What you need to watch out for when viewing a property
Buying a property is the biggest purchase that most people make. You may look at a lot of properties, and you may only get a short amount of time inside each one, so you want to make sure that there will be no surprises. Viewing a property is essentially your first step before you consider purchasing a property and therefore, the most important.
Obviously one of the things you’ll be doing is walking around the property imagining the rooms how you would want them, for example where a rug goes or what colour you would paint it. That’s important, but you need to walk around the property and look for any obvious signs of trouble.
Things to look out for when viewing a property:
- Cracks in the walls – could be a sign of subsidence or poor workmanship
- Discolouration on the walls – could be a sign of damp
- Loose tiles on roof – could mean the roof is in disrepair
- Mould – may be a sign of poor ventilation, particularly in bathrooms.
- Broken windows – this may mean disrepair or subsidence
- Uneven floors – can also be a sign of subsidence.
Don’t just stick to what you can see, but also consider what you can hear and smell. For example, if the property smells damp, find out where the damp is coming from. It could just be because the property has been empty for a while, and opening the windows will solve the problem. On the other hand, if there is a very strong smell of things like air freshener, it might mean that the sellers are trying to cover up signs of damp.
Don’t panic if you do find any of these things. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t buy the property. It does mean you can do some research to find out what the cost would be to carry out repairs, and then ask for that to be taken into account when you negotiate the purchase price. Please, however, remember that local authority searches do not cover any of the points above.
Ask the estate agent questions
Local estate agents are a good source of information. Ask them as many questions as possible. Find out about the property in as much detail as you can.
Here is a list of the kinds of things you might want to ask.
- How long has it been on the market? – the longer it’s been on the market, the more likely it is that the seller would negotiate on the price.
- Why are they selling? – upsizing or downsizing are fairly standard reasons, but if they are moving to another area for reasons like work, they might be in a bit of a rush, which might also give you some ability to negotiate on price.
- How long did the owner live here for? – if they are moving on after a very short period of time, you might want to find out more about their reasons for moving, to make sure it’s not because of a problem with the property, such as difficult neighbours.
- Have the sellers found somewhere to move to? If they haven’t, the transaction might be slow unless they are willing to go into rented accommodation.
- What is included in the property? Anything that’s built in, such as fitted cupboards in the kitchen and bathroom, will automatically be included in the price, but anything that is not fitted, such as a free standing oven or fridge, will automatically go with the sellers when they move out, unless you reach an agreement to keep it. The estate agent should know what’s included and should help you negotiate on anything else that you want to have.
The estate agent might not be in a position to answer all of your questions, but you might find out information that might put you off or make you want to act quicker. You can also ask these from the agent as follow up questions, after viewing the property. If there has been a lot of owners but only for a short period of time you might be wondering why. You might also find out that the owner is selling because they are moving abroad, you can use this to your advantage by putting in an offer lower because they may just want a quick sale.
Ask the seller questions
You might want to ask the seller the same questions that you ask the estate agent. In most cases, sellers will be available while you are viewing the property. If you get the same answers, you can be reasonably certain that they are telling you the full story. If you get different answers, it might make you question if there is a reason why you are being given inaccurate information. It might just be a breakdown in communication, but it might mean someone is deliberately misleading you.
Tips for viewing a property
- Check the property more than once
There is no limit to how many times you can view a property. It is advised to visit at least twice.
- Do not rush
Take your time while viewing the property. Most estate agents provide a 30-minute slot, use the full time and you could even get there earlier to see what the neighbourhood is like! If you want more time, just ask for it.
- Check what is included within the property
This may seem obvious when looking around the property but ensure you know exactly what you are looking at. The drive way might not be yours, or even the alleyway. Ensure you know exactly what the property includes. If you are not sure what is included ask the estate agent and they will be able to provide you with details.
- Check the neighbourhood
Spend time walking around the general area to see how close things are. For example, cafes, schools, transport links. If schools are important to you, find out how easy it would be for you to get your children a place.Go to the property and surrounding areas at different times of the day or days of the week. It might be lovely on a Saturday afternoon, but traffic may be horrendous on a weekday morning at just the time you need to leave for work. Have a look at what amenities are available. Are there shops nearby. Are there any parking restrictions that might affect you or people visiting you. Are you close to a pub and if so, is that a good thing or a bad thing!
If you want to check the property again after one or two viewings, because you are interested in putting an offer in, go back and check it. Take a friend with you as they might spot something that you might not have seen. You might want to take a tape measure with, to check that your furniture will fit in, or to see what size of curtains you will need. If you think the property is going to need work, get your builder to go round and have a look, and give you an estimate before you commit yourself.
Once you are as certain as you can be that you know everything about the property that you need to know, you can start negotiating with the estate agent on price. Even once your offer has been accepted, you can still go round and double check things or get your solicitor to check points with the sellers solicitor.
Viewing a property can be exciting and sometimes, a little bit daunting. Do not let this get to you. Have fun but also, do bear in mind the points we have set out on our guide.
Disclaimer – our articles are designed to give you guidance and information. There is no substitute for proper direct advice, particularly as everyone’s circumstances are different. If anything in this article may affect you, please contact us for advice that is specific to your circumstances.