Looking around a property that could become your new home is exciting, but if you fail to use the viewing time effectively, you could miss something that ends up costing you.
Here are 11 essential tips that will help you see the real property behind the sales pitch at every viewing.
Do not view it alone
The more pairs of eyes you have looking around a property the better.
If you attend a viewing alone, it is likely you will be led around by an agent who does their best to highlight the positive features of the property, not giving you the chance to look closely.
Even if you will be living alone, take a friend or relative to view the property with you as they may spot something you miss.
View outside and inside
It is easy to get caught up examining the inside of a property and forget to take a thorough look at the outside.
Checking the exterior walls and the roof as well as the pipes and drainage is essential; if there are any problems, they could be expensive to get fixed.
If any work is required, you may either want to arrange a professional survey if you are looking to buy, or look for a rental property elsewhere.
Give yourself plenty of time
View the property at your own pace and avoid being hurried. Tell them beforehand how long you intend to spend viewing the property.
The last thing you want is to have to rush around the property because you have another viewing booked 10 minutes later, or because the estate agent is rushing to another appointment.
You should leave at least 20-30 minutes to view the inside of a property and a further 20-30 minutes to check the outside and to walk around the local neighbourhood.
Leave emotion at the door
Walking through the front door and immediately imagining yourself living in the property can be a good sign. However, it is also likely to mean that you are looking through rose tinted glasses for the rest of the viewing.
Even if you feel that a property could be the one, try to look around the rest of the flat or house with a critical eye.
If you do find a problem you may be able to negotiate a reduction in price, but even if it is too big an issue to resolve it is still better to find it before you are financially committed.
View in daylight
If you have to attend a first viewing when it is dark and like the house or flat, try and arrange a second viewing during the day before putting in an offer.
If you have viewed the property in the day and want a better idea of what the area is like in the evening, arrange a second viewing later in the day.
This will give you an idea of how light the property is at different times of the day, how loud the neighbours are and what the neighbourhood is like after dusk.
Book multiple viewings
Another viewing of a property after the first look can help make sure that you know exactly what you are getting for your money and that you do not miss any potential issues.
It also gives you the chance to ask the agent of owner any specific questions that you have after looking around the first time and to negotiate on price if needed.
Check for damp
Get a full survey to make sure that there are no serious underlying structural issues. Consider asking the vendor to resolve the issues before you agree to buy, or find out how much it would cost to rectify and negotiate a reduction in the asking price.
Damp is a big concern regardless of whether you are looking to buy or rent a property, simply because it may illustrate more fundamental problems.
Signs of damp include:
A musty smell
Mould or dark residue on the walls and ceiling
If you suspect that the property suffers from damp it need not be a deal breaker but should definitely be an issue you raise with the agent and investigate further.
Any cracks or signs of subsidence may indicate a much more serious problem with the property, so make sure you look out for these too.
Test the property
When you are looking around a flat or house, do not be afraid to test the fittings and fixtures. Check the following:
The windows open easily
Locks are fitted on external doors and windows
The level of loft insulation
There is suitable water pressure throughout
The shower and taps work
The wiring and electrics
Although you may feel awkward testing things in this way, any issues you spot at viewing can either be fixed before you move in or be used to negotiate a reduction in price.
Think about space
An empty flat our house will always look bigger than a fully furnished property, so you need to check that there really is enough room.
Check the storage space; are there built in wardrobes in the bedrooms, or would you need to have space for a wardrobe in each room?
In the kitchen, are the white goods built in or would you need to use vital space for a fridge, washing machine or dishwasher?
Is the cupboard space enough to fit all of your pots, pans and crockery?
Would your bed, sofa, dining table and drawers all fit comfortably, or would you be blocking radiators and sockets?
You can take this a step further by taking a tape measure with you to check if your furniture would fit comfortably in each room.
Get the camera out
Taking lots of photos or a video is a great way of ensuring that, should you miss something, you can check again without arranging another viewing.
It also means that you can look back at the property and compare it to others you have seen in your own time without the pressure of going around with a letting or estate agent.
However, make sure you ask before you start snapping. Although letting agents and estate agents will not usually have an issue with you taking photos, if the owner still lives in the property it is only polite to check.
Question everything - take a list
Do not be afraid to ask questions, whether you are looking to rent or buy you will be parting with a significant sum of money and you are well within your rights to have any of your questions answered.
Here are some questions you should ask the agent before you sign:
Why is the property available?
Hopefully the answer will be something that is not related to the standard of the property. For instance, if the current residents are looking to move because they have out grown their home or need to relocate then consider if you would be in the same position if you moved in.
How long has it been on the market?
The longer the property been on the market the more likely that it is overpriced or has a problem of some description. Knowing this information also empowers you when it comes to negotiating a price - if it has been on the market for a while, the vendor or landlord is likely to be keen to come to a deal and so may settle for less than the asking price.
How many viewings have they had?
More viewings indicate a greater interest in the property; however, if none of the viewings have resulted in an offer, this may show that it is too expensive or has another issue. Again, getting this information also gives you more ammunition for price negotiations.
How long did you live here?
The longer the better. If there have been lots of residents in a short period of time, consider why they did they not stay longer.
What are the neighbours like?
Although you are unlikely to be told directly if you are set to move in next to the neighbours from hell, the reaction you get from the landlord or homeowner should give you some idea what the local residents are like.
Is there a neighbourhood watch scheme?
While the answer will not necessarily tell you how safe the neighbourhood is, you should get a good idea if neighbours look out for each other if there is an active scheme in place.
What is the local traffic like?
Especially important to ask if you have to commute to work by car. Again, it is unlikely that they will complain about heavy traffic but you may pick up some clues in the answer as to whether there is a problem. If you are not satisfied with the answer, try coming back during rush hour to see for yourself.
When is the noisiest time of the day?
Any mention of aircraft, traffic or train noise could mean the property is unsuitable but you will need to hear it yourself to decide. It is also worth checking at a different time of day yourself, in case the neighbourhood becomes noisy in the evenings.
Has the property ever been burgled?
Unfortunately, if a property has been burgled in the past, it can often be revisited again. If they have been burgled on more than one occasion, it is even more likely that this is the case. It is also a good idea to ask what security measures the property is fitted with.
Has there been any recent improvement work on the property?
Recent work can be both a positive and a negative. If the house has just had new windows or guttering that may be a plus. However, if it has had to be underpinned to prevent subsidence, this may prove to be a significant negative.
Are there any issues that I need to know about?
Certain problems, such as if a property has been underpinned for subsidence, must be legally declared. Asking this question should ensure you know if there is anything else that you are not being told.
How far is the property from local amenities?
Can you easily walk or drive to everything you need without a problem?
Are there any management charges?
Particularly important question to ask if you are looking at a flat within a residential block; however, this can also apply to some houses and other residential properties.
What is the local parking situation?
You should be able to tell this by checking out the local area, but their answer may also signal if there are any problems with parking.
When was the last time the boiler was serviced?
Boilers should be serviced every 12 months. If this is not the case, you have no way of knowing what state it is in.
How old is the wiring and central heating?
The older the set up, the more likely that you may encounter a problem. You should also ask when the last time both systems were serviced by a qualified individual.
How old is the roof?
Roofs only last for a limited time so it's worth checking just how old the current one is. The older the roof the more likely it will need work, which may be quite costly.
Is the property on a water meter?
Consider whether this would increase your utility costs or help keep them down.
What is the council tax band?
This should help you calculate your budget should you want to look at making an offer for the property.
Is the house haunted?
Even if you do not believe in ghost or ghouls, if the person describes sounds in the night, this may indicate that there is something else wrong with the property.