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 treat 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 often you view a house, the more likely you are to spot potential problems before you move in.
  3. View the property three or four times, at different times of day, to find out what it’s really like.
  4. Look at the structure of the building. For example, if there are hairline cracks in the walls, investigate further.
  5. Be wary of damp, check as thoroughly as you can, and keep your nose open as damp can give off a musty smell even if you don’t see physical signs.
  6. If you do spot faults, you shouldn’t necessarily be put off buying, but at least you should get a professional opinion and use this to renegotiate the price.
  7. Spend 15 to 30 minutes looking around the property, and then at least half an hour walking around the general area.
  8. Find out what the area is like at rush hour, when the pubs close, at weekends and on a weekday. Try to drive from the property to work or school during rush hour to check your commute.
  9. The seller doesn’t have to tell you about problems, and they may try to hide them. Common cover-ups include painting over damp, putting furniture in front of cracks, or rugs over floor problems. People may also be vague about who owns gardens and parking spaces.
  10. People often think they’ve had a proper survey when they’ve simply had a mortgage valuation. They haven’t. This is for the benefit of the mortgage provider, not you, and you should get a proper survey done. Visit our guide to house surveys for more. If you are buying in Scotland, ask the selling agent for the home report, which includes a survey.

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 house viewing, 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.

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.

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