What do I look out for during a viewing?

This may seem obvious, however without tradesmen present, during your first viewings, the following tips can help to get a good idea of any modernisation work involved from the outset.

“Choose the worst house on the best street!”

We are not sure where exactly we heard this, but it’s a mantra that sticks when you are trying to get on the best rung of the property ladder. Obviously, you don’t want the 1960’s shack of a house on a street full of well to do Edwardian terrace houses, but seeing the house which has been left to rot as an opportunity on a street of beautiful houses has its advantages. Firstly, the quality of the other houses, showcases what you can achieve and shows that neighbours on that street are willing to invest in increasing their property value. Also, as most of the neighbours would have modernised you can easily see through borough planning portals to view their plans, and although these plans come with copyright, getting ideas of loft layouts of similar houses can really help charge ideas up.

In addition, if you are viewing a house/flat hoping for no work, it is important to be aware how rare it is to find a fully renovated property that doesn’t need some minor attention.

When viewing a house/flat for the first time, try to be aware that the homebuyers survey should pick up on structural issues and hopefully serious concerns, so the most you can do is visually assess. Don’t hesitate to turn up with a paper and pen, it is amazing how many people don’t write the issues down and after viewing several houses it gets harder to distinguish between them through memory alone. We recall viewing three houses in one day and not remembering which was which just a few days later. Get to viewings much earlier and walk up and down the street and inspect other properties as often we live in terraced streets in London of identical houses but that have clear differences in the way the owner has maintained the property. Once, I recall seeing a row of terraced houses and then a short walk down the road showed they were the only ones of this style and the rest looked different. The house was being sold for its original features, but on viewing it had none. Interestingly when I pointed it out, the estate agent had to admit that this small row of houses had been bombed during the war and therefore were built post war but built to reflect the identical Edwardian houses of the original street. Often these snippets of information are not freely shared unless one probes a little deeper and then asking the question means it should be answered.

The following checklist is worth keeping hold of for every viewing and if any questions cannot be answered there and then follow up with the agent:

Outside the house:

Windows – are they double glazed and is there no visible wood rot (cost of changing windows throughout to double glazed is necessary but expensive).

Roof – from across the street and see if you can spot lose tiles and compare neighbours roof. Ask how old the roof is.

Gutters – if it is a rainy day listen out and look out for water falling from gutters and check gutters aren’t hanging loose around the house when you glance up.

Brickwork – Look at the quality of the brick work and front wall brickwork if any render seems missing.

Subsidence – look outside the property. Are there big trees growing nearby, which could potentially cause subsidence problems, property built on a slope?

Parking permits – will you need a permit to park there? Is it difficult to find parking if you don’t have off-street parking or a garage?

Noisy neighbours – ask the sellers if there have been any problems with neighbours. If you’re viewing a flat, find out if the neighbours above have wooden floors, or what potential noise there might be.

Inside the house:

Taps and toilets – to see how weak the flush or water flow appears.

Electrics – Look at fuse boxes and if there is an old old-fashioned-style fuse box, with big white ceramic-style fuses means it’s likely that the property needs completely rewiring. Also surface mounted wiring that you can track up the walls is a sign of re-wiring being needed.

Radiators – do they need replacing and are they placed in the correct place i.e. should always be placed under the coldest wall of a room which us usually under the windows or they need to be moved.

Plaster/ Paintwork – Check corners of room and look for peeling paper or plaster.

Damp – Look out for damp on exterior walls especially and corners. Open cupboards and look inside the backs of the them as this is often where hidden damp spot can be spotted.

Bathroom/kitchen – In need of replacing or will a change of taps in a bathroom and a new worktop in a kitchen satisfy.

Heating – Check the boiler is working and ask how old it is. (All homes need to be sold with a signed gas certificate).

Extensions & loft conversions – Ask how old they are and ensure they have building certificates of completion.

Gardens – does fencing need replacing and/or what is the condition of the paving?

The checklist above is a good starting point to understanding the scale of renovation work and determine what needs immediate attention and what one can live with. Print one out for each viewing, write the property address at the top, the asking price and square metres and a quick mark against anything that needs attention. It is not uncommon for people to view over 20+ properties and having a page snapshot of what work might be needed helps to assess the best properties viewed to date from a factual rather than emotional point of view.

You may also just enter a property and decide it’s not for you within a few minutes, however it’s important that we also don’t let first impressions cloud, what could be on paper, a worthy consideration. It is also the order in which we do viewings, that can affect our judgement, until we start to see the bigger picture we often are quick to dismiss the first viewings. Look at how many times Phil and Kirstie took buyers back to see the original property they had initially been quick to dismiss. However, it is important to consider the viewings as a window or snapshot of the entire property market at the time. The longer we view doesn’t necessarily mean the closer we are to finding the right property, however it does however give us the broadest range of what is available. This can ensure that when the time comes we know exactly what we are looking for and what we are willing to compromise on.

As we often stress in our articles, house buying is the most expensive purchase we make in our lives and the one purchase we cannot afford to be emotional on. Be aware not to fall for an item in a house that is of minor worth considering the value of the property i.e. the paint colour of the bathroom, the lighting in the hallway, an ikea kitchen. All items that can be added for a minimal cost into a house in a better location or larger rooms. As we say don’t always fall for the show home!

View every house with an open mind and come away with the facts, after all with the interior design ideas now available at our finger tips on Pinterest one, never underestimate what can be done to make it our show home from scratch.


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