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Buying a house comes with too many extra costs

Toy house with pound coins

House prices rise and fall, but there’s lots of additional extras that are always there. If we want people to own property, then we need to bring these costs down right now.

Another day, another housing headline. Recent stories have included house prices rising (according to the Land Registry, prices rose by 0.4% in July) and house prices falling (property analyst Hometrack tells us that they fell by 0.3% between July and August).

Latest figures from the Bank of England reveal that mortgage approvals are below half the levels they were in 2007 and that total lending was the weakest since March. We’ve also been told that the self-employed and first-time buyers are suffering because of restrictions on lending. However, there’s one story that seems to always get lost in the economics – the actual cost of buying a house.

The real cost of buying a house

When I say the cost of buying a house, I don’t mean the purchase price – I mean the extras that go with it. I recently bought a house for just over £300,000, but the cost didn’t end there.

Stamp duty, solicitors’ fees, an energy performance certificate (EPC), transfer charges, estate agent’s fees, mortgage fees, valuations, surveys, searches, land registry fees – all of these added around £20,000 onto my final bill. And that was before little things like moving costs, storage fees and insurance.

In the current climate, where lenders want higher deposits and are less willing to lend, these additional fees can make or break many sales. Particularly for first-time buyers, who are the life blood of the housing market.

Change needed in the housing market

It’s time the government looked closely at these costs and made some serious changes to the way homes are bought and sold in this country. But until that happens there are some things you can do to keep costs down:

  • Sell your house yourself – it may be time-consuming, but this’ll save a fortune on estate agents who are still charging between 1 and 3% for their ‘services’.
  • Shop around for your EPC – we recently found that prices can vary dramatically.
  • Work out the best deal for your mortgage – not just the rate, but the full cost of the product including fees.
  • Compare solicitor’s costs – don’t just go with the first one you find.

One final word of advice – if you’re thinking of doing the removal work yourself to save money – don’t. Call in the professionals. It’s back-breaking work and DIY removal can cause anything from broken plates to broken arms. Just ask my best mate, who spent two months in plaster after his last move…


I am in process of moving house. It’s something I have been considering since I took early retirement four years ago. I have had an offer accepted on a house that was built in 1998 and now I need to decide on a survey. In an informal discussion with my solicitor I was told that a homebuyer survey can be a bit of a waste of money because surveyors often point out what is obvious and say that anything that looks dodgy should be examined by a professional. I am awaiting information about what items I can select to be included in a survey.

Has anyone got any advice on getting value for money from a survey?

Avoid any surveyor who does mortgage surveys. Their reports are worthless. Apologies to any who actually do their job properly but they do seem to be in short supply.

I think we would get an independent structural surveyor next time. And I would accompany them to make sure they examined the property properly.

Good Luck !!!

My daughter recently had to get a home survey for the mortgage and all that does is make sure the property is fitting with the amount of finance against it
Nothing like a survey in Canada where our eldest has been for a while……………….They include everything
My son like you has had an offer accepted several months ago…………..The house is in the country and every single little thing about water pipes,,,,,,septic,,,,,,,,,,electric supply underground…………etc has to have wayleaves to access or whatever its called
The owners of everything has everything signed since Xmas but its like snails pace
Home inspections are waste of time
Both of ours got the paperwork back and even the boiler had a note that the boiler was simply there but hadnt been switched on……………..
Immersion heaters were not tried and again noted
Wave I think you have more idea than the inspection……………..Get inot the roof space and all through and you’ll see all you need to know,,,,,,I hope

My estate agent is going to let me have a key so that I can go round with a friend and do a thorough check and by the time I’m done every socket will be tested and I will have had a good ferret around in the loft. The vendor has already provided useful answers to may pages of questions. I suspect that the immersion heater does not work but that’s not a big issue.

Thanks Alfa. I’m surprised that this Convo has not been used in the past five years but maybe a bit of recycling is needed. 🙂

I’ve already decided that I’m not using a surveyor unless they let me accompany them, but it is useful advice for anyone who has not realised that this is possible. I was wondering if I need a structural survey because there is no sign of problems. I’m planning to do a thorough inspection before instructing the surveyor.

Another thing I would do is talk to the neighbours. They can tell you all sorts of things that you wish you had known before buying a property. They might know of structural problems, boundary problems, neighbourhood problems, etc. things the seller won’t tell you and I would also like to know who I might be living next door to.

And I concur with DeeKay, definitely look in the roof space.

I’m planning to speak to neighbours and will have a good look round the roof space. When I bought my present home, over 30 years ago, it was easier because there was not masses of insulation to contend with.

