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‘A big red flag!’ ‘Worrying’ garden issues you need to look out for when viewing a house




When viewing a property, it’s easy to concentrate on what is inside your potential new home. This means the garden can get overlooked and you may miss problems that could be costly and time consuming once you’ve moved in. A garden can increase your property’s value by five percent and, likewise, a garden that needs a lot of work could help you negotiate a better price when negotiating with sellers.

Gardening Expert at Hayes Garden World, Angela Slater, has shared six key things buyers should look out for when viewing a new house and red flags that they might find lurking in the garden.

1. A garden is too big or too small 

Many people compromise on the outdoor space when the rest of the home is exactly what they want. Angela said: “A garden that is too small means you may struggle with storage space and be left with little room to entertain. It might also not cope with a growing family, so think about what you want your garden for, both now, and in the future.”

While a big garden might seem ideal, this all depends on how much time homeowners have to maintain it. The expert warned: “It can also be very expensive to landscape a large garden that is in a state of disrepair. A messy garden with tons of space is a big red flag for anyone who is time poor or an inexperienced garden so choose wisely.”

2. Boundaries 

Even if the garden itself looks to be in great condition and needs no obvious work, buyers should look carefully at the boundaries and understand who is responsible for them. 

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Angela explained: “No one wants to get into a dispute with their neighbours about misplaced trees or replacing fences. Check the title plan thoroughly to ensure that no fences have been moved or boundaries altered which could cause upset later down the line.

“Some properties, particularly corner plots, can have as many as six other houses sharing their fences. That’s a lot of neighbours to negotiate with if you want to change your fence, so make sure you’re happy with how many houses your garden backs onto.”

This is also useful to consider when thinking about how overlooked the garden will be.

3. Trees 

Trees are a wonderful addition to a green space, but they do come with their own problems. The gardening pro urged: “When looking at a house, check how many trees there are and if you want to keep them all. 

“Tree removal can cost thousands of pounds so may need factoring into your budget. Even if you like the trees, you need to find out if they are in good condition. Dead trees can rot or snap and so may need removing anyway.

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“Another red flag is neighbouring trees that block your light. View the garden at different times of the day to see if these trees will limit your sunlight and bear in mind that you can’t force a neighbour to remove a tree.”

Even trees on the road, maintained by the council, can overshadow a garden so buyers will need to decide if they can live with it for a long time.

4. Hazardous plants 

There are a surprising number of plants that can cause harm, especially to curious little hands for those who have young children. Angela explained: “An overgrown garden will likely be home to lots of thorns and stinging nettles at the lower end of the risk scale. 

“Far more hazardous are things like giant hogweed, which can cause burns if skin comes into contact with the sap. Foxgloves can be poisonous if ingested as can wild parsnip plants.

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“Much has been made about Japanese knotweed and this is still something you should definitely look out for. The expansive roots can cause building foundations to weaken and have even led to mortgages being declined. Be aware of your horticulture if you are buying a house with a garden, or have an expert check if anything looks worrying.”

5. Ponds 

Ponds can be a lovely feature in any size garden. However, if they have not been properly maintained they can be full of bacteria like E.coli.

The gardening guru said: “This could cause severe illnesses in humans or animals, even resulting in neurological disorders. Contaminated water also carries a risk of legionella which causes Legionnaires Disease. 

“Check to see if the water is discoloured and murky and look for excess algae or vegetation. These are signs the water may be polluted and you will need to have it tested and then overhauled or removed completely.”

Ponds are also a drowning risk for pets and children so it may be best to remove them completely if animals or young children will be using the garden.

6. Access 

There will likely be some kind of access point for a garden, perhaps a back door from the kitchen, but limited access is a “cause for concern”, according to Angela. 

She said: “If the garden needs a lot of work, having ample access will make that work much easier. If the garden needs digging up for example, it will have to be done by hand rather than by a machine which takes a lot longer and, if you are hiring someone, will cost a lot more in labour.”

Even just putting the bins out can be tiresome if homeowners don’t have clear access to their garden.

Angela concluded: “There are very few reasons that a garden would absolutely stop you buying a house but, that being said, it’s still definitely worth checking it out and being fully aware of what you are taking on. 

“It may help you to secure a better deal on the house or even to budget better if you need to do any work. For instances where there are serious and potentially expensive problems, you could save yourself a lot of hassle and a lot of money by doing some due diligence on the garden before making any offers.”

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