First-time buyer hit with £20k bill to fix damp, mould and rot 18 months after moving in to £640k two-bed flat

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MOVING into your first home is supposed to mark the end of a stressful process but for Immy Gardam it was the beginning of a string of issues that would end up costing her more than £20,000 fix.

Carpets that squelched with damp, rotten walls and mouldy cupboards were just some of the issues Immy, now 27, desperately needed to put right.

Gary Stone

Immy Gardam bought her two-bed flat in Hackney almost four years ago[/caption]

Only two months after buying her £640,000 two-bed flat in Hackney, she was left forking out hundreds of pounds to sort out damp in two rooms even though she’d paid £1,000 for a building survey.

And then just 18 months later, Immy spotted more damp in her bathroom and moved out of the flat for four weeks while the professionals sorted it out.

But shortly after work started it became clear that the old electrics and plumbing systems needed to be replaced too.

Four months later, Immy was allowed to return to her home but this time with £20,000 less in her savings.

Gary Stone

Almost four years on, Immy loves her flat but has spent thousands fixing it[/caption]

The financial PR manager bought her home four years ago when she was just 23 after she came into some inheritance, but feels her age and naivety ended up costing her thousands in the long run.

Half of homeowners feel they have made costly mistakes when buying their first home, according to new research by Comparethemarket.com, and Immy feels she is one of them.

Immy now wants to warn other first-time buyers about the things she wishes she’d known about buying a house, from shopping around for a mortgage to looking for insurance policies not recommended by her bank.

Immy shares her tips with The Sun readers for the My First Home series.

What is your home like and how much did you pay for it?

I bought my flat in Hackney in London almost four years ago for £640,000.

Gary Stone

Immy used her savings to get the damp and mould fixed in her flat[/caption]

It’s a lower ground floor flat in a converted Edwardian house and I fell in love with it straight away.

The flat is small and we converted the living room into a bedroom which I rent out to my best friend from school.


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It means that we now have a smaller living room/dining room. There’s a small shared garden around the back which is great in summer.

I was able to buy it because I was given some inheritance from my mum which meant I could put down more than half of it as a deposit.

I did take out a mortgage for the rest which I’m paying back now every month.

Did you have any problems after you moved in?

I ended up having so many problems with the property that had I known, I probably would have walked away.

Gary Stone

Immy turned the dining room into a small living room/diner[/caption]

Gary Stone

Immy absolutely loved the flat from the moment she set foot in it[/caption]

Before buying, I paid extra for a comprehensive building survey because I knew they were important which cost me £1,000.

But it didn’t stop me paying over £20,000 to get serious issues fixed.

The report came back sound but it wasn’t until afterwards that I found out surveyors don’t actually move things or lift things up so they missed stuff that could be hidden by furniture.

After we moved in, we found damp on the back wall inside the built in cupboards and on the floor and wall in the downstairs bedroom.

Immy Gardam

Immy had to pay £220 to get damp on the floor fixed[/caption]

Immy Gardam

Damp in the basement walls also has to be “tanked” for another £200[/caption]

Immy Gardam

They found rot in the walls which contributed to an unexpected £20,000 bill[/caption]

We ended up paying for a couple of rounds of “tanking” to fix it, which is where you put a panel over the wall to stop it spreading, which was around £200 each.

I did have the money but that was cash I was going to use to buy new furniture.  I ended up using a load of secondhand things from my parents.

I started to save seriously then in case anything else went wrong – I knew that because it was old and we already had issues that more could be on the horizon.

Gary Stone

She’s turned what was the living room into a second bedroom which she rents out to her friend[/caption]

Gary Stone

Immy had to pay another £2,000 to fix a dry rot problem in the kitchen wall[/caption]

About 18months after I bought, we noticed there was damp in the bathroom too so I called in a professional to fix.

It needed to be re-plastered and tanked which involved stripping back the bathroom completely and taking everything out.

They said the work would take four weeks so we moved out to temporarily stay with our boyfriends.

But as the work go underway they found more problems. The plumbing was so old it all needed replacing and they also found wet and dry rot in the walls.

What are the different types of home surveys?

A SURVEY gives a detailed inspection into the condition of a property, highlighting any major repair work that’s needed. It can also help you decide whether or not you’re paying the right amount for your home.

The reports are carried out by qualified surveyors and costs vary from company to company. There are also different types of surveys depending on the depth of the report that you want and your budget.

These are the different types of surveys and their typical prices, according to the Homeowners Alliance:

Condition report, £300 or more

This gives a traffic light report to indicate the conditions of various states of the property – green for okay, orange for cause for concern.
The report provides you with a sumary of defects and possible risks but won’t provide any advice or valuations.

HomeBuyers report, £450 or more

On top of everything you get in the condition report, you’ll also get a valuation and an insurance reinstatement value – which is an estimate of how much you’ll receive if the building were to burn down.

Home Condition survey, £400 to £900
These are carried out by the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) rather than the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and includes information on broadband speeds, a damp assessment and boundary issues to consider. The price depends on the valuation of the property.

