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.
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.
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 link at the bottom of the page.
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.
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.
Viewing checklist (PDF: 41Kb)
Download our checklist of questions you should ask yourself or the estate agent when you look around a property.
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.
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.