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Think big freeze before you buy in the country, say property advisors

‘Many property problems are evident in the winter months, but are less obvious to those viewing in a more benign climate,’ said Catherine McAllister of Stacks Property Search which has 18 offices around the UK.

‘Winter property buyers have a difficult time of it with less hours of daylight to view property, challenging weather conditions for getting about, and the hardship of viewing exteriors, gardens and outbuildings in biting winds, sleet, and February gloom. No wonder spring and autumn are more traditionally the seasons for viewing,’ she said.

Other great indicators that winter buyers will find easy to spot include, moss on the edge of walls, suggesting bad drainage and damp patches on the outside of houses, indicating gutters that can’t cope or are insecure. Look out for condensation and/or black mould on the inside of windows too. And if there are draft excluders under every door, extra blankets piled over the beds, and hot water bottles in evidence, you can be pretty sure it’s not an easy house to keep warm,’ she added.

She also points out that location and access is important. ‘If your lifestyle means that occasional restricted access to work or school or hospital or airports represents a crisis rather than a welcome break in routine, then look carefully at the geography of your new home. Villages surrounded by hills are the first to become impassable when the snow kicks in. If there’s a village school it shuts, deliveries of everything including oil, groceries and post will grind to a halt and even if you can get in and out in a suitable vehicle, life will change dramatically for the duration,’ said McAllister.

‘The council can provide a list of roads that do and don’t get gritted, and this is useful information to get your hands on if you’re looking at properties in very rural locations,’ she added.

She points out it is worth making enquiries locally. Some villages pull together and often village shops act as a delivery point. ‘A good local shop is always an advantage for rural homeowners, but in extreme weather it becomes invaluable,’ she added.

She also advises animal owners to think carefully about what the property will be like in the winter. ‘In the summer months, it’s easy to get seduced by the position of the stable yard, and the paddocks but harden your heart and picture the logistics in the snow, sleet, ice, and -3c mornings. Lighting, availability of water, and warmth are all crucial. Distance from the house plays a big part especially if the pipes in the yard freeze and you need to use water from the property,’ she explained.