In my sons case we know everyone if that can be relied on………….Seller,,,,,sellers brother,,,,,,,,,neighbours and the estate agent also who is the biggest of the problems,,,,,,,,,,,,slow as a snail

Wifey and I were going past last week and we seen the brother out in the farm yard…………..So I stopped………..Same class at school and he knew who was trying to buy the house………..His only daughter was in the same class as my son at primary………..he then went to grammar but they still associated

Brother was able to tell me that all the wayleaves/rights of way were signed before Xmas………….just the water connection to sort out and he showed us the receipt to the utility…………..

Still it’s best to go speak to everyone whether you know them or not
Like Alfa says,,,,you may learn a lot of things
One of the problems today is that we think we are buying the property and the views etc included which we are not……………We are only buying the house and grounds and we have to get along with the neighbours and rural in particular has a different set of long accepted rules from simple town house type properties
So rural mat look nice but there are drawbacks as there are with everything

A house is a big investment and unless you are very knowledgeable I would get a full structural survey done – a small cost compared to what you are investing. It should also give you protection in case anything that should have been seen is overlooked. But as you seem a practical person, also check as much as you can as you clearly intend. Look. if you can, under any carpets, behind furniture (can be positioned to conceal problems), take a spirit level with you and a pen knife to look at decaying timber. Check the last time the gas boiler was serviced (if there is one) – it should be done every year

I’d also visit the area at different times of the day and night to see what activity there is.

Good luck and I hope it works out well. 🙂

Thanks Malcolm. If I’m in any doubt I will have a structural survey done. I have been looking at nearby properties by the same builder and others outside for problems and see no issues. The vendor seems to have been very honest. I asked directly about known problems and, for example, told me that some of the panels in the conservatory had been replaced during the warranty, and that the burglar alarm has not worked for years. (None of the houses that I have looked at in the area have working alarms, so I hope this is a good sign.) He even told me that one of the screws in the oven has to be tightened periodically! Apparently the boiler had its annual service in October, when a new controller was fitted. Hopefully I will get evidence of this before money changes hands. It concerns me that there may be little or no corrosion inhibitor in the system but I will check the radiators are working well. I am keen to zone the heating system in the summer unless this proves difficult.

What has prompted me to move is that I’m in a medium flood risk area. Insurance cover is getting expensive and not one of the Which? recommended insurers would offer cover. That’s not a problem with where I’m planning to move to and I have checked with my current insurer as well as scrutinising the Environment Agency maps. Typing a postcode into their website will show the risk of flooding from rivers, surface water and reservoirs: https://www.gov.uk/prepare-for-a-flood/find-out-if-youre-at-risk I have been round the area on numerous occasions, one when it was raining. I started looking for property after Christmas, at a time when property looks at its least attractive.

Against all advice I am buying before I sell my present house, which is what the vendor has done. I know it makes no sense but it could avoid a lot of stress. An elderly neighbour has ‘sold’ his house three times to move nearer to his son and each time the chain has broken.

Wavechange think very hard before committing to buying before selling as you could be landed with paying two lots of council tax and insurance.

I put my house on the market in November last in the hope of a quick sale after Christmas. It is already proving to be something of a damp squib with the estate agent. Agents are expert at using their own protocols to fob you off with stories and fabrications with an attempt to placate. (See
forums.moneysavingexpert.com – Tricks and Tactics used by Estate Agents) for examples.

I have so far received two offers from potential investors with “ready cash or with very low mortgages” at way below the asking price which I have declined, bearing in mind investors make more profit when buying than when selling. Mysteriously I have received a total of four Saturday prospective viewings, only to have them all cancelled late Friday afternoon [I am beginning to question if these people actually exist!] except for one occasion when people turned up followed by the agents representative a few minutes later without an appointment. I was very unwell at the time going down with flu, so refused to let them in. [I was still in my pyjamas!]

Empty houses cost money. Prospective buyers are well aware you are more than likely very keen to let it go, hopefully on their terms, so be careful Wavechange. Personally I think you could end up financially more out of pocket taking the uncertain buy before selling route.

Good luck 🙂

You are quite right, Beryl, but I have not taken the decision lightly. Nearly ten years ago I was looking after my late parents’ house and large garden for over a year, waiting for family members to collect furniture, so I know what it’s like to have the responsibility and costs of two homes. I know that houses sell quickly where I live at present and I’m hoping that a house that is available immediately might be attractive so someone in a hurry to move.

Thanks for the link. I sincerely hope that you sell your house soon and with little more hassle.

Thanks Wavechange.

The market is very buoyant where I live also in an AONB. My house was advertised as “very well presented”. It has been well maintained and is well within the average price for the area.

I have considered renting it and proceeding with another purchase but I am not brave enough and don’t particularly want the extra hassle as you say.

“Sell your house yourself – it may be time-consuming, but this’ll save a fortune on estate agents who are still charging between 1 and 3% for their ‘services’.”

