One of the first stages of finding your dream home is to book a viewing around a property that’s caught your eye. In some cases a property viewing can be as quick as a five minute look around a house and out again, but who wants to make one of the biggest purchases of their life based on such a quick judgement.
It’s important to use your viewing time effectively, otherwise you could end up missing something that will cost you dearly or make you regret your decision in the long run. Here are some tips to ensure you have a successful property viewing:
Don’t go to a viewing alone
The more pairs of eyes you have available when looking around a property the better. If you go to a viewing alone then you will most likely just be led around by the estate agent, listening to them tell you about all the great features a property has.
Even if you are planning on buying a house alone, take a friend or family member with you to any viewings you have, and ask them to keep their eyes peeled for any red flags they spot when walking around the property. Just having two different opinions on a house can make a real difference to your decision.
View the inside and outside
At the start of the viewing the estate agent will usually take you through the front door and show you around the inside of the house before going back out the way you came in. When buying a house it’s is important to get a thorough look at the outside too.
Ask to see the garden, and if possible walk around the entire exterior of the property to check the walls, roof, pipes, and drainage - if you spot any problems think about how expensive they could be to fix. If you do like the house, then you may want to arrange a professional survey to get a real assessment of the situation.
Take Your Time
It’s an exciting process buying a house, but it’s important to not book too many viewings into a small time frame, as the last thing you want is to feel rushed while looking around your potential dream home.
You should give yourself between 20 and 30 minutes to view the inside of the property, and a further 20 minutes to look around the outside and walk around the area. Tell the estate agent at the start that you want to take your time looking around, and don’t let them rush you.
Don’t Think of it as Your Home
It’s really important that you leave any emotion at the door when viewing a property, as it is hard to have an objective opinion of a place if you already feel some attachment towards it.
Of course it’s nice to walk into a house and immediately be able to imagine yourself living there, but you shouldn’t walk around willing yourself to like a property, you need to make sure everything is right with it, and that takes a critical eye.
View at Different Times of the Day
If you like a house and are considering buying it, then it’s a good idea to have more than one viewing, just to check you didn’t miss anything crucial and to ensure you actually like it as much as you think you do.
Book one viewing for the daytime and one for the evening, as it will allow you to see how light the property is at different times of the day and give you a better impression of what the neighbour is like in the evening. Multiple viewings also give you the chance to ask any questions you may have after your first viewing.
Look out for defects
When you view a property, it’s important not to just fall in love with its charm and character - decor can be changed, but some less visible defects could cost you thousands of pounds in repairs. While it is important to take in every aspect of a house, you need to look out for any big problems that could be a property deal breaker.
Here are a few defects that should be relatively easy to spot:
Rising damp tends to be relatively rare, so the main thing you should keep an eye out for is penetrating damp or bridging of the damp proof course (DPC). A property’s external wall should have a damp proof course, and the ground levels need to be at least 15 cm below this.
If a homeowner has at any point employed an inexperienced builder to relay a patio for example, and they haven’t properly dug out the old one, the new one could get laid to high, which an expensive thing to fix.
If a property has a defective covering on the roof, this could cost up to £15k to repair. It’s a good idea to take a pair of binoculars with you to a viewing, so you can try and make a good judgement of it’s current state.
Look carefully for areas of uneven, missing or cracked tiles, and ask if you can have a look in the loft. You should be able to see from here what condition the underside of the roof is in and whether it’s likely to need re-doing anytime soon.
Chimneys can be very expensive to repair, as they are generally quite hard to access. Unless there is only a very minor repair required, the chances are the house will need scaffolding, which is very expensive.
Stand directly in front of the chimney and see if it’s plumb - older chimneys often start to lean, meaning one side is more exposed to the elements than the other. Use those binoculars again to check the brickwork and see if the pointing is all intact.
The majority of properties have hidden cables running behind the walls and floors to keep them out of sight. Because of this though, re-wiring tends to only be done when a house is fully redecorated, due to the disruption.
Try and find out how old the electrics are by looking at the consumer unit - if it is made of metal and has ceramic wired fuses, then it is likely to be at least 25 years old. This won’t mean that it is dangerous, just that it may not be sufficient for modern living and may need upgrading.
If the house you are viewing has gas central heating, then try and find out what type of boiler it has - either a system boiler or a combination boiler. If you don’t know, turn on a hot tap and see if the boiler fires up.
Combination boilers tend to last around ten years and system boilers about twenty, so it’s a good idea to try and work when it will next need replacing. Any replacement boilers must now be “condensing”, which means they cost more than traditional ones.