Viewing potential homes to buy can be a stressful experience particularly if it's your first time. Whether virtual or in-person, knowing what questions to ask and where to look will save you some stress, lots of time and hopefully money in the long run by helping you to spot the red flags.
What makes a good home is not just buying any old property, but one that you know is in good condition. One which you feel ticks all the boxes.
First impressions count
An article by the Independent found that, on average, 1 in 6 home viewers only take 10 seconds to decide on whether they like a property.
This may sound odd, but in most cases, if you don't like the property from the outside or the surrounding area, it's unlikely the inside of the property will change your mind. And if this is you, you might want to call off your viewing there and then (which is okay!). After all, you can change the interior of a home, but you can't move it to another street.
You can save time by driving or walking around the local area before your viewing to see whether it's somewhere you'd feel happy doing your morning walk. If this is the place you'll be living for the next few years, consider whether this is a part of town you can see yourself living. If it's not, you can always decide to take this location off your search area going forwards.
Ahead of any property viewing, make a list of all the things that are important to you. Whether that's transport links (trains, buses, bus frequency). How quiet the local area is, whether there are any local schools should you have children and if there are any cafes or restaurants nearby. If you're buying with someone else, make sure you do this together, so you're on the same page.
In the first instance, give yourself some leeway on how you feel about the area and then think about other aspects of the property you're viewing.
If you're pleased with the look of the area and outside, you'll now want to be eyeballing the property from the street. Begin to check out the exterior and look for any structural issues.
There shouldn't be any loose tiles on the roof, missing bricks, missing pointing (the stuff in between the bricks) or large cracks anywhere. Check for tide marks (where the bricks are going white), as this could signify high moisture levels. Look for any signs of algae or moss in unusual places.
When checking windows, make sure they are not separating from the walls and that there's no moisture in them. How old or new is the tiling of the roof? Could it withstand a storm?
Note which way the property is facing. Is north, east, south or west facing? Ideally, you want a house that faces north and a garden that faces south as this will mean you'll get sun in the garden all day.
Inside the home
Happy with the structure and decided not to walk (or run) away? The next stage is assessing the interior. Our main tip is to take your time. Why? So, you can properly assess the property and see how you feel in the space. There are more home buyers than sellers, causing properties to be sold at breakneck speed; you may not get a chance to have second property viewing before you're asked if you want to make an offer. Keep this in the back of your mind and be thorough.
Avoid feeling swayed or rushed by an agent. Remember, it is your time; make the most of it. With that in mind, you should prepare a list of questions you want answered. At a minimum, we think you should ask:
Why are they selling?
- Have they received any offers?
- What price are they looking for?
Is it a leasehold or a freehold? If it’s a leasehold, ask:
- How long is left on the lease?
- Who owns the freehold?
- What's the ground rent?
- What's the insurance premium?
- Who manages the freehold (if a share of the freehold)?
More about the property
- When were the electrics and gas last checked and serviced?
- Is it a combi boiler or an older boiler system with an immersion tank?
- Are there any cladding issues (if in an apartment)?
- Are there any trees in the garden or close to the edges of the house?
- Has there been any subsidence in the past?
- Has any work been done in the past 10 years, and is all the relevant consent and building registration signed off?
- Are there any issues with woodworm? (This is especially the case with older houses, look for small holes in wood)
Thoroughly check around the property. Be confident everything is working, such as the plumbing or lighting. Don't be scared to flush those loos and run those taps! Look for insulation in the loft and see what condition the roof joists are in, as this will save you money on heating in the colder months. If they have wooden window frames, check if they're sturdy and in good nick.
If you find problems or get an answer to a question you're not sure about, take time to reflect and decide if you'd still be willing to pay the asking price. Keep a note, on paper or on your phone, of any problems as you go; you may be able to use these later to negotiate on price.
And lastly, stay relaxed…
It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of a property viewing. It makes the whole homebuying experience feel real! But on the day, keep your cool, run through your checklist, and try and get a feel for the place. If you get too excited, this might be a way for the agent to be less likely to compromise on the asking price, so be sure to put on your best poker face.
Make sure you go to plenty of viewings, and look at properties at the lower end of your budget and right at the top to get a sense of what you're really after in a home. You can use our calculator to help you work out your homebuying budget.
Stay practical and try not to fixate on the image of a dream home, as what you are seeing now won't be the final product once you bring your style to the property.
But most of all, don't forget to follow your gut feeling, as 99% of the time, it will act as a good litmus test. And finally, a second opinion never hurts. If you can, bring a friend or family member for their thoughts. Good luck property hunting!