Whilst I don’t like unnecessary fees, ask yourself whether you will be able to advertise your house in the right places, whether you will achieve as good a price as an estate agent, and whether you can evaluate the status of potential buyers as well as a decent agent can. You may well save their fee, but will you save money?

I’m curious………Who mentioned “selling your house yourself”?

See the introduction.

Thanks Malcolm,,,,,,,,,,,I thought I was missing something someone had written though

It’s because I was interested as two of our children in the recent past have bought…….Obviously by my posts one already moved in the other is again on the go slow route nowhere

The daughter who is already in was told repeatedly that the house is ready to move into a few weeks after an offer would be accepted………………………The offer was accepted and she moved in 5 months later…………Nothing wrong apart from the seller trailing their heels and the estate agent showing no enthusiasm………….
There had not been a single thing about the house checked out………….wayleaves,,,,,,,possible…….elec utility cable that needed moved and took forever………….

My son who’s offer has also been accepted late last year and was again told that everything was in order by the estate agent………….
Might I also add that I also ask the man because I was already p****d off with the daughters bunch and got the same answer
What are we waiting on…………a new dedicated water connection and again not a single wayleave or right of way,,,,,,,,,,nothing checked out ………….but again they are fit to say that the place was ready to move into

Now I know there could be a problem as often there is more than one agent on a house but they should not promise the moon and not deliver even a star
All these things I mentioned are the domain of the Solicitor in both our cases and I’m oretty sure in most cases but the agent knows that so how can they make promises or give answers on things they know absolutely nothing about
More B*****y salesmen…………………

Anyone else been jumping through the hoops buying

I don’t think I will sell my present house myself but will certainly look at the options. The advertising for houses I have looked at has ranged from an online listing with emoov to a very glossy brochure.

When I bough my present home I decided I wanted to be close to where I worked and visited the area daily. Most of the houses were sold privately and the one I bought had had an A4 notice in the window for little more than a day. It’s a while since I’ve seen a ‘for sale’ notice in a window.

Hi all, have you seen today’s new convo on using online-only estate agents to sell your property, it’s here in case it’s of interest https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/sell-home-online-estate-agents-zoopla-rightmove/

One of the costs I had not bargained for was dealing with trees at the bottom of the garden. They are far enough away not to be a risk to the building but the friend urged me to have a proper look at them. There’s a couple of conifers that would be best removed. 🙁

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The house is outside the local conservation area and the trees of concern are not huge, but they are overhanging a neighbour’s garden. I will have a proper look at my next visit.

Duncan is right Fir tree’s have rubbish roots as they are forest tree’s growing close together and in the open they use their mass as a forest to protect themselves……………Science teacher,,,thank you.
More native tree’s non evergreen are much rootier………….Around here Ash is our bug bear…………Ash roots are all ove the show and close to the surface……………Big mistake to let them grow in field hedges………If you try to plough it’s as we would call it a wrecking match…………….THere’s only one way throught…..pull them up.
Still a row of Fir’s might take a few bob to get rid of…………..Very fashionable in the 70s but a big problem now………….

Waylaid again,,,,,,,,,,,,,Anyone know anyone one or has anyone sold their own house………..Both my children located their houses on line and although both had in my eye the undesirable agent attached there were others for sale by the owners
I know one person who bought private if thats the right term but I have never heard from a seller as such
Might be interesting……………..

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Thanks Duncan…………..Thats exactly what I wanted to know,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,When my children were looking for houses we had looked at a few that had been advertised by the owner with no agent involved…………….
I was a little dubious as I wrongly assumed that the agent would actually do something apart from advertise and open the door for viewing but since our experiences and we are not alone because the web is full of such experiences I was wondering how the sellers felt about their ventures…..
We dont have Zoopla here or it’s effect in minimal but we do have at least one very prominent on line web site
I have used Zoopla whilst looking in particular at the Caithness and I can see nothing wrong with the private listings and we did look at a couple…………If anything the private listings both here and Caithness were actually more truthful and not talked up.

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Very accurate as usual…………..There have been wars over these d***d tree’s

If you live in a conservation area as I do, protected trees with a girth of 75cm or more will need permission from the local authority before either pruning or chopping down, whether they overhang your boundary from your neighbours garden or are growing in your own.

Trees which need to be chopped down, because they are diseased and rendered unsafe will usually need to be replaced as a condition of permission being granted. I believe the dreaded Leyllandii are the only exception.

You may decide to take a chance and snip off the odd offending twig or two and hope that nobody will notice, but be prepared to suffer the consequences if detected.

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Duncan where I live Section 11 applies to all trees. See planningguidance.communities.govt.uk – Planning Practice Guidance – Section 11 -Annex A: Flowcharts

I would advise anyone contemplating moving into a Conservation Area to check this out before buying any dwelling containing trees either within the gardens of the prospective new home or neighbouring properties.

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Duncan you make the point “Council official comes out to view the tree and then makes a report.”

