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How to View a House: What to Look For

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If you’re wondering what to look for when viewing a house, we’ve got some insights from the experts.

Whether you need help as a first time buyer or you’re a seasoned vet, to get the most out of viewing a property, it’s important to plan your visit in advance. We offer some vital house viewing tips to guide you through the process.

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Things to look for when viewing a house

Here’s a quick checklist:

  1. Does the roof look old or damaged?
  2. How structurally sound is the building?
  3. Is there any damp?
  4. Are there any tell-tale subsidence cracks?
  5. Is the property north or south-facing?
  6. How much storage space does it have?
  7. Is it big enough?
  8. What condition is the wiring in?
  9. What is the seller taking, and what are they leaving behind?
  10. Are the windows double glazed?
  11. How sound-proof is the property
  12. Do they have planning permission?
  13. Is there an attic?
  14. Does the property need any major renovation work?
  15. What condition is the property in?
  16. Can you see yourself living here for the long-term?
  17. Are you under a flight path?
  18. Is there a driveway? If not, where can you park?
  19. What’s the surrounding area like?
    1. Noise
    2. Transport connections
    3. Local amenities – shops, restaurants etc.
    4. Schools

How to plan your property viewings

It’s always best to plan a number of house viewings for the same day, if possible. This will give you plenty to consider and will prevent you from falling in love with the first house you see and going blind to others. The first property might well be the one, but you shouldn’t shut yourself off.

The basics

Ensure you know exactly where each property is, and how to get there. This sounds basic but it’s always important to plan this in advance and not leave it till the day. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get from one viewing to the next.

Make a good impression

Don’t be late, this is often overlooked but is vitally important for a good impression. Nothing is more infuriating to an estate agent than a prospective buyer running late. Wasting time will get your relationship off on a bad foot and will almost certainly ruin your chances of landing yourself on their hot buyer’s list. If you are going to be late, make sure you phone ahead and notify the agent. This will portray you as a serious buyer.

Use the agent to your advantage

Having the agent on your side could benefit you further down the line. Ensure you leave enough time at the end of each viewing to talk to the agent about the property and give feedback. They may be able to recommend other similar properties which have just come onto the market. Information is key at this stage, try to pick their brains as much as you can.

Checklist: what to take with you when viewing a property

  1. A notepad and pencil (or a device where you can make relevant notes).
    1. If you’re doing more than one viewing in a day, they can often merge into one. You don’t want to forget any essential elements. Take notes on the pros and cons you notice while walking around
  2. Compass
    1. Think about the logistics of moving in. If you are keen on your house/garden facing a specific direction, a compass (or a relevant compass app on your smartphone) might come in handy
  3. Tape measure
    1. This will help you to measure the accuracy of the house floor plan. If you have any furnishings you wish to take with you when you move, a tape measure will help you understand whether they will actually fit in each room
  4. Phone
    1. It could be helpful to take pictures of the property when walking around, so ensure your phone is charged enough to do this. If you do wish to take pictures, be sure to seek permission first

How to view a house (from the outside)

Almost everything about a property can be altered, except its location and the amount of natural light it gets. When viewing a house from the outside, ask yourself a number of key questions:

  • Is the property in a part of the street you’d feel comfortable living?
  • What direction does the property face?
  • How much traffic is there? Is it situated on a one-way street?
  • Are there any obvious noise pollution causes?
  • What does the property look out upon? Can you live with this view?
  • What’s the condition of the exterior of the property?
  • What are the neighbouring properties like?

How to view a house (from the inside)

Take it all in slowly

Take a slow walk through the property. Get a feel for its general layout, condition and size. Consider whether the rooms are in a general layout and are all in proportion. Think about whether each room is big enough for the function it will serve to you.

Once you’ve thought about these initial questions, it’s time to take another walk through and a more in-depth look. Scrutinise the property, is it somewhere you can genuinely see yourself living?

Remember the decor won’t stay the same

Don’t get too hung up on the way the current occupiers are using the space. This is their lifestyle, not yours. You’ll be able to redecorate and renovate the property how you choose. Their décor choices shouldn’t put you off. Moreover, don’t allow yourself to be lured into any attempts to sell you a lifestyle. This can usually be a ploy by sellers to make buyers think they’re up-buying into a lifestyle currently better than their own.

Be objective

Keep your emotions in check and view the property in a cold and realistic way. Think about any flaws which will require any major work to rectify, are these justified by the asking price?

