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Revealed: the 10 worst problems when buying a house

Delays with the chain, mortgage and conveyancing provide major pain points

Buying a home is an exciting life moment but it can be stressful when things go wrong.

In its annual survey of home buyers, Which? Mortgage Advisers found that two in three (66%) of those that had bought a home in the last two years experienced problems.

Below, we reveal the 10 most common issues home buyers face and explain steps you can take to solve or avoid them.

1. Getting a mortgage

One in 10 (10%) of our survey respondents reported that problems or delays in getting a mortgage caused a major headache when buying a home.

Over the last few years, lenders have had to tighten up their affordability criteria, making it tougher for borrowers to secure a deal.

For example, home-buyers have had to prove that they could cope with mortgage repayments not just now but in the future if rates rise.

However, there are a number of things you can do to improve your chances of getting a mortgage without a hitch – for example, saving a bigger deposit and checking your credit report is in good shape before you apply.

  • If you’re hoping to buy a home soon and want to understand your mortgage options, call Which? Mortgage Advisers free on 0800 2942 849.


2. Finding a suitable property

One of the biggest problems home buyers faced was actually finding a suitable home to move to: a fifth (18%) said they found it difficult to find a property that met their requirements.

If you’re struggling to find a home in your ideal area that ticks all the boxes on schools, green spaces and price it might be worth exploring other neighbourhoods to find the perfect fit. Our guide to finding the best places to live might help.

And don’t forget to download our house-viewing checklist to take with you on property viewings.

3. Delays in the chain

Delays in the property chain provided the most common gripe, with nearly one in five (19%) home-movers affected by the issue when they last bought a home.

A property chain occurs when the seller (vendor) is also buying a property themselves, meaning more than one home is involved in a ‘chain’ of transactions.

The longer the chain, the greater the chances of delays and problems – and in some instances the chain can collapse entirely, leaving everyone back at square one.

4. Confusion over house surveys

Surveys were cited by 7% of home-buyers as causing problems when buying a home.

Getting a survey on the property you want to buy is a good way to get a better picture of the condition it’s in and any work that may need doing.

However, house surveys are often complicated, and it can be difficult to get your head around some of the jargon used to describe the issues.

5. Conveyancing issues

One in 12 (8%) survey respondents experienced issues with their conveyancer or property solicitor.

Conveyancing is the legal work that goes on in the period between your offer being accepted and the completion of the sale.

Your conveyancer will manage things like stamp duty charges, collecting and transferring money, drawing up contracts and dealing with the Land Registry.

While it’s not the most exciting aspect of home-buying, finding the right conveyancer is really important as they are key to setting the pace of the sale and keeping things moving.

6. Sellers getting cold feet

Nearly one in 10 home buyers (9%) said they experienced sellers pulling out of the sale.

Sometimes, vendors are forced to pull out because their own purchase has fallen through, but it’s not uncommon for people to simply change their mind.

Whatever the reason, there isn’t much you can do if a seller pulls out before you exchange contracts.

7. Getting gazumped

According to our survey, 7% of home-buyers had been ‘gazumped’ before buying their current home.

‘Gazumping’ is where a seller accepts your offer on a property, but then backs out and accepts a higher offer from a different buyer.

Frustratingly, getting gazumped means you not only lose out on your ideal home but also any money spent on searches, surveys, solicitor fees and mortgage applications.

The government is currently consulting on ways to improve the home buying process, including the introduction of reservation agreements, which would combat gazumping.

Until that happens, however, you can find help in our guide on gazumping.

8. Completion day chaos

Completion day is the final hurdle in the home-buying process – and as many as one in eight (12%) said they experienced problems at this stage.

When you exchange contracts you normally set a completion date (typically two weeks later), which is the day you get the keys for your new home and your mortgage company releases any remaining funds to the seller.

However, if you’re part of a long chain it can take a while for the funds to be released for each party, so it’s important to have a backup plan like having a place to stay should your completion day be set back.

9. Removal company nightmares

You might think that getting all the way to moving day means an end to the stress but one in 10 (10%) home buyers revealed they experienced a problem with their removal company.

A removal company will help pack up your things and move them to your new home. It sounds simple enough but there’s a fine art to packing fragile items so that they’re protected in transit and manoeuvring cumbersome pieces of furniture safely and without any damage.

Finding a decent removals firm with availability on the day you want to move isn’t always easy, so make sure you take the time to do some research by looking at reviews, getting quotes and checking they have insurance.

10. Sellers leaving a mess

Once you get your foot in the door you might be met with an unpleasant surprise – in fact one in seven (13%) homebuyers surveyed said the property they bought was left in a poor condition or with unexpected furniture.

This can be a headache to resolve as large, bulky items cost money to get rid of.

To avoid this happening to you it’s a good idea to have it written into your purchase agreement that the seller leaves the property in good order.

If they leave a lot of items that weren’t mentioned on the fixtures and fittings form they completed during the conveyancing process, you are within your rights to make a complaint.

‘Some problems are in your control’

David Blake, Principal Mortgage Adviser at Which? Mortgage Advisers, said: ‘Moving home can be time-consuming, stressful and expensive – and while some problems will be out of your control, there are certain steps you can take.

‘Clearer communication and opting for well-respected mortgage advisers, removal companies and conveyancers who are able to work to your timescales can all help to give you a smooth move.’


Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

Which? Limited is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited.

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