In a conservation area this is a requirement under Section 11. You are not allowed to prune or cut any part of a tree willy nilly without Council permission (usually lasting for a period of 2 years before renewal), which is the point I have been attempting to convey. The consequences could prove very expensive 🙁

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Duncan I am sure any Local Council would listen sympathetically to your cause if such an occasion were to arise, but the onus would still be on you for failing to report your concerns to them in the first place.

In any event, permission would still be required from the Council who would then visit the site, assess the situation and provide you with a written document containing precise details of any necessary work to be carried out.

I have personally been through this whole procedure with my neighbours tree and have been obliged to pay a professional council appointed tree cutter to carry out the pruning of branches overhanging my garden.

I admit it seems very unfair but I am not responsible for making the laws. The tree owner may deny any responsibility for any accidents occurring on your side of the boundary line , blaming the Local Council for not allowing you to carry out the work yourself, who in turn, would blame you for failing to report your concerns in the first place.

I have had considerable involvement with Natural England and English Heritage (Historic England now performs the regulatory role of EH) and invariably safety has taken priority in protected sites open to the public. I have no experience with trees in Conservation Areas but I assume that the same would apply, but it’s essential to seek permission before doing work on the trees.

I chose my present house because it looks out on two green areas with three trees for which I have no responsibility. I will miss them, but not the telegraph pole that I also look out on.

Several months on and I had three conifers removed this morning. The man in charge asked about nesting birds and knew about the relevant regulations, and they came with all the safety gear needed to climb the trees. The access to the back garden was not wide enough for the tracked chipper, never mind the lorry to collect the waste, so everything had to be dragged to the front of the house. The job took three hours and cost me £280, which was the estimated cost. I was very impressed by the workmanship and even more by the price.

The next job is to have the roof verges re-bedded on mortar, which I presume will involve a scaffolding tower. I hope it won’t take months to find a recommended roofing contractor.

As previously shared I am still experiencing a problem with the neighbours tree blocking my satellite TV reception during the summer months. The tree has now grown to the extent that although I can enjoy transmission during the winter months when the tree is bare but anytime soon the leaves will return and my satellite TV pictures will disappear.

It’s back to the Local Council again to try to obtain permission for further pruning for which I will have to foot the bill as council approved professional tree cutters only are allowed to carry out any work on it and the neighbours landlord refuses to pay.

I fail to understand why owners of protected deciduous trees that need frequent pruning to maintain healthy growth should not be required to carry out this work by the relevant Council on a regular basis.

Maybe I have veered a little off topic but it can add extra unwanted expense when considering buying in a conservation area.

I can understand why the work has to be done by professionals but it is disappointing that the landlord is not taking responsibility for a tree that is affecting a neighbour. Assuming all goes well with my house purchase I will make contact with the neighbour at the bottom of the garden to find out if my trees are causing a problem.

I have spoken to the council about the landlord refusing to pay to maintain his tree but they insist they are powerless to intervene. I would have to take the matter to a civil court which I am not prepared to do.

Meantime I have put the house on the market and will make sure my next abode will not be in an AONB.

An update on my house purchase. The surveyor has found little to worry about apart from a couple of 8 metre conifers that are too close to the house, which I was aware of. There is no sign of damage and my first priority will be to get them removed. The cherry and silver birch are not a problem. I have been recommended a couple of tree surgeons but warned that they don’t come cheap. I wonder how much extra it would cost to chop them into logs because I know someone who has expressed an interest.

There’s a couple of roof verges that need minor repairs to the mortar. I knew about one of them. I hope that does not require scaffolding. I’m advised to check that the bathroom downlighters should be fitted with covers to guard agains fire. Until that is done I will replace the halogen lamps with LEDs, which produce less heat. I’m advised to increase the depth of the loft insulation from 150/200 to 300 mm and make sure to avoid interfering with ventilation of the roof space. There are a couple of double glazed panels with a bit of condensation, which I failed to spot, but I’m going to have the timber windows replaced within a year or so, so I will live with them. There is quite a lot of helpful advice in the report and he says he is happy to discuss anything I am unsure of. He did say that he would test for dampness but has not mentioned this in his report.

Surveyors don’t look at everything and the garage is not mentioned because it is separate from the house, nor is the state of the fences. I had been too busy looking at other things to pay much attention to the fences. More money. 🙁

The surveyor is getting on with whatever surveyors do and is optimistic about delivering his report soon.

The next stage is to see what the vendor would like for various items still in the house. Hopefully these will come cheap because the vendor has lived without them for three months and they are surplus to requirements. There are some useful bookcases, but I think I will skip on the offer of a TV and I don’t need a washing machine. The interesting item on offer is a telescope, but I expect the price would be astronomical.

Best of luck with your purchase, Wavechange.

