Whether you are a first-time buyer or an existing homeowner, buying a new property is an exciting milestone. Once you have saved enough money for a deposit and spoken to your mortgage lender about lending options, it’s only natural that you will want to start viewing properties as quickly as possible and find your dream home.
However, while viewing properties may sound like a simple and fun task, it can be quite a confusing and stressful process – particularly if you don’t know what you should be looking out for.
It’s important to get the most out of a property viewing, as this will ensure you are fully informed before you decide whether you want to proceed with making an offer.
To make sure you have all the relevant information and knowledge to hand, there are a number of things you should research and key questions you should raise when viewing a property. Here we have created a checklist for you to follow, including an ultimate house viewing infographic.
Before a viewing takes place, it’s vital that you carry out research into the performance of the local property market as this will help you to determine how much the property is truly worth.
Use the internet and estate agent websites to investigate the average selling price for properties nearby and note these down. Pay particular attention to any properties that have a similar spec to the property that you are looking at, and write down what they have to offer for the selling price (e.g. number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, garage, total square footage). You can compare these details to the property you are looking at, to ensure the property you are viewing is valued correctly and the asking price isn’t too high.
Also take into consideration how the housing market is performing in the area at the time. If properties are moving slowly and changing hands for a lot lower than the original asking price, then you will be in a strong position to negotiate on the price.
It’s always worth taking a stroll around the local town or neighborhood to assess how close every day amenities and services are to the property you are viewing. Some key things to consider are:
By researching the area that the property resides in, you may unearth some unique or sought-after features which will reassure you that you are making the right decision and that the property will gain value in future – or alternatively you may decide that the features are not right for you and so decide to look elsewhere.
It’s always sensible to visit the property on more than one occasion. The more times you view it, the more likely you are to spot any existing or potential problems. Remember, the seller doesn’t legally have to tell you about problems and may try to hide them. Cover-ups which we see a lot of include painting over damp and hiding patches or scratches on the floor with rugs or furniture.
We recommend viewing the property at least two-three times, at different times of the week and during different times of the day. By doing this, not only will you be able to look out for any hidden problems, but you will also be able to see how light or dark the property is depending on the time of day, assess the impact of surrounding traffic, and find out if there are any potential noise disturbances.
Even if the estate agent is putting pressure on you to make an offer, or there are other offers on the table, don’t rush into making an offer until you’ve spent enough time looking around the property. That quiet cottage you viewed at 3pm on Sunday afternoon might turn out to be noisy on a Monday morning when the working week begins!
It’s very easy to focus on the interior of a property, and forget to look at the exterior. Make sure you walk around the outside of the house, looking out for anything that could lead to a problem later down the line – such as signs of damp, loose roof tiles, broken guttering, cracks in the walls etc.
If you do go on to make an offer and it gets accepted, you should always arrange an independent house survey to uncover any hidden issues with the property you’re purchasing.
Many buyers make the mistake of skipping a proper property inspection (usually because they are not willing to pay for it or are in a rush to seal the deal and move in) however, this can lead to problems later down the line and you as the new owner will be responsible for dealing with these.
This may sound obvious, but buyers often forget to double-check that all the everyday household utilities and appliances are working properly before making an offer.
As you move from room-to-room during a viewing, be sure to test out the below to make sure that they are in a good, working condition:
If you do come across any problems, don’t be afraid to ask the estate agent to find out more about the problem and whether it will be fixed before the sale takes place.
When you are viewing a property, remember it’s likely that it has been tidied and re-arranged to look spacious for the viewing. A brand-new property may even be empty, and seem bigger because it doesn’t have any furnishings.
During the viewing, try to imagine yourself living in the property and envision where your belongings will go. Check the amount of storage space available in each room and ask yourself; will all my possessions fit comfortably in here?
If you are returning for a second or third viewing, we always recommend taking a tape measure with you to check if your furniture would fit too.
Taking lots of photos of the property will allow you to continue to evaluate the property in your own time after the viewing has taken place.
Having photos to refer to will also help you to compare the property to other places that you have seen, and envisage where certain furniture or household items would go if you were to move there.
Be sure to ask your estate agent if they are happy for you to take images before you get your camera out. Agents usually won’t have an issue with you taking photos as it shows that you are genuinely interested in the property, however, it is polite to ask in case the current owner has an objection.
It’s important that you ask the estate agent lots of questions about the seller and the property, as this will help you to tailor your offer and buying strategy if you do decide to make an offer.
Below are some of the key questions that you should be asking the estate agent when you are being shown around a property:
You may not be able to get the answers to all of these questions during the viewing, but any information you can find out is a good starting point and you should follow up with the estate agent after the viewing to ask them to answer your remaining questions. All of this information will help you to decide whether or not the property is for you.
Many buyers focus their attention on the cost of the property, and forget to consider the additional costs that can incur once you have bought it. Below are just some examples of the many costs that you will have to consider once you become the owner of a property:
Although on their own these costs may seem small, altogether they can add up to a significant amount of money leaving your account each month. Before you make an offer, you should put aside some time to calculate how much these costs will come to and if you can afford them. If the overall amount is too high, you may wish to consider looking at alternative properties in different area or price range.
And one final tip that’s crucial to remember…
When you come to view a property, try not to commit to it right away. If you become emotionally invested in a property from the offset, your heart can rule over your head and cause you to rush decisions or overlook important issues.
During an initial viewing, we recommend that you see the property as a structure which requires careful inspection – and write out a list of pros and cons to consider.
Only later down the line (once you have completed the above checklist) should you let yourself get excited or emotionally attached, as by this time you will know for certain if the property is a good investment and will make a suitable home.
Are you about to embark on property viewings? If so, why not download our free printable house viewing checklist here and take it with you to make sure that you come away with all the key information that you need!