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Buyers Guide: Viewing a Property
January 9th, 2014
According to some surveys, buyers spend less than twenty minutes viewing a property. Go prepared and you won't live to repent a hasty or ill-informed decision...
The pictures look great, the description is alluring and the nice agent in the expensive suit has obviously thumbed through the Estate Agent's Thesaurus of Killer Adjectives in a bid to talk the place up.

But you still have to view it and you should really only make an offer after a thorough inspection - indeed after several thorough inspections - of the place you hope to call home.

Sounds blindingly obvious, of course, but viewing properties can be an exhausting business. There's a lot of wearisome schlepping from A to B, often after a long day's graft or on a busy weekend, and if you've viewed lots of places it can all quickly become a blur of neutral colours and polite chit-chat.

Best, therefore, to approach the whole thing with a clear sense of what you need to know and what you should be looking for. Hopefully this guide will make it all a little less stressful.

To View To Not To View?

It's well worth getting as much detail from agents as you can before you arrange a viewing. In an ideal world, all estate agents would have full details on the web: lots of pictures, full descriptions, floor plans, room dimensions, virtual tours.
Alas, some are better at this than others, so you will probably have to call or email the agent to get all the details you need.

Even then, if it's convenient to do so try and drive past the place before arranging a viewing - there may be aspects of the area that are a turn-off and in the long run knowing this will save you the bother of arranging a viewing.

When To View

Since most of us actually work to earn a crust, it will probably be in the evening or on the weekends, but if you can manage to skive off for a few hours mid-week agents are often not as busy. If you have a lot of properties to look at, it might be worth take some holiday time off work.
It's worth trying to arrange several viewings in one day - especially if it's the same agent - but don't overdo it; rushing around like the proverbial headless chicken will ultimately be counter-productive (and it's knackering!).

If, after the initial viewing you're interested, arrange more viewings at different times of the day and week. If you're first viewing was in the evening, be sure to try and arrange to see the property in the daytime so you can assess how much natural light it gets.

Viewing at different times also gives you a chance to check out the neighbourhood and the area - for more on this, see our guide to researching an area (links at bottom of page).

What To Look For: Exterior

You're looking for two things here: first, what's the street like and what shape are the adjacent properties in - the property you want might be lovely, but what if the rest of the street is desolation row? For a checklist of things to consider, see our guide to researching an area.
The second thing you'll want to consider is, of course, the state of the gaff you've come to see - though, obviously as far as the structural side of things goes, you're not a surveyor. Nonetheless, you should keep an eye out for:

Parking: Is there off-street parking? Is parking restricted? What's the driveway like? If there's a garage, is it big enough?

Roofs and gutters: Look at the roof to see if slates or tiles are missing. Is there a small forest growing in the gutters? Are the gutters overflowing? Are there tell-tale streaks running down the walls, or signs of mould, that suggest leaks or poor maintenance? Check flat roofs for signs of leaking or wear and tear.

Walls: What state is the paintwork in? What about the brickwork or render? Check for cracks - which can mean subsidence - and for signs of neglect. Any extensions and how do they look?

Windows: If the house is double-glazed, check that the seals are in good condition and that there's no condensation between the panes. If it's wooden frames, is the timber in good condition? Check for woodworm, mould, decay etc. Do the windows have locks?

Garden: How big is it? What direction is it facing? What features in the garden are included?

Shared Areas: If you're buying a flat it's vital to know what areas are shared - garden, parking - and how the arrangements work. Also, check the boundaries between properties - this can be a major source of hassle between neighbours.

What To Look For: Interior

Layout: Will the general layout of the house work for you? Will your furniture fit and are the rooms the shape you want? Check the dimensions against the agent's information.

Storage space: Is there enough for your purposes? Open fitted cupboards and drawers, wardrobes etc to check.

Décor: It can be changed so don't give too much weight to the swirly carpets and purple walls.


Heating: Is the property centrally heated? Is the boiler system an antique? When was it last serviced? This can be costly to replace. Is the house insulated? Is it double-glazed? Both can mean lower fuel bills.

Electrics: What about the state of the electrical wiring and the fuse box? Are there enough power points and what condition are they in?

Water: What's the water pressure like (run taps and showers to check)? Is the house insulated and are the pipes lagged? If there are lead pipes, they'll have to be replaced.

Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware!)

Smells? Does the place smell of damp and decay?

Signs of damp? Are there signs of damp on the walls - dark patches, peeling papers, bubbly paintwork, mould, newly painted sections of wall? Do the walls feel cold and damp? Is there mildew on the windows and window sills?

Subsidence? Are there cracks in plasterwork in walls and ceilings (or brickwork outside)? Are there cracks around doors and windows? Do doors and windows 'stick'? Are there cracks at the join where an extension meets the main building?

Panelling and wall tiles? These can sometimes be covering up problems - if they are, you may need to re-plaster.

Dodgy DIY? This can range from poor decorative finishing (paintwork, wallpaper, tiles) to dodgy kitchen units, poor repairs (door handles, floorboards, hinges etc) to larger issues like plumbing and electrics.

Creaky floors? May be nothing, but if boards are creaky or 'give' under foot it may mean there's an underlying problem.

Paper-thin? If the owners have the TV or radio on, have it turned down - can you hear the people next door or upstairs breathing? This is especially important in flat conversions.

The Attic: It's a bit of a palaver but worth taking a look - first to see if it's insulated and also to see if there are any obvious problems - it could cost a lot to sort out.

Don't Be Shy! 12 Things To Ask The Owners
OK, it's always a little awkward poking around another person's home, but it's perfectly acceptable to open cupboard doors, run taps and showers, flush loos, and ask awkward questions.

Don't allow the owner or the agent to rush you, and try and find out as much as you can about the state of the sale and their reasons for moving. However, be polite; don't slag off their taste or interior décor! Here are the main things you want to know:

1. How long have you lived here?

2. What are the neighbours/what's the area like?

3. Has the property, or neighbouring properties, ever been burgled?

4. What's the parking situation like?

5. What fixtures and fittings are included in the sale?

6. Why are you moving?

7. How long has the property been on the market?

8. Are you in a chain? How large is it? Have you found a place to move? What's the time-scale?

9. How many viewers have been to see it? Have any made offers?

10. Have you had any work carried out on the property?

11. Are there any structural problems that you know of?

12. What are your utility bills like?


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