Some conifers have prodigious amounts of foliage which your arborists should remove, pass through a shredder, and take away – it smells good but is not much use for anything, After removal of the branches all that should remain is a fairly straight trunk and it is not a big job for the tree gang to slice it into sections for you. Some companies have a sideline in selling logs so you could face a higher price if you want to keep the wood. You could reduce the amount of work they have to do by cutting off the lower branches as far as you can safely reach but it’s probably not worth it since once they have their chain saws running that does not take long and they can clear it through the shredder as they go whereas you would have a huge and ugly pile of foliage awaiting disposal. I stripped some lower branches off some conifers last year to clear a shed and the amount – and weight – of material was astonishing.

With regard to the things the seller is offering you, bear in mind that the seller is under a contractual obligation to give you absolute vacant possession on completion so you should not need to pay much for anything; you would probably be doing a favour in accepting them.

Thanks John. I will probably just get a couple of quotations to deal with the trees and ignore the request for the logs. One of my relations bought a large property largely surrounded by mature conifers and I have seen how much foliage they produce. I have saplings by comparison.

I’m not intending to pay much for anything left in the house. One of the staff at the estate agent has indicated that the vendors want to get rid of the house, which they are visiting twice a week and keeping the heating on. I was assured that the immersion heater is working, which does not appear to be true, so forgetting about that might be worth a bookcase or two. I am undecided about the rather substantial ladder in the garage. I’m never going to use it, having a weak leg and a bad case of acrophobia, but maybe it would be useful to have one for tradesmen to do work on the house. If it’s not needed it can always be passed on to someone who would use it.

Wavechange I think most tradesmen prefer to use their own tried and tested ladders and if you do decide to keep the “ladder in the garage” make sure you check it out before using, I will hang on to mine as my son finds it useful for cleaning the gutters when he can be persuaded! On one occasion I used it to climb in through a bedroom window when I locked myself out of the house – with the help of neighbour who has also borrowed it from time to time. Ladders kept in garages need to be secured to prevent unwelcome nighttime (or daytime) visitors.

When I put my house on the market I made a list of when the double glazing, the conservatory, the kitchen, the bathroom and the gas boiler were installed. I have kept a record of all the annual boiler services and the date of the last one which took place last December. Interested buyers are then under no illusion when negotiating their price offer.

Your vendor will be very keen to sell his house as it is costing him to keep it so this puts you in a good position to negotiate, as long as you remember you may well be in a similar position if you persist in buying before you sell your own property.

Thanks for the advice, Beryl. Locking ladders is a good point because many homes are broken into using tools provided by the homeowner, often kept in garden sheds. Do let us know when you make progress with your house sale.

A thick pile of papers has arrived from my solicitor and we have arranged to meet. Of greatest concern is the possibility of flood risk, presumably from surface water because there are no water courses nearby. Before putting in an offer for the house I had checked with my present insurer and they said that the postcode did not indicate a flood risk area. I’m hoping to complete by the end of the month to avoid paying extra stamp duty, though I know this can be reclaimed if I sell my present home within 18 months.

Water courses are really debatable or possibly invisible might be better said
If you were in our yard/house you could not see a river/stream or sheugh as we call them (shallow drain at side of field)
The farming community around here have everything in big concrete pipes so we cant see anything within maybe 200m
If one walks around the fields you’ll find various holes in corners for surface water to run into

Although we are high on the hills our actual yard and site is very level at the foot of some hills but if you look around one can see that if there is a load of rain which we get regular and if the pipes cannot take the water it runs over the surface to the nearest stream. . It actually runs over the farmland with the pipes which are not big enough

So Wave, , Does your new house look as if it sits several feet about the surroundings?? Plus you can see land falling well away from your house. . In other words if you stand at the door can you see ground 6 or 10 feet below your site
Dont worry too much about how the water gets away once its off your patch just as long as it gets off your patch is the main bit. .
What about the locals?? The local farmers will know more than you’ll maybe ever learn about their surroundings and flooding risk is very important to them. .

Having had another look at the Environment Agency maps, the problem is very obviously surface water. The house is in a small development with nine cul-de-sacs of different sizes. Seven of them have a blue blob corresponding to the turning circle at the end, suggesting that the street drainage is not adequate there. Fortunately the house is not at the end of the cul-de-sac and from the EA map, the risk is very low. If I was unlucky the garage would be the first victim because it is nearer the road and looks lower than the house. I deliberately made a visit during heavy rainfall and did not see any problems.

I have asked locals and have made six visits to the local pub to find out about flooding and other local information. I suppose that’s one of the expenses of moving house. 🙂 The house was built in 1998 and the only flooding I have heard about was about a mile away.

I understand the points you are making, DK. I had been looking at moving to a small town that I visit regularly, but that is affected by inadequate drainage and both shops and residential properties have suffered from flooding in the time I have been going there.

