Considerations when viewing a property

Buying a house for the first time is incredibly exciting, but it can also be a little nerve racking. After all, you are deciding where you are going to live for potentially many years and making one of the biggest financial transactions of your life. Despite the magnitude of this, you probably don’t have any knowledge or experience about buying a house, and don’t know what you should be looking out for and what questions you should be asking when viewing properties.

This article therefore aims to give you a few pointers when viewing a house, but it might also be a good idea to take someone with you who does have experience of property buying, such as a parent, friend or family member. Even if you are experienced, a second pair of eyes might help to spot the things you don’t notice.

Firstly, you need to view the property several times (at least three or four), at different times of the day and week, including weekdays and weekends, at rush hour, and when the pubs close, and see what the trip to school or work will be like during the times you will normally be making those journeys. Allow plenty of time, and don’t just view the inside of the house, but thoroughly inspect the outside and the general area as well – after all, you won’t just be living in the property, but also the community as a whole.

Try to find out why the owner is selling – this could give you an indication about whether they will accept a lower offer. It might be because they are moving away for work and are in a hurry to sell. Alternatively, it might be because of an issue that will affect you. Find out if there is a negative you should know about – such as has someone got planning permission to build next door or opposite, or are local facilities closing? What are the neighbours like – are they noisy or anti-social? If the property been on the market a long time, the seller might accept a lower price, but try to find out why it hasn’t sold yet.

Use the following checklist as a starting point for questions to ask and things to look at:

• Check the roof – are there are any tiles missing, is the lead flashing in good condition, are the chimneys straight?

• Check to see if the guttering, drains and fascias are in good condition, and if there is any leaking when it is raining.

• Check the exterior brickwork to see if it is worn or cracked.

• Is the house or garden overlooked by neighbours?

• Is there adequate parking?

• Is there enough or too much garden? Will you be able to maintain it?

• What direction is the garden facing – will it get sun? Will you be able to enjoy a BBQ or drinks in the garden or will it be cold and dark? The same applies in the house – will your rooms get lots of light and warmth?

• Can you see or smell damp, and is there any condensation or mould anywhere? Don’t be afraid to ask to move furniture or check under rugs. Check for flaky plaster or water marks on the walls or ceiling.

• Are there any cracks big enough to slide the edge of a coin into? Again, ask to move furniture or check under rugs. Hairline cracks are normal.

• Will any of the rooms need redecorating or need new flooring?

• Has any redecorating work recently been carried out, and if so, why? Are the sellers trying to cover up damp or cracks?

• Has any work been done on the property, and if so are there any guarantees on the work?

• Check the loft/attic – is it easily accessible, is there storage space, and is it insulated?

• Ask to see the Energy Performance Certificate so that you know how energy efficient the property is.

• Find out where the boiler is, how old it is and when it was last serviced.

• Check the electrics - when was the consumer unit or fuse box last checked? Are there any exposed wires?

• Check to see if the light switches, radiators, showers and taps work, and how long it takes for hot water to come through.

• Are there smoke alarms and burglar alarms, and do they work?

• Are the windows double glazed, do they open and close easily, do they have good locks, are the frames secure, and do they need painting or maintaining?

• How secure are the doors and locks?

• Are there enough power sockets and phone points in convenient locations?

• Is there enough storage for all your belongings?

• Can you get a mobile phone signal in the property?

Answers to these questions shouldn’t necessarily stop you purchasing a house, but they might stop there being any nasty surprises after you have bought the house and might help you to justify a lower offer.

For more information, tips and advice about buying a property for the first time, please read our first time buyers guide

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