Buying a house – a guide to viewing a property

It is easy to be led by your heart when looking for a new home, but it's important to make sure that the house you make an offer on works on a practical level too. Find out our top property viewing tips so you know what to consider when house hunting.

Buying a house – a guide to viewing a property

If you have decided to move house, like many other home buyers, chances are you have spent hours gazing into estate agents’ windows, browsing property websites and leafing through the property supplements in your local newspaper, all in an attempt to discover your ideal home.
 
With figures from a UK building society showing that the average time a buyer spends viewing properties before making an offer is 96 minutes, less than the average time spent selecting a holiday destination, it is possible that home buyers may be overlooking the property’s potential problems.
 
Take a look at our property viewing tips to make sure, when you do find one or two houses attractive enough to view in person, that you have gained enough information about the home to buy with confidence.

Be practical

Having an emotional connection with the property you are viewing is important if you wish to move forward with the purchase, but you do need to remain practical about the possible problems you could encounter if you fail to consider every aspect of your potential purchase.
 
Even if a place seems to tick all the boxes, you will, understandably, still find it hard to imagine living there if it doesn’t ‘feel right’. Conversely, there is also the risk that you could become emotionally attached to a property with some serious structural issues. When you view a property, treat it as a building that needs inspecting, as, if you only discover the structural issues after you have moved in, it could cause you a lot of heartache and disappointment, not to mention the costs involved in putting these things right.
 
It is vital to get a Chartered Surveyor to survey any home that you are considering buying. This will ensure that you are informed by an impartial expert of the true structural condition of the property, allowing you to make a decision about your progression with the purchase with the full information. The findings from the survey may also provide an opportunity to renegotiate the price.

Be thorough

This is likely to be the most expensive purchase you will make for a number of years, so it’s essential to remain business-like in your approach.
 
Visit the property on multiple occasions at different times of the day, scrutinise each room, and try to uncover as many little details as you possibly can. That way, you will equip yourself with enough knowledge to make an informed decision and you will also eliminate the worry that there may be something you have missed. The more time you spend at the property, the more likely you are to spot potential problems.
 
Don’t be afraid to open kitchen cupboards and feel if the radiators are all in working order. You could also check taps for drips and the water pressure of the shower. Make sure you don’t forget to take a look in the garden and any additional outside space that is included in the purchase.
 
If an absence of road noise and busy traffic in the local area is an important aspect in your house search, make sure you check the nearby roads at different times of the day. A house close to a school may be peaceful during the 5pm rush hour, but it might not be so quiet at 3:30pm. Drive to work or do the school run at the appropriate times of the day to check the ease of the journey.

For today’s technical generation, poor mobile phone signal and a bad internet connection frequently ranks in the top 20 reasons to move to a new home. Make sure you check your mobile phone signal in each room of the property when house hunting; your enjoyment of the house would be significantly reduced if your mobile network isn’t available.

uSwitch has a broadband speed checker that you may find useful.
 
Finding out the relevant information before you commit to the purchase will help you to decide whether you will be happy living in the property.

Do your research

Do not underestimate the importance of locality during your property search. Take a walk around the area to familiarise yourself with it and research the neighbourhood online and in local newspapers. Think about whether the property’s location will be convenient for a lifestyle that you and your family will enjoy, or on the other hand, will it be too lively, too remote, etc? Make sure the area’s facilities and services that you will need are easily accessible from the property.
 
Online property portals such as Zoopla will be able to give you an indication of similar property prices in the area and whether the asking price is in line with houses recently sold locally.

The House Inspector app for £1.49 is a very useful tool for doing your research when looking for a new house and, will advise you on what you need to look out for when you view a property. The app also allows you to save photos and make notes during your house viewing.  

Think about the future

The property may be perfect for you now, but you also need to consider what the future may bring. Will the house stand the test of time for you and your family or will you outgrow it sooner rather than later, and will this matter? If you do find you need more space, will you be able to extend your home or will your only option be to find yet another place to live?
 
Find out if the property is locally listed, as this could prove more complex if you do choose to extend. Your conveyancing solicitor will be able to inform you if there has previously been planning permission granted, and the details for any extensions or alterations that have already taken place.

Make notes

When you view a property, take a notepad and pen, and document your findings as you walk round each room. This will help you to be more analytic during the viewing and will remind you of the more practical aspects of the property, as opposed to just remembering your emotional response.
 
Prepare a useful checklist of priorities to remind yourself of things to look for, and try to think of some questions of your own to pose to the estate agent. It is important that you recall any worries you have about the condition of the property to your surveyor before they conduct the survey to allow them to investigate your concerns.
 
For more helpful advice, you could also take a look at our house-hunter’s guide and our article outlining important viewing tips for first time buyers.

Good luck on your house hunt!

View this Which? video about viewing property for further advice when looking round a potential new home.

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