If it hasnt flooded in the last few years and the locals feel safe if thats the right term I’d chance it. . .If the flooding gets much worse everyone’ll have to move to the hills anyhow

I have discovered the first problem since moving into my new home. It has a detached double garage and the roof is pitched on four sides. The rainwater collects in a 210 litre butt which can fill up in a day. When I looked at the house I had assumed that surplus water entered the nearby drain but it’s not connected. It just overflows onto the paving and runs away. Having examined the nearby drain there are a couple of spare entry points but they are plugged and have never been used.

The garage is dry and the only sign of something amiss is that the nearby paving has sunk slightly, but I would like to have the excess water go into the drain when the butt is full. Can I get a builder to do this or is it something that requires planning permission? I am concerned about the cost if I have to do this.

You should not need planning permission to alter the rainwater drainage from the garage roof. If the nearby drain is for surface water and has a spare entry it should be straightforward to open the spare entry and with a bit of excavation link your garage downpipe to the drain. You could then insert a diverter into the downpipe connected by a flexible pipe to your water butt. When water in the butt reaches the same level as the flexible pipe the flow automatically diverts to the lower part of the downpipe and into the drain. If it is a combined drain carrying both rainwater from the house roof as well as kitchen and bathroom waste water then it can connected just the same. If the drain you intend to connect to is for soil waste only and flows to a sewer you might need permission from your water company to discharge surface water into it.

Ofwat says “Most rainwater falling on properties drains into public sewers owned by the ten water and sewerage companies in England and Wales. The companies are responsible for removing and processing this rainwater. The companies collect around £1 billion each year to cover the costs of this service. If rainwater drains from your property into a public sewer, you will be charged for surface water drainage through your sewerage bill.”

When we built our garage I dug a soakaway around 1.5m cube, filled with loose rubble capped with a plastic sheet to prevent the final layer of top soil being washed down. A drain pipe from the garage fed into this. Things may have changed; I think you can get stuff from the builders merchant to fill the soakaway if you don’t have suitable material. It was good exercise but you end up with about 3 cu m earth to get rid of; a skip will do that. You can have the satisfaction of good exercise and keeping water out of the drains. I wonder where your house roof drains to? You could lay a pipe to its drain and hope the soakaway, if there is one, will deal with it.

ps you might use it to feed a pond. Digging that would also provide good exercise and require a skip but think of the wildlife it would attract. Better than TV. I keep thinking about it.

Wavechange – it might be worth trying to see if the drain that you are considering connecting your garage roof drainage to might already flow into a soakaway [one of the searches carried out by your conveyancer might indicate this on a utilities plan]. Many recently-built houses have soakaways for surface water drainage from the roofs and any gullies on drives and pathways. Our water company [Anglian] makes separate charges for water supply and sewerage disposal based on volume, the volume for sewerage being 90% of the metered volume of water supplied [presumably on the basis that some water is drunk and discharged elsewhere or is lost to evaporation – tumble driers come to mind]. There is also a standing charge for “Sewerage – Foul & Surface” at a daily rate. I have heard – but do not know the details – that if you can convince the water company that all your surface water run-off is collected in tanks or in other ways such that it does not percolate into the ground it is possible to claim a reduction in the standing charge. The important thing is never to let foul water [from toilets, sinks, washing machines and dishwashers] get into the surface water system or into soakaways but there is no doubt that, in a large number of properties that have had bathroom and kitchen alterations, illegal connections have been made from washbasins and sinks to the surface water drains for economy and simplicity. If discovered, the water company and local health authority can take action against the property owner and enforce rectification directly at their own expense or in default execute the works and place a charge on the property.

In the town where we used to live a well-known national dry cleaners had a waste pipe from their washing machines descending into an open gully in the street that was intended for rainwater from the roof of the building; there was often a surge of foaming dirty water and an overflow across the pavement ending up in the carriageway gullies. Where is today’s equivalent of Dr John Snow who traced the origins of cholera in 19th century London in consequence of defective and inadequate waste systems?

Thanks for the advice, folks. Which? Convo at its best. I’ll reply to each of you separately.

John – The copy of the relevant search provided by my conveyancer only showed the sewer serving mine and local properties. I asked him to check if one or more pages showing the drains etc might be missing but it was not. I now have the original. I have a friend who bought a house in the nearby village and I will ask if she was given a map of the drainage system etc.

The water butt has a diverter but that is not connected correctly and all the water just goes into the butt and overflows when it is full. The downpipe that drains the gutter for the garage roof is only a metre or two from the nearest drain inspection cover and saw that one of the inlets is in the right direction, so I had assumed that someone had disconnected the downpipe to route rainwater into the butt. The paving has sunk slightly near the water butt and I am concerned that all the water could undermine the garage foundations or result in a dampness problem, though all is well at the moment. I lifted paving and dug down to look for a disconnected drain, without success. Removing the inspection cover again, I discovered that the inlet was blanked off and had never been in use.

