Downloadable house-viewing checklist
It's essential that you make the most of a property viewing to ensure that you're as informed as you possibly can be when it comes to making an offer.
It's also well worth speaking to a mortgage broker before starting to view homes to get an accurate idea of your budget.
Which? Mortgage Advisers can give you an accurate view of how much you can borrow and advise on whether you should get an agreement in principle.
Video: things to check when viewing a property
Watch our short video below to find out the most important things to check when viewing a property, such as local schools, traffic and noise.
Questions to ask when viewing a house or flat
Below we've listed all the things it's worth thinking about when you view a house or flat. No property will be perfect on all fronts, but getting answers to the questions below - either by checking for yourself or asking the estate agent - should help you feel more confident about whether you want to put in an offer.
Inside each room
- Do the light switches work?
- What's the decor like, both style and condition-wise?
- Is the flooring in good condition?
- Are there any signs of damp/mould/condensation? Even if you can't see any, can you smell it?
- Are there any exposed wires?
- If there are cracks in the walls/ceiling, are any big enough to put the edge of a 10p in?
- How many power sockets are there and are they conveniently located?
- Is there much storage?
- Are any fireplaces functional and do chimneys work?
- Are you very overlooked by neighbouring properties?
Windows and doors
- Do they open and close easily?
- Single/double/triple glazing
- Are the frames in good condition?
- Do the locks work and are there keys?
- Do the taps work?
- How long does it take for hot water to come through?
- How strong is the water pressure in the shower?
- Is there a bath?
- Is there a shaver socket?
- How much work/maintenance is required?
- How overlooked is it?
- What direction does it face? (South-facing gets the most sun)
- What are the general condition and age like?
- Are there any cracks?
- If the wall is rendered, how is its condition?
- Are there any missing/cracked tiles?
- Are the chimneys straight?
- What state are the drains and gutters in - are they clean, new, moving the water correctly if it's raining?
- Do the fascias (wooden section under roof) look ok?
- Is there a garage, off-road or on-road parking? If on-road, will you need a permit?
- Are there working burglar and fire alarms?
- What broadband and TV connections are currently set up?
- What's the mobile phone coverage like?
- Where is the boiler (and if it's in a bedroom, is it noisy?)? How old is it and what's its service history?
- Is there much scope for extending/renovating/adding value?
- Is there a loft? If so, how easy is it to access and might there be scope to convert it in the future?
- When was the consumer unit/fuse box last checked, and how old is it?
- Is it in a conservation area or a listed building? This might affect whether you can make changes.
- What is the property's energy performance certificate (EPC) rating?
- If you’re buying in Scotland, check the home report
- Can you see planning permission and sign-off documents for any work that’s been done?
- What’s the area like at rush hour, when the pubs close, at weekends and on weekdays?
- Public transport links
- Test the commute/school run during rush hour
- Local shops and amenities
Check out our guide to finding the best places to live for more tips.
If you’re viewing a flat…
- Is it leasehold or freehold?
- If leasehold, how many years are left on the lease?
- How much is the service charge?
- What condition are the communal areas in?
- Is there any outdoor space and if so is it shared?
- What services, eg drainage, are shared?
- How much noise do you hear from the neighbours?
- Is there a residents’ committee?
- Will you need to contribute to a sinking fund?
Find out more in our guide to leasehold properties.
If you're viewing a show home...
- If you're considering buying an off-plan, new-build property, visit our guide to viewing a show home.
Nine tips for viewing a property
1. Take your time
Make sure you spend a good chunk of time viewing a house – 20 to 30 minutes at least – so you can really get a feel for the place.
Our research has found that the longer a buyer spends viewing a property, the more likely they are to secure it for under the asking price. More than half (52%) of buyers who spent less than 10 minutes viewing the property paid the asking price or more, while 71% of buyers who spent more than 90 minutes on viewings paid below the asking price.
2. Look at the structure of the building
Make sure you walk around the outside of the house to check the exterior. Look for damp and hairline cracks in the walls, missing or loose tiles on the roof and broken guttering. If you find signs of a problem, ask questions to find out what the cause is and whether it will be fixed.
If you go on to make an offer and it gets accepted, you should always have an independent house survey done so an expert can conduct more thorough checks.
3. Look - and smell - carefully
The seller doesn’t have to tell you about problems – in fact, they may even try to hide them. Common cover-ups include painting over damp and hiding wall cracks or floor problems with furniture or rugs.
Damp can give off a musty whiff even if you don’t see physical signs, so be on your guard for unusual smells, including air freshener.
4. View the property more than once
Even in a fast-moving market, it’s best to go and see the property more than once if possible. The more times you view a house, the more likely you are to spot potential problems. Our research has found that 26% of people viewed their current home once before buying it, 43% twice, 21% three times and 11% four or more times.
We'd recommend viewing the property two to three times, at different times of day, to find out how the light, traffic and surrounding noises change. You might just discover that the quiet, idyllic street you saw at 11am is a busy main commuter route at 6pm.
5. Confirm what land is included 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 before committing to buy the property.
6. Have a professional survey done
Mortgage lenders will request that you have a 'valuation survey' carried out, but this is different from a house survey as it doesn't look at the condition of the property. A valuation survey is for the lender’s benefit and confirms the property’s approximate value but you may not get to see the results, even if you're paying for it.
You should always have your own independent survey carried out in order 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.
7. Investigate the neighbourhood
Spend at least half an hour walking around the general area to see how close the things that matter to you, such as cafes, schools, transport links or local shops, are. Also revisit at rush hour and when the pubs close, and on weekends and weekdays.
Our guide on finding the best places to live has a host of extra tips and an area comparison tool packed with useful info about the local authority you're looking at.
8. Try to keep your emotions at bay
It's not always easy, but 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.
At the same time, 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.
Our guide on making an offer on a property explains how to decide what to offer.
9. Talk to the estate agent
If the property you’re viewing is a serious contender, talk to the estate agent to find out more about the property and why it's being sold.
Unlike the seller, the estate agent is legally obliged to tell you if they know of any serious problems with the property. You can also ask them how long the property's been on the market for and whether anyone's made an offer.
For a full list of questions to ask the estate agent, visit our guide to making an offer on a property.
Viewing a show home
If you're considering buying a property off-plan, ie before it's been built, you'll have to make your decision based on viewing a show home.
You'll need to be particularly savvy here, as the property will have been professionally designed and dressed to make it as enticing as possible.
- Find out more: viewing a show home
Sometimes, an estate agent or seller will hold an open day for potential buyers, rather than arranging ad-hoc viewings. There are pros and cons to this approach, both for buyers and sellers.
If you're 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 and whether it's right for you.
On the flip side, the shorter time period can mean offers are made and then accepted more quickly, which could be beneficial for everyone involved.
- Find out more: 'best and final offers' and sealed bids
Video: how the experts view properties
Which? mortgage adviser David Blake and property surveyor James Rangeley explain how they used their expert knowledge when viewing houses for themselves.