|Read time: 11 mins
Buying a house or a flat is a big investment and you’ll want to be as prepared as possible when you first view a property. Here we explain what to look for when viewing a house including the questions you should always ask and things to avoid saying.
We’ve also got a viewing a house checklist to print and take with you, which includes everything you need to look out for.
What to look for when viewing a house
There are a few key things to look for when viewing a house and lots of smaller things you’ll also need to inspect. Always make sure you’re examining the following during a viewing:
The structure of the property: carefully inspect the interior and exterior walls looking for any signs of damage such as cracks (either big or hairline), missing or broken roof tiles, or damaged, blocked, or leaking gutters.
Power points and electrics: check in each room how many plug points there are and where they are placed. Adding more points, or a complete rewiring job, is an expensive and time-consuming job and something you’ll want to know about in advance if it needs to be done.
The condition of the windows: closely look at window frames in the house, as replacing them is an expensive task. Also, check the condition of the double-glazing, if there’s condensation between the window panes, this is a sign there could be a problem.
Damp: there are a few obvious signs of damp, such as water marks, dark patches and a smell of mould. However, also be wary of freshly painted walls, which may have been decorated to cover damp patches.
The water pressure: run the taps and the shower to see how powerful the water pressure is and how long it takes to get hot. You should also look at the boiler, ask how old it is, and look at where the radiators have been placed. If you need to get a boiler or radiator replaced or fixed, this can be a costly project to factor in.
Is there somewhere to keep your car: there may be a garage or driveway where you can park your car but if not, is there room on the street outside and if so do you need a parking permit and what are the costs involved?
North or south facing: whether a property is north or south facing will impact how much light, and warmth, it gets throughout the year. This can make a difference throughout the year and could be worth knowing before you buy a property.
How much storage is available: always ask to see storage areas such as lofts, garages or under-stairs cupboards. If an attic has been converted, check if there’s room in the eaves and whether any hidden storage has been created in the house.
What to ask when viewing a house
It’s a good idea to have a list of questions on hand to ask when viewing a house, and if these are written down you can tick them off as you go along.
Often you may be pushed for time while viewing, or might not remember every detail, so refer back to our checklist to make sure you’re asking everything you need to.
The viewing is your chance to find out as much as you can about the property so don’t be afraid to ask and make sure you get an answer you’re satisfied with.
Here’s a checklist of some of the questions you will want to ask:
What should you not say when viewing a house?
Buying a house is a delicate process and when you view a property there are some topics you might want to steer clear of.
There’s a balancing act between you and the seller or estate agent so avoid saying anything that could put them off or be insulting. If you don’t like the decor, for example, you might want to keep these opinions to yourself until you’ve finished the viewing.
If you know the house is perfect and you’ve found your dream property, you may also want to keep your cards close. Telling an estate agent the property is your first choice might give you less negotiating power when it comes to the selling price.
Although you may have major plans to rip out the kitchen or transform the master bedroom, you don’t need to share these with the estate agent. But, it is worth asking about the planning permission process and if there are any restrictions such as the area being in a conservation zone.
How to act on a viewing
It’s a good idea to bring someone with you who can look at the property with less emotion and who might be able to spot things you miss.
If you are really set on the place, always book in to see it again, ideally at a different time of the day or a different day altogether. Viewing on a weekend compared to a Monday morning, for example, will give you an idea of how loud nearby traffic is, what the rush hour is like, and how hard it is to get a parking space at different times of the day.
You can’t spend all day viewing the house but try not to be rushed and take your time. You will usually be given a viewing slot so use all of the time you’re allotted.
During the viewing, it’s your job to ask as many questions as needed but always remain polite and courteous to the agent or seller. Remember this is only the first stage of the house-buying process and you don’t want to damage your chances of an offer being accepted by offending anyone.
How long does a house viewing take?
Most house viewings take around 30 minutes, but it really depends on the size of the house.
You’ll be given a set time to come and look around the property. In some cases, you may not be the only person viewing the property but don’t let other potential buyers distract you from what you’re looking for and the questions you want to ask.
How to get a surveyor
A professional survey can show you what condition a property is in and crucially how much it might cost you to make repairs to it. If the surveyor does find any issue with the home, you can then go back to the seller and negotiate the price.
There are three different rules of survey available and the one you go for depends on the type of property you’re buying.
It’s a good idea to get a few quotes before you book a surveyor and choose one that is registered with an official organisation, such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA).
Top tips for viewing a property
Before you visit the property, make sure you’ve read our top tips to get the most out of your viewing.
Don’t just look with your eye: use your nose too, you should be able to smell damp if it’s in the house but also the smell of fresh paint. In some cases, the seller may have recently decorated and this could be hiding a bigger problem (such as a large dark damp patch) underneath.
Check the property’s energy efficiency rating: ask to see the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to see how energy efficient the home is. These will give you an idea of what your energy costs might be and are valid for 10 years.
Ask what’s included in the sale: you’ll want to check if things like fridges and ovens are included or if you’re going to need to bring your own or buy new machines when you move in.
Take a walk around the nearby street and check out the area. If you arrive early go for a coffee in a nearby shop or a walk in a park to give you an idea of what the area you could potentially be living in is like.
Record a video as well as photos: you aren’t going to remember everything you see so taking lots of photos and videos is important, so you can review the property after the viewing has finished.
Checklist for different areas around the property
Use our checklist to tick off the different areas of a property to check on your viewing.
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