House viewing tips: What to look for

Viewing a house is an important step in the home buying process. It’s your chance to get a real insight into whether a property is right for you.

To make your house viewing a success, you should prepare some questions you want to ask. And have an idea of the things to look out for.

When you're stood on the doorstep ready to take a look inside it’s easy to get excited. This could be your future home! But try and see the bad as well as the good. Buying a property is a major purchase and you want to get it right.

Questions to ask when viewing a house

Looking around the property won’t reveal everything you need to know about a property. Some questions will just jump out at you while you’re there. But it’s a good idea to come prepared with some questions.

Questions to ask the seller when buying a house

The person selling the property you’re viewing will have unique insight that you should make the most of when viewing the property.

Why are they moving?

There’s lots of reasons why the people living there might be moving. They could have a growing family and are looking to upsize. Or they might be moving closer to a new job. Or they might hate the place. But they’ll probably avoid telling you that.

But depending on their reason, the seller might be willing to accept a lower offer to sell quicker. So it’s worth asking.

What are the neighbours like?

Has there been any noise issues or other complaints? The seller might not reveal the whole truth but you might get a feel for whether you’ll be joining a friendly neighbourhood community or not.

What’s included?

It can be disappointing to move into your new home and find the shed in the garden, or the giant fridge in the kitchen is not included in the sale of the property. Ask what’s included and get it in writing.

What parking is available?

If there’s no obvious parking available, like a garage or driveway, ask about the parking situation. A busy street with lots of cars could be chaotic. Or alternative parking arrangements could be pricey.

Questions to ask the estate agent

Make use of their expertise. The estate agent will have a wider perspective of the property market and have experience in the house viewing process. There might also be some questions you might not feel comfortable asking the seller themselves.

Remember, the estate agent works for the seller, and they usually get paid a percentage of the sale price. Take what they say with a pinch of salt and do your own research as well.

How long has the property been on the market?

If it’s been on the market a while, it could mean there’s something seriously wrong with the property and buyers are avoiding it for that reason.

Or it could mean that the property was put up on the market at too high a price and the sellers are willing to negotiate.

Dig around and find out the reason why. It could work to your advantage.

House viewing checklist

The main purpose of a house viewing is to see whether you could see yourself living in that property. But you also want to be confident that the property you’re viewing does not come with any hidden surprises.

Follow this house viewing checklist to make sure you don't forget anything:

  • How long does it take for the water to get hot?
  • What’s the water pressure in the shower like?
  • Is there a bath?
  • Are there enough cupboards?
  • Is there room to add shelves?
  • Is there a loft?
  • How many plug sockets are there?
  • Are the sockets well placed?
  • Is there any dangerous, exposed wiring?
  • Does the garden need any work?
  • What does the exterior look like?
  • What state is the roof in?
  • Will your existing furniture fit?
  • How low are the ceilings?
  • Any awkward corners or rounded walls?
  • Could local schools make parking a nightmare?
  • Is there a noisy main road or train line?
  • How far is the nearest shop?

Read on for more details of what you should look out for when viewing a house.

Plumbing

  • How long does it take for the water to get hot?
  • What’s the water pressure in the shower like?
  • Is there a bath?

You're a responsible adult. You wash yourself every day. Having a weak shower that takes ages to heat up could have a huge impact on your daily routine. If it’s not something you’re willing to put up with, it could be an expensive problem to rectify.

Storage

  • Are there enough cupboards?
  • Is there room to add shelves?
  • Is there a loft?

Even if you intend to keep your home junk free, storage is still important. Think about where you’re going to keep the things you want out of sight. Like the vacuum cleaner. Your fresh sheets and towels. Or your suitcases and other items you only pull out a few times a year.

Plug sockets

  • How many plug sockets are there?
  • Are they in a good place?
  • Is there any dangerous, exposed wiring?

You don’t want to have extension wires trailing around your new home to make up for a lack of plug sockets that are badly positioned. And you definitely don’t want any dangerous wiring that could be a safety risk.