There is obviously no need to act promptly and perhaps I should get to know my neighbours well enough to inspect their drainage. Most of them have attached garages of similar size but mine is separate. It was built at the same time as the house so is not an afterthought. I will also try to establish which drains handle rainwater and water from sinks etc.

I think about John Snow and the tale of the Broad Street pump whenever a contributor mentions having their own water supply – a favourite tale of microbiologists. If Which? had been around at the time I expect that there would have been a campaign to make drinking water safe.

Malcolm – I’m beginning to think that there might be a soakaway, on the basis that the rainwater disappears efficiently, even during a downpour. I was never any good at heavy physical work and digging out a Leylandii root, which I thought might be good exercise, gave me back pain – something I have not really experienced before.

I’m not sure a pond would be practical because of the amount of leaves and other debris thanks to trees and shrubs. I expect that I will be getting involved with Natural England regenerating a large pond in a SSSI thanks to Lottery funding. If all goes well we are planning to bring school parties to do pond dipping. I bought an old microscope for a friend who has three ponds and regret not getting one for myself.

It may be cheaper to move the downspout and water butt nearer the drain Wavechange. (Just a thought) 🙂

As John has already suggested you could fit a GutterMate Diverter which contains a filter to remove any debris that can easily be removed and popped back again in an instant. You can then use the water to wash your car or water the lawn to prevent it from overflowing. (The butt not the lawn!) Have a look at YouTube.com – Gutter Mate Diverter – UK’s #1 Rainwater Harvesting System.

I am surprised the surveyor didn’t pick up on this problem, given your close proximity to a potential flooding area.

The water butt is already close to the drain, Beryl. I guessed the drain had been disconnected, but as I have now explained, this was not the case. At my previous home, I used rainwater for vegetables. I like the idea of a diverter with a filter because that might remove the need to clean the butt regularly to remove accumulating organic material.

I chose my surveyor on the basis of a thorough job done for a friend shortly before. Her inspection was done by a junior whereas the senior partner looked at my house and produced a less detailed report.

I had a similar problem Wavechange with a neighbours guttering which was constantly overflowing onto the house next doors frontage and the excess rainwater was flowing along the joined guttering, putting extra strain on my downspout and drainage system. The house in question was rented and after several requests for the landlord to rectify the problem without success, I contacted the local council who eventually placed an enforcement order on him to comply. There was an underground blockage caused by his failure to insert a gutter cage to prevent debris becoming trapped in the system.

I was able to produce the deeds to my property which clearly displayed all the underground drainage system so that the council officer was able to understand the root of the problem straight away. However, it was not until I e-mailed photograph evidence taken when it was actually raining did they decide to take action.

If you, like myself have access to your house deeds they should show all of your drainage system in detail. I respect your privacy and it is not my intention to overstep the mark but I hope my own experience may show some light on your situation. For the record, I had never heard of a gutter diverter before John mentioned it. It is amazing what you can learn from shared experiences on Which?Convo!

PS. My pot plants, especially the acid loving ones thrive and much prefer the rainwater from my water butt to the hard water that comes from my taps.

I’m very grateful for your input, Beryl, and I’m sorry to hear of more house-related problems.

I went outside in a downpour and it looks as if my gutters are OK. The conservatory gutters had been cleaned before I moved in and birds taking dust baths are helping to cut down the accumulation of debris.

I have been told that deeds are now kept on computer, so I have not been given an impressive collection of documents like those that I collected when I had paid off my mortgage on my bungalow after 25 years. I will pursue the matter of drain records when I have time.

I’m familiar with diverters for use with water butts, but the link you provided showed one with a cleanable filter, which seems a good idea. As you say, rainwater is better for watering, especially in hard water areas.

The surveyor pointed out that the roof verges of the house, including ones over a bedroom window, could do with having the mortar renewed, though it is not urgent. I had seen this for myself and am disappointed because neighbouring houses are OK, assuming their mortar is original. I’m assuming that this will mean a builder with a scaffolding tower and there should not be a problem with access. Where I used to live, the roof verges of my bungalow were fine but I regularly had people wanting to fit plastic covers. My neighbour had the job done twice because the first ones started to fall off. What I would like advice on is whether to have the mortar replaced or plastic covers fitted.

wavechange, I’m a traditionalist about houses and like bricks and mortar, so would not touch exposed plastic if I could avoid it. I think it depends how far the mortar has disappeared but it may mean, I presume, removing all the tiles and 1 1/2 tiles up the verge, replacing those that break, removing existing mortar and rebedding them. However if it is described as not urgent it is presumably more cosmetic and it might be possible to just repoint the verges if the mortar is essentially in good condition but just eroded a little. But disturbing the tiles to do this might break their bond with the existing mortar.

