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Top Tips – things not to forget when viewing a property

Would you spend just 20 minutes viewing a property that is going to be your home for many years? Some buyers do – and live to regret it. Don’t remember the things you should have looked for after you have left

1. Is there damp?

The main giveaway signs are a mouldy smell, flaky plaster, and watermarked walls or ceilings. It sounds obvious, but make sure you look closely near the ceiling and around the skirting boards. Another clue might be if the room has just been repainted – possibly covering any damp

2. Is the building structurally sound?

Big cracks are what you are looking for – but you should expect some hairline cracks. Look especially around where extensions join, end-of-terrace walls, and bay windows, all of which can start to fall or bow away from the rest of the house. You’re looking for issues now that you can ask the homeowner or estate agent about and then ask your surveyor to investigate later. But you can only look for what you know; a chartered surveyor with years of experience is trained to spot risks and know what needs attention. For more information on whether you need a surveyor see What sort of survey should I have?  

3. How much storage space is there?

Storage space is a valuable but often overlooked asset. Where will you keep your vacuum cleaner, towels, spare linen, and boxes of junk? Is there room for cupboards or shelves to be built in? Especially in newly built houses, storage space can be scarce.

4. Which way does the house face?

In winter, during a cloudy day or at night, it is difficult to tell the difference between a north and south facing house or garden – but in summer it can make the difference between a home that is full of light and warmth, and one that is frustratingly dark. Your favourite plants might notice too, and protest by dying. Don’t be shy about taking a compass with you to the viewing – you might have one on your phone. With bi-fold doors all the rage, be aware that in moments of sunshine the solar gain can make the room unbearably warm, so try to visit and spend some time in that room when the sun’s out.

5. Are the rooms big enough for your needs?

We’ve heard of new build home developers putting smaller furniture in rooms to make them seem bigger. Be warned! Assuming you won’t be buying all new furniture as soon as you move in, will your existing furniture fit?

Buying a new build home? Get a snagging surveyor to check eveything is up to scratch

6. Have you been fooled by staging?

Cleverly placed mirrors, strategic lighting, delicious smells, cosy fires, and fresh licks of paint are all tricks sellers use to make their home more appealing. It’s nice to feel you can move straight in without having to do a thing, but try to remain objective. And if their furnishing make the space, take photos and ask what they are leaving behind. Perfect light fittings, for example, can take an age to find and replace!

7. Do the window frames have cracking paint? Is the double-glazing intact?

The state of the external window frames is a great indicator of the state of the house – if people have invested in and looked after those, they are likely to have taken great care of the rest. If you can easily push your finger into wooden window frame, they are usually rotten. If there is condensation between double-glazed window-panes it means that they are faulty. New windows need to be installed by a registered approved inspector so you should get a FENSA or similar certificate, which often come with guarantees. Ask if this is the case.

8. How old is the roof?

Replacing a roof is an expensive business, and newer roofs have a life expectancy of only 15-20 years, depending on the materials

Also, if the property has a flat or nearly flat roof, check out the material with which it sealed. Nowadays a membrane is used and is better than asphalt and gravel, which can leave seams and edges unsealed

9. Are there enough power points and what condition are they in?

Dodgy wiring can be dangerous, and rewiring your new home can be an expensive business. Also check out the fuse board – often an indication of the state of the wiring but a survey will confirm if it needs replacing. Having enough plug points is apparently a big selling point in our increasingly gadget driven world so worth taking note on the way round.

10. Is the plumbing up to scratch?

Run the taps to check the water pressure. Ask if the pipes are insulated, and ensure they are not lead which would have to be replaced. Do the radiators actually work? How old is the boiler? If the hot water tank is situated in the roof it is probably an old one, and may have to be replaced soon

11. Is the property adequately sound-proofed?

If the sellers have the radio or television on ask for it to be turned down to ensure that you can’t hear your neighbours’ every word.

12. What’s the attic like?

People often ignore the attic, but it is an important part of the house. How easy is it to access? Is there much storage space? Could it be converted into extra rooms? Is there insulation? The latter can make a huge difference to your bills and general comfort in winter.

13. What’s the area like?

  • Are you near a pub or bar or kebab shop that becomes rowdy in the evening?
  • Can you walk to shops to get a pint of milk, or do you have to drive?
  • Is it easy to get to public transport?
  • Are there noisy roads or train tracks nearby?
  • Are you underneath a flight path?
  • Is there a local dump in smelling distance?
  • Are you near a school that makes it impossible to get out of your drive at school run time?

And most importantly, does it feel like you could make it your home?

