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House viewing tips: What to look for

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Written by Christina Hirst

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 some of the things to look out for.

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

Learn how to buy your first home

What to ask the seller

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.

Why are they moving? 

There are 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.

Depending on the reason, the seller might be willing to accept a lower offer to complete the sale quicker.

What are the neighbours like?

Have there been any noise issues or other complaints? The seller might not reveal the whole truth but you could 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 only to find that 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 in the deal and get it in writing.

What parking is available?

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

What 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. And there might be some questions you don’t feel comfortable asking the seller.

Always remember, though, that 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 for a long time, it could mean there’s something seriously wrong with it and buyers are avoiding it for that reason.

Or it could mean that the property was put 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 it does not come with any hidden surprises.

Follow this checklist to make sure you don't forget anything.

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?

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, such as the vacuum cleaner, your fresh sheets and towels, and the suitcases and other items you pull out only 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 outside of the house look like?

  • What state is the roof in?

Everything might look OK inside but take a good look outside, too. If there are any broken tiles on the roof or cracks in the walls, do not be afraid to ask questions.

Room size

  • Will your existing furniture fit?

  • How low are the ceilings?

  • Are there any awkward corners or rounded walls?

You might be willing to have less space to afford a cheaper property. But make sure there’s room for any furniture you have. Quirky rooms with nooks and crannies might look nice, but are they practical? You could be left with wasted space you can’t fill.

Location

  • Could local schools make parking a nightmare?

  • Is it near a noisy main road or railway line?

  • Where is the nearest shop?

When you’re done looking around the property itself, take some time to look around the neighbourhood. You might be looking to live in a lively area. But do you want to live right next to 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 unnerving 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 are a few things to consider before you visit.

Don’t take photos without permission

There’s a lot to take in when viewing a house and 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 more than one house.

But don’t 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 thing to want to do but 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 to 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 can’t hurt you in your dealings with the seller.

And 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 have a look in airing cupboards and utility rooms to check how much storage is available.

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

Avoid taking your children 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

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 avoid wearing sandals that would mean walking around someone else’s house barefoot.

Avoid outstaying your welcome

A typical house viewing lasts an average of 30 minutes, so don’t necessarily 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, although 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 making an offer.

Buying a property is a big decision so 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. This time it’s OK to be a bit more thorough.

Take 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 there were no cars outside.

A few hours later, the rooms could look dark and dingy and traffic could be building up.

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. So take along someone who you trust to be honest. They might spot something you didn’t notice or think of questions you’d not thought of.