Pay attention to smells

Ignore all smells, except damp. Most bad odours can be eliminated easily. Dogs, musty smells and cigarette smoke can all be dealt with. The only smell you should only really care about is damp.

Try and remember for later

Make sure you write down any points that you think may be of interest when viewing the property.

House viewing tips

When you’re viewing a property for the first time, try to ignore all fixtures and fittings. These may be there if you move in. You’re not buying the property with the seller’s furnishings, you’re buying the shell.

Consider any odd shaped rooms or spaces. These may initially look quirky and cute but they may not be practical – even as storage spaces. Think a little into the future, there may be enough space now but how do you image it will look in 5 years’ time?

Be aware, the seller will do all they can to make the property as appealing as possible. This can include a number of hacks which make homes appear more appealing. Here are some tricks to look out for:

  • Look for signs of fresh paint and removed furniture marks from the carpet
  • Look behind furniture for cracks or damp that they may be trying to hide
  • Don’t buy into their lifestyle (or the smell of fresh coffee)
  • Turn the lights off to see how much natural light the property gets
  • Plants give the appearance of tranquil green space, they won’t be there when you move in
  • Mirrors and clever lighting can make spaces look bigger than they area

What to do when viewing a house to buy

Here’s a property viewing checklist for during and after the visit:

Examine the property

Pay attention to every detail, such as:

  • Look for wear or cracks on the exterior of the building (subsidence cracks are usually 5-15mm, or multiple 3mm ones)
  • See whether you can spot any missing tiles on the roof
  • Look at the chimney, is it straight?
  • Notice the guttering, is this new?
  • Inspect the windows, notice whether they’re double glazed and have secure frames (feel for drafts if you can)
  • Turn the taps on – check the water pressure and how long it takes for hot water to come through
  • Check to see whether you have mobile phone coverage in all rooms of the house
  • If there is a loft or basement, ask to see it
  • Note how many power points there are in each room and whether these are conveniently placed
  • Check the outside of the property (both front and back)

How to behave

While it’s important to ask the right questions during a house viewing, also pay attention to your own behaviour: 

  • If the property isn’t for you, don’t pretend it is – don’t ask unnecessary questions or waste time
  • Be polite, you may need the vendor on side
  • Be courteous, it’s not nice to have strangers walk through your home
  • Notice faults but don’t be rude about them
  • Thank the estate agent for their time
  • Give constructive feedback about the property
  • Don’t be overly enthusiastic if you like the property – this won’t help you negotiate a house price

Consider the seller themselves

Is there anything you need to know about the property that the seller might not disclose upfront? 

  • Establish all the facts and gather as much information as possible e.g. why they’re moving
  • Note down as much as you can
  • Ask pertinent questions if you’re interested – think about your future offer
  • Have a conversation with a neighbour if possible
  • Find out why the house is being sold
  • Establish why no one has made an offer yet

Don’t forget the extra details

Leave no stone unturned – you’ll want to know all the facts before you putting in an offer on the property:

  • Find out what council tax banding the property is in
  • Go back to view the property again (do this at a different time of day)
  • Visit the property during rush hour to get a feel for any additional traffic there is
  • Travel from the property to work to get a feel for what your new commute may look like
  • Visit the street at night to get a feel for the local area
  • Ask to see the EPC to help understand how efficient the property is

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Questions to ask when viewing a property

Don’t just talk to the estate agents, try and ask the seller things too. Unsure where to start? Here are some examples of questions to ask when viewing a house:

  1. How long has the property been for sale?
  2. Is the owner part of a chain? Do they have somewhere to move to?
  3. Can the asking price be verified?
  4. Has the seller made (or know of) any serious alterations to the property?
  5. Does the seller have certificates for all serious work carried out on the property?
  6. What else is included in the asking price?
  7. Have there been any other offers?
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Here are some questions to ask if the property you’re viewing is a flat:

  1. If the flat is leasehold, how long is left on the lease? Can you buy the freehold?
  2. How is the building maintained?
  3. Who manages the building?
  4. Who is the freeholder?
  5. How much is the service charge? How often is it paid? What does it cover?

Get the facts on the property

You can change many things about a property – but not its location. Pay close attention to the area, from your proximity to schools to how far it is to walk to the shops.

Find out the facts about a prospective property and the surrounding area with Phil Spencer’s Property Report

A report is invaluable for home buyers as it pulls all the information you’ll need, from crime rates to nearby planning applications. It also includes historic details on the property such as the last time it was sold, the last sale price and how the current price relates to other properties in the area, and how that price compares nationally.

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Last Updated: July 20th, 2021