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Top Tips – things not to forget when viewing a property

Would you spend just 20 minutes viewing a property to buy - either virtually or in person - that is going to be your home for many years? Some home buyers do – and live to regret it. We've put together our top tips for what to look for when you are buying a home -- a checklist for what to look for when viewing a property.

viewing a property

Recently, there has been a great deal of hype surrounding virtual viewings and whether they will become the norm. Although having a live or pre-recorded tour can be a great way to shortlist the properties you are interested in buying –  nothing beats a visit in person to cover off any potential issues. Here’s our checklist of things to look out for when you are buying and viewing a property.

1. Is there damp?

When you are viewing a property, keep an eye out for signs of damp. The main giveaway signs of damp 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 should get a survey see What sort of survey should I have?  

3. How much storage space is there?

Storage space is a valuable but often overlooked asset when you are looking at potential homes to buy. 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.  Don’t be shy about taking a compass with you to the property 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?

One of the things to check when you are buying a house is the state of the external window frames. This 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.

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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 when you are viewing a property.

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?  Google street view is a great way to explore the area in the comfort of your own 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.

Virtual viewing

There are various options when it comes to virtual viewings; they can be pre-recorded or a live tour with the owner or agent. If it is a live session then go slow, ask lots of questions and make sure you ask to see the inside of cupboards, the fuse board and the boiler. You will want to take a close look at the window frames and look at the view from the window.  It will be tricky to get a sense of the location and the neighbourhood, that’s where Google Street View can help. Accessed via Google Maps you can get a sense of the neighbourhood and also how it has changed over time.

Leave a comment (29)* Required

  1. paramount baldivisparamount baldivis

    Thanks for sharing this valuable information with us, it is really helpful article!. I really appreciate this post. I have been looking everywhere for this!

  2. Tyrone JonesTyrone Jones

    I am newly married & I needed to found a separate home for us. But I couldn’t decide how I could select the best property for me. After reading your article, I could select my new house quickly. Your post was beneficial to me. Thanks for sharing this information.

  3. CaraCara

    I’ve recently viewed a flat which has been vacant for months. Water supply switch was on when 2nd view. But toilet bowls were still dry. Is that a concern? Thanks.

  4. Ben GroundsBen Grounds

    Great article

  5. AmyAmy

    I’m completely new to all this so this article helped loads as we are looking at houses online.

    One thing I’ve been trying to find out.. do you have to pay for a viewing on a property?

  6. AdwoaAdwoa

    I just bought my first house and moved in on Sunday,during my viewing I didn’t check the water pressure,I have now released it is terrible and I have to pay for a plumber to come and sort it out.

  7. Mr SinghMr Singh

    Difficult to find problems before getting house, Thank you for your advice

  8. DavidDavid

    Have spent 18 months moving towards a purchase of a particular house, primarily because of waiting for an offer on ours; only to find that there was a Pre-emption on the property. Why weren’t we told. 18 months waisted!!!!

  9. NormaNorma

    I found this item extremely helpful as I am about to view a property tomorrow. This is the first time that I have done this and really didn’t know what to expect. Thank you for your advice

  10. TaraTara

    Advice please.
    On selling a property do you legally have to disclose our neighbours dog biting our dog. We have reported it to the police as this is what you are legally liable to do.
    Thank you

    • Sara HindSara Hind

      First and foremost you should be aware that as part of the conveyancing process you will be asked to complete a number of questionnaires about the property. You must fill these forms out truthfully and to the best of your knowledge; if it later transpires that you have not been fully truthful you could be sued for compensation. You need to provide information about any past or existing disputes (for example complaints relating to noise) and any action taken to resolve matters. The form also asks about anything that could lead to a dispute in the future. In cases where you’re not sure whether something is relevant, we’d recommend that it’s best to be honest and that you talk it through with your conveyancing solicitor.

  11. RajRaj

    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.

    • AKerrAKerr

      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:

  12. JoshJosh

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

  13. Jemma RajaniJemma Rajani

    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.

  14. TheodoreTheodore

    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!

    • AKerrAKerr

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

  15. Paul StephensonPaul Stephenson

    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?

  16. Kamran IqbalKamran Iqbal

    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.

  17. MeganMegan

    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.

  18. nathannathan

    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 🙂

  19. Ralph StrangeRalph Strange

    Very useful information and comprehensive guide.

  20. KateKate

    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.

  21. MIT Property ConsultansMIT Property Consultans

    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.

  22. udayuday

    Very informative, thanks.

  23. EllenEllen

    Great tips, Thank you!

  24. KalitheaKalithea

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

  25. LawrenceLawrence

    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.

  26. Sue SandersSue Sanders

    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.

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