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Step 6: Tips for viewing a house before you buy

Buying a new home is a huge decision and it’s important to know what to look for when viewing a house. This includes looking beyond the interiors and judging the structure of the property. 

A couple view a house together

There are lots of house viewing questions to ask, and it is time to put those years of watching Kirsty and Phil into practice. 

Estate agents want to sell properties and they know the best way to do this. But don’t be fooled by a well put together living room and colours that match.

There are more important things to look for when viewing a house such as how loud the neighbours are and when will the roof need replacing.

Here we have compiled what to ask when buying a house and some house viewing tips. These should help you narrow down your dream home and buy somewhere you won’t live to regret. 


Your house viewing checklist 

There’s a lot to think about when you view a house and it might be overwhelming. Even more so if you're buying your first house

But our simple house viewing tips should make the entire process easier.

In a nutshell:

Keep your eyes peeled

It’s not just about the cushions, rugs, and throws. You need to know what to look for when viewing a potential new home and keep an eye out for potential defects.

Ask questions

If you meet the seller, or even if‘s an estate agent, you won’t have long with them and it’s important to know the right questions to ask.

Take pictures if you can

A picture is worth a thousand words and now is not the time to hold back. Ask permission from the owner or estate agent first, of course.

Bring backup

It’s easy to miss important things when viewing a house or to get caught up in what you might do to it. Bringing a trusted friend, especially an honest one, could help you with your decision.


What to look for when viewing a house 

Viewing a house is all about looking beyond the obvious.

Scrutinise each room and assess things like how long a bathroom can be used in its current condition and will that window need replacing in the next few years.

The answers to these types of questions might change your overall budget and the amount of time you spend maintaining a property.

Keep a close eye out for potential defects that could be costly to fix later on, like:

  • Old boilers
  • Signs of damp
  • Loose or missing roof tiles
  • Blocked drains or gutters 


What to ask when viewing a house

You could ask literally hundreds of house viewing questions but only some might actually be useful when making a decision over whether to buy it or not.

Here are some to write down and take with you. 

How long has the house been on the market?

This is arguably one of the most important questions you should ask. If the house has been available for more than three months, there could be an underlying problem that’s putting off other buyers.

If this is the case, such as something like subsidence, the seller might accept a lower price for you to take it off their hands.

It’s also worth asking what the lowest offer the seller will accept is and if they’re willing to negotiate.

Why is the owner selling?

The estate agent is under no obligation to answer, but you might be able to tease out a few details that could help you later on.

For example, if the owner is leaving the country or a relationship has broken down, they might accept a lower price for a quick sale.

However, if there’s something fundamentally wrong with the property, or they’ve had problems with the neighbours, you might want to reconsider. 

How long has the owner lived here?

An estate agent might not tell you this but you could look online to see when the property was last sold.

If there’s been a string of short-term owners this should ring alarm bells as there might be a problem.

You could also ask about any current offers on the property, and what price these have been made at. The estate agent might not tell you but it’s always worth asking.

What’s included in the price?

The house you’re looking at might have everything you want but imagine how you’d feel if when you move in it has been stripped.

Homeowners are able to take pretty much anything with them. So always ask what's included. In some cases they might throw in items like cookers or fridges for a small cost.

Gardens, outbuildings, and even parking spaces might have shared ownership with the neighbours. So, it’s good to get an answer on who owns what so you can find out exactly what you’ll get for your money.

Are the sellers in a chain?

A chain is pretty standard in house buying. But the length of the chain could change the length of time it takes to buy a property.

This is where someone – let’s call them Sam – buys a house with the money they make from selling their old house.

The person who wants to buy Sam’s house – let’s call them Ashley – is using the money from selling their home to buy Sam’s place.

You want to buy Ashley’s house, but everything’s dependent on Sam sorting themself out to move things along.

A delay at the start of the chain causes problems further down the line, so expect a longer wait if the house is in a chain.