Building survey, £500 or more

These are extensive reports where the surveyor will go into places such as the attic, check behind walls and look between floors and above ceilings. It will also provide advice on repairs, estimated costs and timings, and what will happen if you don’t carry out the repairs. Prices depend on the size of the property.

Home Report, free for the buyer

In Scotland, it’s compulsory for home sellers to provide buyers with a detailed report on how energy efficient the property is, a building survey and information on the council tax band and other details like flood history.

The electrics in there weren’t done to industry standards either so they all needed to be replaced too.

In the end we decided to get the whole bathroom replaced because the suite was so rotten and grotty.

It cost me another £20,000 to get it fixed and we couldn’t move back in for another four months.

And then while the work was being done, our neighbour called me to tell me he’d found rot in his bathroom wall which joined onto my kitchen which needed to be dealt with pretty quick.

Gary Stone

The bathroom had to be completely redone after damp repairs uncovered a number of issues[/caption]

Gary Stone

The flat has access to a small communal garden which is shared with the two other flats[/caption]

We split the bill for that but it was another £2,000. It was absolutely grim.

I found the whole buying process stressful so I just wanted to be able to relax when I moved in but the problems continued even after I signed on the dotted line.

Couldn’t you claim it on your insurance?

Part of the moving cost when I moved in when into a pot of cash managed by one of the neighbours for the building insurance.

It’s split between the three flats but we all pay in different amounts depending on the size of our flats.

But the damp and rot issues weren’t covered so I had to pay for it out of my own pocket.

What are the different types of home surveys?

A SURVEY gives a detailed inspection into the condition of a property, highlighting any major repair work that’s needed. It can also help you decide whether or not you’re paying the right amount for your home.

The reports are carried out by qualified surveyors and costs vary from company to company. There are also different types of surveys depending on the depth of the report that you want and your budget.

These are the different types of surveys and their typical prices, according to the Homeowners Alliance:

Condition report, £300 or more

This gives a traffic light report to indicate the conditions of various states of the property – green for okay, orange for cause for concern.
The report provides you with a sumary of defects and possible risks but won’t provide any advice or valuations.

HomeBuyers report, £450 or more

On top of everything you get in the condition report, you’ll also get a valuation and an insurance reinstatement value – which is an estimate of how much you’ll receive if the building were to burn down.

Home Condition survey, £400 to £900
These are carried out by the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) rather than the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and includes information on broadband speeds, a damp assessment and boundary issues to consider. The price depends on the valuation of the property.

Building survey, £500 or more

These are extensive reports where the surveyor will go into places such as the attic, check behind walls and look between floors and above ceilings. It will also provide advice on repairs, estimated costs and timings, and what will happen if you don’t carry out the repairs. Prices depend on the size of the property.

Home Report, free for the buyer

In Scotland, it’s compulsory for home sellers to provide buyers with a detailed report on how energy efficient the property is, a building survey and information on the council tax band and other details like flood history.

If they had been caused by a burst pipe then it might have stretched but because it was structural damage they wouldn’t pay out.

We did once have an issue with a burst pipe which damaged my carpet which I could claim on the insurance and get replaced.

What do you wish you’d known then that you know now?

There are so many things I wish I had known.

I lived with my Grandmother in London for about two years and was saving to buy a place.

Gary Stone

In the end, the bathroom cost her £20,000 to fix and get re-fitted[/caption]

But because I came into some money far earlier than I had expected to I was able to buy when I was 23.

I was so excited but also so naive. I remember looking at what felt like hundreds of properties – one day I must have made my boyfriend look around about 20 properties.

I hated the process because you’d register with an estate agent who would then take you round a tonne of properties that don’t even want to see. Looking back I wish I’d been more strict with them.

I was just so clueless about the whole process. I didn’t even shop around for a mortgage which I reckon has cost me hundreds of pounds over the years.

I also took out life insurance and contents insurance with a company recommended to me by the bank which I didn’t even question.

Gary Stone

Imm, now 27, bought her flat when she was 23 using inheritance[/caption]

Gary Stone

Immy’s boyfriend is due to move in in the next few months when her housemate moves out[/caption]

I have definitely ended up paying over the odds for that compared to if I’d looked around for deals myself.

When I made the offer on the house, I hadn’t really thought about Stamp Duty which ended up costing me another £22,000.

Luckily I had it but I was planning on using that to furnish the place. The whole thing just ended up costing me so much more than I would ever have thought.

Have you got any advice for other first-time buyers?

Take someone with you who knows what they’re talking about and don’t get too blinded by your excitement.

Had I known about the damp issues beforehand then I probably would have kept looking and let this flat go.


It’s a basement flat so of course there were likely to be problems with it but I had no idea what I was doing and I feel like having someone sensible with me may have pointed that out.

I don’t regret it but I definitely wouldn’t have gone ahead with it if I’d known how much it would cost me in the long run.

Do you think you’ll stay there?

Yes, I do absolutely love it here and want to stay for another five years at least.

It’s been a bit of a project but fun making it more modern. I’d say it’s been a labour of love.

My friend is actually moving out in the next few months to move in with her boyfriend and my boyfriend is moving in.

But I know now that when my mortgage comes up, I’ll definitely look around before fixing in on a deal offered by my current provider.


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