Buying a house Viewing a property - 10 top tips

To help you find the perfect home for you, we've rounded up our top 10 expert tips to help you gather all the information you'll need when viewing a property.

We've also captured everything you need to think about when viewing a property into a checklist, which you can easily download and print by clicking the image below.

Download our checklist

In addition, you can take a look at our video further down the page where we asked two property experts for advice on making the most of property viewings.

Before putting in an offer on a property, if you have a 'mortgage decision in principle' as it can make you a more attractive buyer. You can speak to a Which? Mortgage Adviser for advice from an impartial mortgage broker service by calling 0808 252 7987.      

Top 10 tips for viewing a property 

1Try not to see the house as a home

It's not always easy, but on an initial inspection try to see the house simply as a building that needs inspecting. Don't get too attached early on or your heart might rule your head and cause you to overlook any problems.

2View the property multiple times

Even in a fast-moving market, it’s a bad idea to buy without looking at a property more than once - the more times you view a house, the more likely you are to spot potential problems. 

View it two to three times, and at different times of day, to find out how the light and surrounding noises change. You might discover that the quiet, idyllic street you saw at 10am is a busy main commuter route at 6pm.

3Take your time

Make sure you spend a good chunk of time when viewing a house, 15 to 30 minutes at least, so you can really get a feel for the place. Don't be afraid to ask questions too - we've included some key ones in the checklist below.  

4Investigate the neighbourhood

Spend at least half an hour walking around the general area to see how close the things that matter to you are, such as cafes, transport or local shops. Also, revisit at rush hour and when the pubs close, and on weekends and weekdays.

5Look at the structure of the building 

Make sure you walk around the house to check the exterior. Look for damp and hairline cracks in the walls, and missing or loose tiles on the roof. If you find signs of a problem, ask questions to find out what the cause is and whether it will be fixed.

6Use your nose as well as your eyes 

Be wary of unusual smells. Damp can give off a musty smell even if you don’t see physical signs. 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, depending on how big the issue is and how much it will cost.

You can find out more about making an offer on a property to see how to place a sensible bid that takes into account any problems.

7See what in the house works

You won't know whether the lights and electrics or taps and pipes work unless you try them. Also, try opening and closing the windows to check they're in good condition,

8Move furniture around

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.

9Confirm what land comes with the property

If there's any uncertainty over who owns a garden or parking space, make sure you find out the answer and get it confirmed in writing.

10Arrange a house survey

People may think they’ve had a proper survey when actually they’ve just had a mortgage valuation. It's a good idea to get a survey done to uncover any hidden issues with the house you're buying - take a look at our guide to the types of house survey to find out more. 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, and how you could too.

 

Please enable JavaScript to access this content.

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.

Open days

Open days are an increasingly common method of selling a property, especially in London and the south-east.

They work by making a property open to be viewed for a limited time, normally a day or a number of days at set times. 

There are pros and cons to this for both buyers and sellers. If you your a buyer, you’ll probably encounter other potential buyers when looking around, which might make you feel pressured. 

Try not to let it affect your decision; it’s still important to inspect the property fully and not to be influenced by other parties when deciding how much the property is worth or whether it's right for you.  

On the flip side, the shorter time period can mean offers are made and then accepted quicker, which could be beneficial for both buyers and sellers. 

More on this...

Which Ltd is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Ltd, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited. Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.