angles. We’ve just converted the loft and our builder had a nightmare because the party wall leans heavily into our loft!

    1. I was talking to a builder a while ago who was telling me that the houses on a new build estate not far from me were built with MDF not wood to cut down on costs. Surely that’s not going to work?! Sounds like you’re getting some period detailing in your pad with your wonky walls 🙂

  23. Wow. And I thought we were unlucky. We had bodged cupboards stuck together with everything from glue to dvds. Also had the classic furniture covering stains on carpets. One of the highlights was a dvd player glued to the fixed kitchen dresser. The chap also left the house so dirty and messy (the kitchen was the worst, it took three of us a day to clean it) and also left crap everywhere. There was me hoping for a bottle of fizz, ha!

  24. So glad we are not the only ones! We were under pressure to move as we’d moved in with my parents to save after renting for years but they wanted to sell up too. After looking at a few houses we quickly realised we couldn’t afford a big renovation so we needed something we could live in for years before doing anything major. We ended up buying a lovely little 2 bed which appeared to not need much doing to it & from people we knew of too. Roll on moving day…the place was so gross, like it had never seen a Hoover, duster, cleaning agent EVER. We spent a week cleaning & even that didn’t feel clean. They had pets so we decided before we moved we’d get the carpets cleaned professionally, which was a good thing, as 2 weeks later we had flees which the carpet man hadn’t managed (not that we knew) to kill when he cleaned. More money on professional flee treatment. They left dog dirt in the garden…who does this?? We paid to get the gutters & Windows cleaned as the gutters had grass growing in them. We purchased their oven off them, only to discover it was so disgusting you wouldn’t want to cook in it, so another company hired to clean the cooker (which then blew it’s motherboard 10 months later). The conservatory leaked the second night as the roof window had slipped!! Most of the rooms have 1 socket, the rest are all trunked along the wall’s (hidden by furniture when we saw it). Walls are painted straight onto the plaster board, which we discovered when washing the wall’s of all the muck!
    Luckily we’ve managed to get the place clean & adore our home now, but we are going to need to address the electrics at some point, rip down the conservatory & replace all the windows. We were blind to the romance of buying a home, & I’ll never forget the sheer disappointment we felt when we got the keys. But lessons learnt, we’d certainly look a lot closer if we ever decide to move (which we’ve said we won’t for a very long time).

    1. Such an expensive lesson to learn isn’t it? Your house sounds wonderful now through Sarah. Definitely stay put 🙂 x

  25. I thought my dream was to always have the big Victorian do-er upper and when we were researching houses for our recent relocation, I was rudely dismissive of anything that sniff of high ceilings, picture rails, original tiled WIDE hallway etc – you get the picture!

    My Dad who is a builder – but would be living 2 hours away (so therefore not in a position to be OUR BUILDER or handyman!) had a frank but soooo worthwhile chat with my husband over a beer in Portugal one night. He simply called us out and said – neither you or nicola can hang a picture, you don’t want to be spending all your money and all your time (which is always precious, even more so with a 2 year old and one on the way!) doing up a house.

    I am so so so so glad he took off my rose tinted spectacles. Don’t you just hate it when your parentals are right!!

    Long story sort – (buying a house is always a long story, isn’t it!) we are in a really lovely new build that from the outside looks a bit like a renovated farmhouse – that comes with a 10 year building warranty – and while it has hotel-style bathrooms (when my preference would be more rolltop and vintage tiles) carpets (not parquet wooden floors or original tiles), and spotlights (not sconces, high ceilings that befit chandeliers)… it feels like home, is cosy, is easy to maintain (i.e cleaning!) and is spacious. I have no regrets!

    Also, when my friend moved in to her new house in North London – the owners had left them A RABBIT IN A HUTCH IN THE GARAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Congrats on number two being on the way Nicola!
      Sounds as though you’ve definitely made the right decision for your family x

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