Look outside

  • Does the garden need any work?
  • What does the exterior look like?
  • What state is the roof in?

Everything might look ok inside, but take a good look at the outside of the house too. If there’s any broken tiles on the roof or cracks on the exterior, do not be afraid to ask questions.

Room size

  • Will your existing furniture fit?
  • How low are the ceilings?
  • Any awkward corners or rounded walls?

You might be willing to have less space to afford a cheaper property. But make sure if you have any existing furniture, there’s room to fit it in. Quirky rooms with nooks and crannies might look nice, but is it practical? It could leave you with wasted space you can’t fill.

Location

  • Could local schools make parking a nightmare?
  • Is there a noisy main road or train line?
  • How far is the nearest shop?

When you’re done looking around the property itself, take some time to look around the local area. You might be looking to live in a lively area. But do you want to live directly above a pub?

Or you might be looking for somewhere a bit quieter. But what does that mean for your commute? And how far is the nearest shop if you need to pick up a pint of milk.

House viewing etiquette

If you’ve never been to a house viewing before, it can be scary knowing what’s expected of you.

You’re viewing your potential home. So it’s understandable that you want to be thorough when taking a look around.

But unless you're buying a new build, it’s likely you’ll be walking around someone’s actual home. There’s a few things to consider before you go.

Don’t take photos without permission

There’s a lot to take in when viewing a house. Taking pictures can be a good way to make sure you don’t miss anything. Or avoid getting mixed up between properties if you’re viewing multiple.

But you do not want to take pictures without permission. You’re a stranger to the seller and it could be seen as an invasion of their privacy.

It’s a reasonable request for you to make, but just make sure you ask permission before you arrive with your camera.

Turn up on time

You could be turning up to your dream house. So try and make a good first impression. When it comes to making an offer, usually it's the biggest offer that will secure the property. But if you come across well, it’s only going to help you in the process when dealing with the seller.

Plus getting there early gives you an extra chance to take a look at the outside of the property and the surrounding area.

Dig around. But not too much

It’s fine to open kitchen cupboards to see what state they’re in. Or checking out airing cupboards and utility rooms to check how much storage is available.

But the seller might not be happy with you if you start rummaging through their dresser drawer. Or their bathroom cabinet.

Avoid taking your kids with you

You want to give your full attention to the viewing itself and want to avoid any distractions. Your kids might be well behaved. But you’re still likely to have one eye on them, making sure they’re not accidentally wandering into any rooms or areas they’re not allowed.

What to wear to a house viewing

There’s no need to worry about dressing in anything overly formal. Just wear something you’re comfortable in.

Offer to leave your shoes at the door to avoid dragging any dirt through the house. And maybe avoid wearing sandals that would mean walking around someone else’s house barefoot.

Avoid outstaying your welcome

A typical house viewing on average lasts just 30 minutes. So don’t expect to find out everything on your first visit.

You might not be the only person viewing the property, so try not to hang around too long. Though the estate agent is likely to usher you out before you get the chance.

Second house viewing

If you like what you see the first time around, you’ll want to arrange a second viewing before offering.

Buying a property is a big decision. There’s no need to feel guilty about looking around as many times as you feel you need to.

What to look for on a second house viewing

The first time you viewed the house you checked the essentials. But this time it’s ok to be a bit more thorough.

Bring along a tape measure to get an accurate understanding of room size.

Ask questions about anything you think doesn’t look right.

And make sure you’re confident in the property you’re buying into.

View at a different time of day

The first time you viewed the property, the rooms could have been filled with light and outside there were no cars in sight.

A few hours later, the rooms could look dark and dingy. And traffic could quickly be building up on the streets outside.

Take someone else with you

Even if you’re buying on your own it’s good to get a second opinion. If you’re viewing with an estate agent, they’ll have their own agenda of trying to make a sale.

Bring someone with you who you trust to be honest. They might even spot something you didn’t notice or think of questions you never thought of.

Edited by Christina Hirst

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Last updated: 5 August, 2019

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