So you’ve seen what’s on the market and now all you want to do is take a look. Viewings – arranged through the sellers’ estate agents – can be a rollercoaster of emotions to house buyers. On the one hand, they can introduce to the place you fall head over heels in love with and want to spend the rest of life in. On the other, they’re a quick and easy way to find out what you definitely don’t want from a property and also a lesson in how the camera can often lie when it comes to estate agents’ photos.
We recommend being completely objective when viewing a property. Try not to let your heart rule your head and you’ll minimise unnecessary pain and expense later down the line.
Here are top seven steps to follow to make sure you get the most from your viewing.
Visit at different times
It makes sense to view at different times and make sure you see the property in daylight. This can sometimes be difficult in winter when days are short, but be certain that you’re not left in the dark as low light can hide a multitude of sins.
The ambience of a street can also change dramatically through the day. A quiet side road in the evening can be a busy commuter rat run during rush hours. While that peaceful cul-de-sac could become the hangout for local noisy teenagers at night. You can carry out these checks without arranging a viewing and a tour of the area at different times of day makes a lot of sense.
Check the area
After checking the immediate neighbourhood, which you can get a good impression of by walking around or doing some research on sites like Streetcheck, the neighbours should be your next stop. Don’t be scared to ask the sellers if there have been any problems with them or, if the property has made your shortlist, pay them a visit to say hello. This is a simple way to get a feel the people you’ll be living next to. If you’re viewing a flat, ask about wooden floors and noise issues. Also, if you’re looking in a city make sure you know about parking restrictions and ask about local schemes such as parking permits.
Take an expert
It’s a very good idea to take a trusted builder along to help you identify problem areas and give you an idea of how much they will cost to put right. If you know a tradesperson who can help they should be happy to help if they get a chance to quote on any work required.
Outside the property
When it’s time to get up close and personal with your property, you should carry out the following visual checks either prior to your viewing or if you get there early. Check the roof for missing tiles or defects and also make sure the gutters are all present and correct. Also make sure that window frames, if wooden, aren’t showing signs of rot or rain damage.
Note any large trees growing near the property (if it’s a house) as these can cause problems with drains that are very expensive to put right. Trees are also responsible for subsidence so should be treated with caution.
Inside the property
When you’re looking around inside, take your time and don’t let the estate agent or seller rush you. Don’t forget, you probably won’t be able to see most of the things that are liable to cost the most money to put right – like rewiring, damp or rotten joists. These should be spotted during your survey so use your viewing to get a feel for the space and ambience of the property. Look past the avocado bathroom suites, 70s kitchens and psychedelic wallpaper – all these things can be changed to suit your tastes. But also, don’t be afraid to look beneath the surface to spot some of the most common seller cover-ups we’ve identified next.
Classic seller cover-ups
Most sellers are honest and open when describing their properties. But some will withhold information or make things difficult for the untrained eye to spot. Though your surveyor is a professional at uncovering problems, it doesn’t harm to turn detective yourself when looking around. To help you spot issues, here are some time-honoured seller cover ups to look out for.
Your chosen home may be near a noisy road, railway or airport that the seller may choose to keep quiet about until asked.
Drainage or water ingress problems may only be apparent when it’s raining. Again, specifically ask if there are any issues like this in the house.
Smell paint? The seller could just be making sure their property looks its best – or it could be signs of covering up a damp patch.
Open land around the property? Ask about any planning applications that have been approved or even better, check your local council website for info on what’s likely to be built nearby.
Finally, if a seller hasn’t provided comprehensive info on things like the central heating or hot water system, this should ring alarm bells. It could mean they are on their last legs or weren’t fitted by a registered tradesperson. Ask for manuals and warranties or even better, request a demonstration of them working.
Decide in haste, regret at leisure
Finally, any serious seller will be happy to let you look round as often as you want. If they aren’t keen, it could be a sign they have something to hide. Make sure you view the property as often as you want as decisions that cost this amount of money should not be rushed.