Property viewing without the rose tinted spectacles

If you’re thinking of moving house, the first step towards finding your new home will be viewing potential properties. Regardless of whether you’re buying or renting, it’s important to keep your wits about you when assessing the suitability of a particular house of flat.

According to a recent Which? survey, people who spend the most time assessing a potential new home are more likely to pay below the asking price, so if you needed motivation to take property viewing seriously, here it is.

To get the right property in the right location at the right price, it is strongly recommended that you leave the rose tinted spectacles at home and arm yourself with a set of estate agent’s particulars along with these top tips:

Take a second pair of eyes

The first rule of house viewing is: don’t go alone. Take your partner, a friend, your mum etc. Not only will you be able to swap first impressions with a confidante, but two eyes are always better than one. Viewing a property is an assault on the senses, and you won’t be able to remember every detail, especially if you’re seeing more than one place. Take a camera too. It’s all about information gathering, so make sure you’re prepared to make the most of the opportunity.

No rush

Like most professionals, estate agents have schedules to keep to. Most viewings take around 30 minutes give or take, depending on the size of the property. Don’t let them rush you! If you feel you haven’t had the chance to see everything properly to get a feel of the place, book another appointment and come back. After all, it’s YOUR money the agent and vendor are keen to get you to part with – the purchasing power is yours.

View during daylight hours

It may be an obvious thing to say but you’d be surprised how many people arrange viewings in the evening – perhaps they’re unable to view during office hours, or it’s wintertime when days are shorter. But surely, if you’re prepared to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds buying a house, you would make it a priority to see it during the day? You wouldn’t buy a car in the dark, so why a property? Helpfully, most estate agents are now open Saturdays and Sundays, so why not book an appointment then?

Look indoors and outdoors

Kerb appeal is powerful sales tool, and as important as it is for your home to have an attractive appearance, don’t be seduced!

As you step inside the property, you’ll be guided through the rooms by the agent or vendor; it’s their job to show off the best features of the house to sway you into wanting to make an offer. However, for you to reach a sensible decision it’s equally important to have some time to go around again – unaccompanied this time – and the agent/vendor should be fine with that.

Make sure you get a good understanding of all the available space, inside and out. If there’s a loft or a basement, go take a look. Garden, garage, outbuilding? If they’re included in the sale particulars you need to know about them.

Don’t fall in love!

We’ve all heard of people who knew the moment they stepped inside a property that it was ‘the one’. It’s easy to go head over heels for period features or decorative niceties, for glorious settings and panoramic views. Obviously, it’s important for you to love the house you’re about to buy and that you’ll be spending a substantial part of your life in – but love can be blind, and costly.

When you’ve viewing a property, especially if it’s the second, third of fourth time, do try and leave your feelings at the door – be cautious and think very clearly.

Space and storage

Without mentally moving in just yet (see above), do try to imagine how you would use the space available. Are the bedrooms big enough; will your existing furniture fit? Do you need a breakfast area or dining room? Any hobbies that will need to be accommodated? Crucially, is there enough storage space for all your bits and bobs, or at least the potential to create more needed?

Test everything (within reason)

Open/close windows and doors to see if they’re in good working order. Switch lights on/off to check for electrical issues, try the taps, flush the loo etc. It may also be a good idea to ask if any Fixed Wire Testing has been carried so you can see if the property’s wiring is safe. You may soon be taking on the responsibility for maintaining the property, so it’s good to know what you’re in for and can budget accordingly.

Use your senses

Your visual appreciation of the property in question will form the largest part of decision making, so make the most of it. Are you OK with the style choice the seller made or will the whole place need redecorating?

Take a good look around at the general state of repair. Are there any obvious surface or structural cracks? Does the house seem wonky to you? Are any extensions in keeping with the original building? Carrying out your own visual inspection can yield a wealth of information, even before involving a surveyor.

And don’t forget to use your other senses too. Can you smell damp? Do the floorboards creak? Do the walls feel wet? You get the idea.

Check out the neighbourhood

Lastly, though arguably you could have done the spadework beforehand, it’s important to check the general area you’ll be moving into. Local transport links? Shops and local amenities? What are the schools like? Any green spaces for walking the dog? Is the area up and coming, with potential for capital grown for your house? Don’t forget, the area will be your home turf in years to come, so make sure it’s where you want to live.

Finally, when you’re convinced that your chosen property ticks most boxes and could indeed be the home of your dreams, it’s time to call in the experts. Speak to a friendly surveyor about your intended purchase and ask them to give it the once over.

Whether you decide to commission a Condition Report, a Home Buyer’s Report or a full structural Building Survey, it will be money well spent when you consider the size of purchase you’re about to commit to. A thumbs up from a surveyor will give you peace of mind, while a thumbs down will have spared you a very costly mistake. Better safe than sorry, or as they say in the property world: caveat emptor – buyer beware.

Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer in the property industry – working alongside a selection of companies including South West based Chartered Surveyors Hocking Associates, who were consulted over the information in this piece.

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