If you’re in the market for a new home, you’re going to have to go on a lot of house viewings. Viewings provide an excellent insight into prospective properties, but to make the most of them, you need to know what to look for.
To help you along the way, we’ve created a list of things you should focus on during these visits.
When you buy a property, you’re not just buying it for today, but for the future. With this in mind, consider the property’s potential for further development. Is there space for a conversion or extension? What’s the scope for interior remodeling?
It’s worth checking whether the property is listed, in a conservation area, or has other protections that will affect your ability to make changes. The key is to look ahead and think creatively about what transformations are possible, either so you can make the most of your living space, or add value to your investment.
To evaluate the property’s overall condition, you need to check the quality of both interior and exterior spaces. Search for any areas that will need addressing if you do end up buying. The paint job and integrity of brickwork are good areas to start with. You should consider how much time, effort and money you’re willing to put into fixing any problems that appear.
For more information on DIY and adding value to your home, check out our GetAgent home improvement section.
Look for areas of possible damp, mould and condensation. Common areas include ceilings, skirting boards, closets, and the kitchen and bathroom. Don’t forget to look at the areas around the windows, too. Remember, not all damp is visible, so sniff around for any musty smells during your viewing.
Make sure the rooms are an adequate size for your furniture and your needs. It’s worth being precise about these things, so take a tape measure with you and jot down any key measurements.
Make a careful inspection of the flooring, including floorboards and carpets. Look especially for soft or springy spots that could indicate damp or rot.
Check how smoothly the windows open and close. Are they single, double or triple-glazed? Are the frames in good condition? Inspect the glass closely for any tiny cracks that aren’t immediately visible.
Don’t overlook the space above the top floor. How large is it? Can you reach it easily, and does it have potential for conversions? Keep in mind, the state of its insulation will have a major impact on your energy bills. Read more about loft conversions here.
When it comes to storage space, many people naturally focus their attention on areas like the basement and attic. But also look for closets, cupboards and shelves. These are the places we store our most routinely used possessions like linens, books and cleaning products. The overall condition of these spots will have a big impact on everyday life.
Research by Which? indicates that nearly three-quarters of people viewed their present home more than once before buying it. One big reason for this is to check the quality of natural light available. As day turns to night, the amount of light in a house changes. Revisiting a property will give you a good idea of its overall brightness and warmth in the course of a normal day.
When it comes to plumbing, don’t be shy about getting stuck in. That means turning the taps on and off to check water pressure and how well the water drains. See how quickly it takes the hot water to come on when you turn the hot taps. As a double measure, check that the radiators actually work. This is something many buyers forget to assess when viewing properties during the warmer months.
Make sure the toilet flushes adequately and the basin refills easily. Any undisclosed blockages could put a damper on your move. Enquire about (and check) whether the pipes are made of lead. If they are, they’ll need to be replaced and insulated.
It’s important to ask how old the boiler is, and how recently it’s been inspected. Replacing a boiler can be a considerable expense. Additionally, consider where it’s actually physically located. Some boilers can be rather noisy, which can be disruptive if they’re situated in the bedroom or office space.
Rewiring a house can be a time-consuming and costly job. Take a moment to turn the light switches and outlets on and off to ensure each one is functional. Remember to listen for any faint buzzing - this could indicate faulty wiring.
If the sale includes major items like a refrigerator or washer, make sure you check them out. You also may find it worthwhile to ask about relevant warranties.
An energy efficient home is crucial to keep your expenses under control. Check whether the insulation in the walls and lofts is sufficient, and whether the windows are double-glazed. Ask about the property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating, as well as the cost of average electricity bills. Does the property offer clean energy potential, such as space for solar panels, or even a wind turbine? Here are some tips on how to improve your EPC rating.
Don’t be shy about using the compass on your smartphone, and make note of which direction the house faces. According to our research, 71% of UK homebuyers prefer to buy homes with south-facing gardens because they get more sunlight.
On the other hand, not everyone likes sunlight. Too much sun can heat up a conservatory, for example, making hot days uncomfortable. Pet-owners may prefer a garden that offers shade for their furry companions. If this applies to you, remember:
You don’t have to be a real estate fanatic to be familiar with the phrase: location, location, location. We recommend getting a good sense of the local area to determine whether you’re comfortable there.
You can start this research on Google Street View, but this is something that you really need to do in person. Have a wander, by foot or in a vehicle, more than once, and ideally at different times of the day. Search for what’s important to you, whether that’s convenient transportation links, reliable shops, green parks, good schools or local pubs.
You should also look up the local crime stats for the area.
Walk around the exterior of the property and inspect the outer walls and foundations. These are the areas we take for granted once we’re inside. If you spot any problems, ask the agent about the issue and enquire when it will be fixed.
If your offer for a property is accepted, you should always carry out an independent survey by a trained professional. Read more about house surveys, including how to find a good surveyor, here.
If the property has a garden, take a moment to assess how much maintenance it needs and whether you’re willing to do it. Remember that a good garden is a valuable asset should you ever decide to resell the house.
When you’re checking the outside, don’t skip out on inspecting the roof. In particular, look for any missing tiles, leaky gutters, or areas where water tends to pool. Roof repairs, much less replacements, can be both tedious and expensive, so it pays dividends to be thorough. Ask how old the roof is - most new roofs have a lifespan of 20 years or less. Flat roofs are sometimes made of cheaper materials, so pay special attention in these instances.
Examine the state of the drains and gutters on the roof, down the walls and in the garden. If it’s not raining during your viewing, try pouring some water down them to ensure they’re draining correctly. Is the area prone to flooding? Are there large trees nearby that could lead to blocked drains? These are important data points that could impact the quality of your new life.
Begin inspecting the property’s security by checking likely access points. Do any walls have footholds that might allow access to intruders? Are the door and window locks secure? If the property has shrubs, you’ll want to keep them trimmed to remove potential hiding places.
Inspect the outside lighting, especially over the doors and windows, as well as whether the front door is visible from the street. Some homes come equipped with CCTV, which can deter would-be burglars, while some neighbourhoods have a local watch programme in place. Check our blog for more tips and advice on how to feel safe at home.
It’s okay to take a pause during your viewing and listen to the sounds of the house. Check if you can hear noise from the neighbours, especially if you’re sharing a wall (or walls). Depending on how close you are to train lines or major roadways, consider whether the local traffic hum is tolerable. Additionally, ask the agent whether the house is soundproofed.
Last but certainly not least, consider what’s right for your unique circumstances. There’s no formula for deciding on the perfect property. What features do you value most? Every homebuyer must decide for themselves how they should weigh optional features that are appealing, against those that are necessary, in order to call a house a home.
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