If you have an honest local builder (I do) I’d ask their view. Many good ones are busy so will not need to take on unnecessary work. Not urgent to me, though, would mean leave well alone.

I agree with Malcolm. A mortar repair will look better and probably outlast plastic. I am surprised that the verges on your house have deteriorated so soon – they should last a good fifty years unless disturbed by movement or extreme weather. The key to a good repair is the mortar mix and a good builder should explain what mix they would use. It would probably be a 4:1 or 3:1 sharp sand to cement mix which will give good protection and durability.

I am strongly in favour of staying with mortar on grounds of appearance though the NHBC has suggested that plastic might have a longer life. The plastic caps are fitted to ‘improve the appearance’ according to doorstep salesmen and leaflets that have been put through my letterbox.

I see mortar roof verges as one of the less good engineering features of house construction. It is bonding different materials that may have different coefficients of thermal expansion. On my bungalow the verges are still in reasonable condition after over 40 years and as John says, they can last longer. I have noticed that edge clips (I don’t know their proper name) are becoming more common and guess that they help minimise the gap that can form when the bond between the mortar and tile is lost over time. That’s important because if water freezes in the gap it will expand and cause further separation.

My plan is to speak to a local builder, Malcolm. ‘Not urgent’ was probably my assessment on the basis of the surveyor’s report and our subsequent discussion. The vendor has left me ten spare roof tiles. The rest of the mortar looks as good as new so perhaps I’ve just been unlucky.

I had my garage pitch roof verges repointed with mortar and the entire house roof inspected by a roofer with quite a few recommendations from Which? Local Traders, before I put my house on the market. My prospective buyers have since paid for a Mortgage and House Inspection Surveyance which they seem happy with. The house was built in 1978, so is a few years older than yours Wavechange.

I am at present in a state of limbo as every property I have so far pursued has fallen through, due mainly to discrepancies in the housing market system and dishonest estate agents and developers, as previously posted. The outcome is now entirely dependent upon how long my buyers are prepared to wait until I find somewhere suitable, but the immediate outcome is uncertain due to the state of the UK economy since the referendum.

I have however recently read a report in a local newspaper that government meetings are taking place to assess the present state of the UK housing market and decide on the best way forward to improve the current situation. It is long overdue.

I recall that you posted an ‘idea’ based on your problems. It’s still there and I’m told that I cannot give it more than one vote. I’m not sure it was a good idea to have ‘ideas’ because not many see the light of day. We are all living in a state of uncertainty following the referendum and I do hope you can get sorted out soon and without more problems.

I used to do almost everything for myself, but will now have to work out the difference between Which? Local Traders and Which? Trusted Traders.

Have you considered buying, or indeed selling by auction Beryl. Very common in Australia. I was discussing the situation on Thursday with a lady who loathes the English process. Interestingly she had actually done the conveyancing of a property herself and was very clued up on the pitfalls and the dilatory nature of some conveyancers/solicitors.

Being in control was important to her. My fathers flat was sold by auction after his death which certainly tidies matters up much more quickly than having it languishing on the market at a variety of suggested prices dropping as the original over-optimistic estate- agents price seems to bring poor results.

We also discussed the various scams that estate agents have been known to use. The most obvious being the % of sale price which bears little relation to the work involved.

The guide prices may be low and therefore those that sold look good but even so having the money 28 days after auction does provide great flexibility. This plucked at random from the web.

Rainwater disposal. Rebate!!! 🙂
Earlier in this Convo wavechange talked about where to route his roof rainwater. It prompted me to look further into this and I found that my water company charges for “surface water disposal” if it is discharged into the main drainage system. However, if you have soakaways, there is no charge. Their website has a means to claim a reduction in water charge if you don’t discharge into the main drain. I applied and will get a rebate backdated to 2011 (I’ve asked about further backdating, if the charge was imposed before then, on the basis that nowhere do I recall being offered a choice when I opened my account).

I’m not holding my breath – it may be a pittance, or perhaps a drop in the ocean? – but every little………………..So thanks WC for sparking off this windfall. How many others could be entitled to a rebate?

I had heard of this some years ago and looked it up with our water company. It seemed that to claim this relief one had to prove that not a single drop of surface water ran into the company’s drains. Since the lower end of our driveway was on a slope towards the road and did not have a gulley like the one further up the drive [which connected to a soakaway] it would be a waste of time to claim. I then forgot about it until Wavechange mentioned his garage roof run-off rearrangement. Our present drive ends in a gulley next to the public footway and the builders told me it discharged into the public surface water drainage system under the public highway [but was that correct?]. It’s probably always worth making detailed enquiries.

John, worth pursuing. I’d complete the online application. The water company will no doubt look up details for your area and may visit. Let us know (I may be on a cruise when I’ve got my rebate).