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House viewing guide 

Viewing a property means thinking with your head and your heart. Read our guide on the things to watch out for when viewing a home.

Emily
Property enthusiast

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of viewing a property, and of course, if you set eyes on your dream home, it’s important to feel good about it. But appearances can be deceptive, so we thought we’d take you through some of the key things to check when viewing a home.

Why two viewings are better than one

In most cases, it’s advisable to have two viewings before making an offer. A first viewing is very different to a second viewing. When you first view a property, you can explore with an open mind and ask yourself: can I see myself living here? When you visit a second time, you’ll want to dig a little deeper and ideally visit at a different time of the day. 

You could even take a measuring tape in case you want to size-up the space. If you have any items of furniture in your current home that you can’t live without, knowing their dimensions ahead of your viewing is a good idea. 

10 things to look out for

When you visit a property, you should take notes on any potential problems. This allows you to think about how you’d tackle those issues and how much budget to keep in reserve before you even offer. It will also mean you’re less likely to be surprised at the survey stage.

Here is a list of ten things to pay particular attention to:

  1. Have a look at the fuse box. Is it the old or new kind? Does it have a date stamped on it for when it was installed or last checked?
  2. Place your hands on various walls around the house. Do they feel cold and damp? 
  3. From the outside of the property, look at the guttering and other places where water could get in. Does it look fine from the outside?
  4. Roof repairs can be expensive, so keep an eye out for any missing tiles, the alignment of the chimney, and any other obvious problems like moss or encroaching trees.
  5. From both the inside and outside, look for cracks in the brickwork. Many old properties have some cracks and it can be tough to tell if they are just cracking paint or something more sinister. As a rule of thumb, wide cracks that you could fit a ballpoint pen in would be a cause for concern, as are cracks that run diagonally across the wall.
  6. Check for cracks on the door frames which could indicate bigger problems. 
  7. Make sure that all windows and doors open easily. 
  8. You should also look around the window openings for signs of water ingress, condensation and mould.
  9. A good thing to remember is to look around the top edge (where the wall meets the ceiling) and the bottom edge (where the wall meets the floor) in every room. You are likely to catch damp problems here as well as getting an early indication for anything structural
  10. Lastly, check all the light switches and if you feel bold, it is worth checking the water pressure in the shower and taps.

Things to ask the agent

It’s important to make use of every minute you get on your visit. Below, we’ve summarised some of the things it might be worth noting and/or asking the agent about on your first viewing. If you are meeting the seller, it’s probably best to keep the majority of these questions for the agent to answer over the phone. First impressions matter, and a seller is looking not just for the best bid, but the person who’s most likely to complete on the deal and be straightforward to deal with.

  • What are the seller’s plans and why are they moving? 
  • How long have they lived at the property? 
  • Have they found their next home? 
  • If the property is vacant, check whether it was a rental or if it is a probate sale. If probate, you’ll want to check if the probate has been granted as this process can be very slow. Understanding the seller’s situation will help you understand their motivations to sell, which can in turn inform what offer you will make.
  • Ask for a justification of the asking price. Why have they priced it at the price they have? Depending on the circumstances you might want to mention that the property has been available for a while and ask why that is. You can find out how long the property has been listed, and check if it has been reduced in price, by submitting a report in your Nested account. If this report also indicates that there has been a fall through, it would be wise to clarify this with the agent and ask why it happened.
  • Has the seller received any offers? Agents can let you know of any rejected offers. 
  • Ask them how the local market is performing generally, and their outlook for the rest of the year.  
  • Be bold and ask the agent how much they think the seller is looking for.
  • Ask about the neighbours. Have they had any problems?
  • If you’re buying a flat or leasehold property, ask if there are any major works due. You should also ask when repairs were last carried out to the building. If the seller has done work themselves, ask when this was done too. Note: in either case you may need the documentation as part of the sales process.

Questions to ask yourself

Aside from the questions you’ll want to ask the agent, there are things you’ll want to think about too.

  • Is there anything you would immediately have to fix or change? You should make a note and factor in any potential costs. 
  • Have the sellers done work to the property? If so, what? You’ll need to get the details of consent, documentation and any guarantees or certificates. 
  • Is there enough storage?
  • Check when the boiler was installed and last serviced.
  • Check if the loft can be converted and if the owners have ever looked into it. You should also look along the street and the gardens to see if you can see any other extensions. It is also worth searching the postcode in the local authority’s planning portal to see which types of extension proposals have been approved locally. Although not a guarantee, this is a very good first step if you’re considering some sort of extension in the future.
  • Check your phone coverage (this might sound strange but it’s annoying to fix).
  • Ask if fibre-optic broadband has been installed.

You may not get the whole truth, but most of these questions require factual answers which you’re entitled to know. If the agent cannot answer on the viewing, ask them to follow-up, and failing that, ask again later. Some questions depend on what type of property you’re viewing. For example, if you’re viewing a leasehold flat, you’ll definitely want to know the length of the lease, the cost of the service charge and ground rent, and any information about communal areas and shared services. If you’re viewing a house, you should find out where the boundary lies and what’s included. This can also be determined by downloading the title plan from the land registry. It only costs a few pounds and is worth doing if you’re serious about the property and want to check something before offering.