When viewing a property, explore the local area first taking plenty of photos and notes. The most important factors are whether or not you like the property and whether it meets your needs, but there are a number of other factors to be considered which can be easily overlooked.
In order to get the most out of a viewing, there are a number of checks you should make yourself and a number of questions you should ask. The following checklists should be used as a guide, as during a single viewing it is unlikely that you will be able to check all aspects of the property. Also, a property should not be dismissed just because every item on these lists is not ticked. Most minor faults are fixable and in order to find the perfect property, you will need to keep an open mind.
Checks to make yourself
- If the lights are on when you arrive and it is daytime, turn them off to get a better feel for how the natural light fills the room
- Is the room square? Is the floor level? Older buildings may be a little uneven, and providing this is not a structural issue, it may be nothing more than an inconvenience. It may, however, be a sign of subsidence. If you decide to progress with the sale, this should be verified during the survey
- Check your mobile phone for reception in all the rooms of the house
- Consider the layout. Do you have enough space to cook in the kitchen, and are there any rooms that can only be accessed by walking through others?
- Is there off road parking? If not, are parking permits required? If the property is near a place of interest or a train station, the street may be full of parked cars at busy times of day
- Is the garden private or is it overlooked by neighbours’ windows?
- Take a tape measure together with a list of your furniture and its measurements to see if everything will fit. It might not be enough to put you off the property, but the cost of moving will go up if you need to buy new furniture
- Check the taps for any signs of plumbing problems
- Get a feel for how long it takes for hot water to run, and check that the plugs drain away efficiently
- If possible, turn on the heating to check the radiators and fire up the cooker if it is being left behind
- Check the light switches and power points are sensibly located and in working order
State of repair:
- Check any timber framing – including that in the loft
- Check external walls for cracks or discolouring
- Does the property seem to be structurally sound?
- Check the roof for slipped tiles and crooked chimneys – a pair of binoculars may come in handy here
- Assess the ceilings for cracks and stains
- Is any double glazing intact?
- Open and close each external door ensure they are secure
- Look beneath rugs and behind furniture for damaged or discoloured floors and walls
- Look out for woodchip wallpaper and Artex ceilings, which can be difficult to remove if they are not to your taste
- Look and smell for any signs of damp, such as peeling wallpaper or stains
- Check compass coordinates to see which parts of the garden and which rooms will get the most sunlight
- Listen for sounds from busy roads, bus routes, nearby train lines and overhead flights. Visiting at different times of the day is essential for really understanding what the area is like. Try to visit during the week, at a weekend, during a rush hour and in the evening
- Speak to other residents in the area, and not only those next door, who may have personal reasons for wanting the sale to go through or not
- Speak to the local residents, this will give you a good overview of the area, local amenities and information that you wouldn’t know without living there
- Have a drink in the local pub and assess other amenities, including restaurants, shops and the park. Again, visiting at different times of day will give you a better feeling for how safe the neighbourhood is, and how comfortable you will feel living there
Questions to ask during a property viewing
During an actual viewing it is unlikely that you will be able to get the answers to all of these questions, as not all will be relevant. Instead, consider this list a good starting point for your investigation, but note that any major issues will be revealed in the survey or property information forms that will be used to help draw up the contract if you choose to proceed.
Typically, these are questions that you will ask the estate agent as you are being shown around the property.
- Have there been many viewings?
- Have there been any offers? If so, have any been withdrawn and why?
- How long has the property been on the market?
- Is it part of a chain?
- How long has the current owner lived here? Why are they moving?
- Will any furnishing or appliances be left behind?
- Have the current owners had any disputes with the neighbours?
- Can I see electrical/gas installation reports
- Can I see the utility bills?
- How old is the boiler?
- Are there any issues with plumbing or wiring?
- Are there any issues with subsidence?
- How easy is it to get a parking space?
- If the owner has a share of freehold, is the freehold company organised and effective?
- If it is a leasehold property, how long is left on the lease and has the current owner had any dealings with the landowner?
- Have any renovations been completed recently?
- Are there any building restrictions?
- Has planning permission been granted for any developments?
Sometimes, the current owner will be present at the viewing. If this is the case, remember that you will need to present yourself as an attractive buyer to do business with, so be cordial and not too pushy.
Once you have left the property, give the matter careful thought. If you reach the decision that it is the right property for you, then the next step is to talk to the estate agent, prepare your offer and enter negotiations.