If you do like a property, arrange another viewing for a different time of day, and scout out the local area a bit more. If you can, take somebody with you who might be able to notice things you don’t.

The HomeOwners Alliance helps members with queries on buying their home. To see how we can help, find out more about the benefits of joining the HomeOwners Alliance.


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18 Comments

  1. Hi Raj, was it a specific asbestos survey? What is their definition of harming it? If you were to get painters and decorators in in future and they sanded down parts of the ceiling and made repairs I assume the asbestos would be disturbed and become air borne. The HSE website is a mine of information and publishes free downloadable advice sheets on all aspects of removal. When dealing with asbestos-cement roofing, for example, HSE’s advice is to consider leaving the material in place and either cover it over or seal it. Look there for further advice: http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/

    Comment by AKerr — July 19, 2018 @ 9:19 am

  2. I am in the process of purchasing a house only to find out that it has White asbestos in all the ceilings paint coating. I have had surveys reporting it is low risk and as long as we don’t harm it it should be fine. What is your opinion on this.
    Thanks

    Comment by Raj — July 18, 2018 @ 4:23 pm

  3. Look for Knotweed plants, if there is any don’t buy. Research it will grow from under the house and ruin it.

    Comment by Josh — May 22, 2018 @ 9:42 am

  4. This was a great idea, helps me look at more things when i am looking at houses, as i had to take my builder with me on the 2nd viewing.

    Comment by Jemma Rajani — October 13, 2017 @ 8:43 pm

  5. Glad we could help, Theodore. Please do get in touch if we can help at any point. Angela (HomeOwners Alliance)

    Comment by AKerr — October 6, 2017 @ 1:58 pm

  6. My sister has been thinking about buying the house next to ours, the house is kind of nice but we’re still not sure if the house is really worth they’re selling price. These tips really helped and I’m gonna share this with my sister. Doing a house tour plus inspection is a must before purchasing one. Thanks!

    Comment by Theodore — October 5, 2017 @ 5:07 pm

  7. Three more things to check out!

    1. Is it on a flood plain?
    2. What is the broadband availability like and what services are available.
    3. Does it have Sky Availability?

    Comment by Paul Stephenson — August 8, 2017 @ 3:34 pm

  8. Indeed suggestions are very good and also the comments are very helpful. I would like to add one more thing, specially when you have school going kids. Better check the schools around your area and how far are they.

    Comment by Kamran Iqbal — March 20, 2017 @ 8:44 am

  9. Very useful advice. Also, please check out the House Inspector app for iOS and Android which provides suggestions on what to look out for when viewing a property and calculates a house score based on your viewing.

    Comment by Megan — March 30, 2016 @ 4:20 pm

  10. This is very informative, thanks for posting this nice post I’m planning to buy a house in the Philippines. there’s a lot of property listings, this tips will help me 🙂

    Comment by nathan — December 10, 2015 @ 2:54 am

  11. Very useful information and comprehensive guide.

    Comment by Ralph Strange — October 19, 2015 @ 10:35 pm

  12. In London all you get is 15 minutes to view the property. Who was the intended audience for this article? Major cities are now dealing with the overspill and if open houses continue in the same vein, this will become the national norm. Great to think some of you still have the luxury of second viewings before spending 500k.

    Comment by Kate — August 23, 2015 @ 10:50 pm

  13. Very helpful tips indeed. While Viewing the property, one should also checkout the neighbourhood. Neighbours play an important role in our life and at times more than family and friends.

    Comment by MIT Property Consultans — July 1, 2015 @ 7:19 am

  14. Very informative, thanks.

    Comment by uday — April 20, 2015 @ 4:37 pm

  15. Great tips, Thank you!

    Comment by Ellen — March 6, 2015 @ 4:41 am

  16. Are these not things the inspector check for or do the buyers asked these questions when first looking at a house?

    Comment by Kalithea — February 23, 2015 @ 3:30 am

  17. Some really great tips and 20 minutes is definitely not enough. Mould is such a big issue, especially because it is not always obvious. If you are viewing a property, you really should be inspecting every inch of it because it is such a big investment after all. Estate agents can be very helpful in this situation but also your gut instinct as you pointed out.

    Comment by Lawrence — July 11, 2014 @ 2:33 pm

  18. I live in an underpinned house (as do a fairly high number of people in my town). It means we know we won’t have a problem with subsidence in the future because our foundations have been strengthened. Whilst I see your daughter was upset to not have this information disclosed, the houses I would be more worried about buying are the ones in that terrace that haven’t been underpinned.

    Comment by Sue Sanders — February 27, 2014 @ 1:07 am

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