This is where being a first-time buyer could come in handy. Since you’re not part of a chain, you’re not dependant on anyone buying your house before you can move.

This could help speed up a sale, which could be a good haggling tactic.

How much will the household bills be?

It isn’t just the mortgage you’ll be paying when you move into a property. It’s important to budget for all of the household bills.

While you can usually switch some providers, such as energy, broadband or home insurance, you might be locked into others such as council tax.

At the same time, ask the estate agent about how energy efficient a home is. This might also add to your budget if it has a low Energy Performance Rating.

Other costs, such as parking permits, could also add to your overall costs.

Compare home insurance quotes

Are there any local plans that could affect the property?

Your dream property might be surrounded by fields right now. But if there are plans to build a supermarket or housing estate on them, you might want to reconsider your decision.

Similarly, if the property is a conservation area or if it’s a listed building this could restrict the amount of building work you can carry out. 


Take photos

If you have permission, it’s worth taking well-lit photos of absolutely everything you can. Not just pictures of an entire room or corridor but snap small details including fixtures and fittings, window frames, and boilers. 

Better still take videos, as they could be really useful when the viewing has finished and you are trying to remember various parts of the house. 


Bring a friend 

It can be overwhelming viewing a property and you’re often being pressured by an estate agent. If you can bring someone else with you they could act as your second pair of eyes.

While you ‘re asking the estate agent questions, they might be taking a thorough look at how the shower works, what the water pressure is like and how old the boiler is.

It doesn’t have to be a friend either. A family member or someone who has viewed a house before should be helpful.


Look with your nose, as well as your eyes

Just because a house looks like it’s just been pictured for an Ideal Home magazine, doesn’t mean it’ll be quite as perfect when you move in. 

When you're viewing the property try to look out for any of underlying problems such as signs of damp or poor drainage. 

You should be able to feel damp walls too, and the texture of hairline cracks in a wall that’s recently been painted over to hide imperfections. 

Pay particular attention to where extensions join, end-of-terrace walls, and things like bay windows. These are areas that can start to fall away from the rest of the home and could be a sign of subsidence.

A building survey should look into anything like this in more detail. But it’s good to get an idea of what work might be in store for you if you do decide to buy. 


Go for a second viewing 

Buying a house is a major commitment and ideally you don’t want to hand over your savings if you‘ve only seen it once. But the question is how many times should you view a house before buying?

This depends on a few factors including the type of property. If it needs a lot of work for example you might want to get a quote for this before agreeing to buy. 

If you view the house on a quiet weekday morning and the sun is shining it might look different to a busy Saturday morning viewing in the middle of winter.

Try to see the property at different times of the day to get an idea of the neighbourhood. 


Arrive early

Time is often limited with house viewings and the estate agent might try to rush you around the property before getting the next potential owners in.

Try not to be rushed and arrive at least 15 to 30 minutes before the viewing starts. This gives you a chance to look at the outside of the house and to get a feel for the neighbourhood. 

You could always make a day of it and visit a local cafe or pub for lunch too.  Arriving early gives you a chance to see how far a local shop, park, or school is and whether it’s within walking distance.  


Is the house big enough for you?

Try to picture the house without anything in it, and feel free to move furniture to get a better view if an estate agent will let you. 

Often furniture is used to make a room appear bigger and you need to make sure the items you own will all fit in.

It’s also worth forward planning a little. The house might be perfect for you right now, but what if you plan to get married and have children in the next year - will it be the right size for a family of four?

If not, are you able to extend it and how much extra would this cost  - both in money and timing?


Don’t get carried away

This is easier said than done, especially if you think you’ve found your dream house, but try to keep your emotions in check.

Instead of seeing the house and planning future dinner parties, imagine you’re inspecting the building.

If there are faults this doesn’t mean you shouldn't buy. But they could affect your overall budget and it might be worth using these to negotiate with the seller.  


Next: Step 7 - Making an offer on a house

Prev: Step 5 - Applying for a mortgage