Buying a house Viewing a property - 10 top tips

A couple looking at a house

Ask the right questions when viewing a property

Keep the following tips in mind when viewing a house or download our checklist below:

  1. On an initial inspection try not to see the house as a home but simply as a building that needs inspecting.
  2. Even in a fast-moving market, it’s a bad idea to buy unseen. The more times you view a house, the more likely you are to spot potential problems.
  3. Spend 15 to 30 minutes looking around the property, and view it three or four times at different times of day to find out how the light and surrounding noises change.
  4. Spend at least half an hour walking around the general area and revisit at rush hour and when the pubs close, on weekends and weekdays.
  5. Look at the structure of the building. For example, if there are hairline cracks in the walls, investigate further.
  6. Use your nose as well as your eyes: damp can give off a musty smell even if you don’t see physical signs.
  7. If you do spot faults, you shouldn’t necessarily be put off buying - you could use what you've discovered to negotiate on the price.
  8. The seller doesn’t have to tell you about problems - in fact they may try to hide them. Common cover-ups include painting over damp and hiding wall cracks or floor problems with furniture or rugs.
  9. If there's any vagueness or uncertainty over who owns a garden or parking space, make sure you find out the answer and get it confirmed in writing.
  10. People often think they’ve had a proper survey when actually they’ve just had a mortgage valuation. Be sure to always have a proper house survey done. If you're buying property in Scotland, ask the selling agent for the home report, which includes a survey.

Expert video: how I viewed properties

Which? mortgage adviser David Blake and property surveyor James Rangeley explain how they used their expert knowledge when going on property viewings.

 

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Video transcript

First thing you should do is to decide whether you need to see them. Most agents now have very good website, official photographs, some floor plans, some have virtual floor plans and work through these, some don't, but you can save an awful lot of time not inspecting houses that aren't going to be suitable by just getting the right information the outset. So ask your agent for full information on those houses, and do short list, disregard those that aren't going to be worth seeing, and then see those that really have a chance. Take along a copy of the sales particulars that you would have been sent, and the agent may well give you some on the day, but have a good walk round, do it in your own time, agents are quite good at showing you around, and they'll point out all things that you ought to be aware of, and perhaps the owners will if they're there as well, but make inspections in your own terms, and make sure you'll satisfy that what you are seeing is what they are describing. Take your time, don't feel under pressure to run around, unless you've made your decision very earlier on that it is, or it isn't worth considering. So the property that we're looking at needed renovating so we had numerous feelings of the property on our own just to get the feel free initially, with a builder to get an estimate on how much it would cost to get the property, and to what condition that we would be comfortable to live in. My wife and I, we recently went through the process of buying a house and something that I was conscious of was the general state and condition of the house, and it's very easy when you're walking through quickly in a stranger's house, particularly when it's presented to sell, to miss detail on how well it's been maintained. In all case, it was quiet among the house, so it's a little superficial, but if you're buying something, a pair property or a character property, you should take a bit more time to look at those, and perhaps ask the agent, and the owners some questions about how the house's been maintained, and what costs they have had to incur.

Checklist: viewing a house

It’s easy to fall in love with a property and forget to be practical. However, by keeping your wits about you and asking yourself and the agents direct questions when viewing a property, it’s possible to avoid problems.

The viewing checklist below is a printable, easy-to-use list of questions that you should ask yourself, the owner or the estate agent when you look around a property.

Resources

  • Viewing checklist (PDF: 41Kb)

    Download our checklist of questions you should ask yourself or the estate agent when you look around a property.

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