Seeing a house in person is different to viewing it online, and you’re likely to make a decision to put in an offer and buy a property after a single viewing.
With a lot at stake in choosing your new home and securing it for exchange, it’s worthwhile to be prepared and have a strategy and questions ready.
Here’s 16 questions to consider before you view a property:
1. How long has the property been on the market?
Always check with the estate agent how long the property has been on the market. If it’s been on the market for three months or more, it’s worth asking why. Is there a problem with it that you haven’t yet spotted? Sometimes it’s simply because there are parts of the house which aren’t suitable for young families or elderly people, and it’s simply a case of the property appealing to a smaller demographic.
Or it could be because of the time of year. It’s not worth panicking over, but it is worth asking. Follow it up with confirming if there are any issues that put other potential buyers off and if this would impact you and your decision. Surveys will discover any potential problems later down the road, but it’s better to find out before you get too attached to the idea.
2. Has there been much interest in the property?
Asking how many viewings a property has had and if any offers have been made is very important. You will want to know if you have any competition as this greatly affects how much you may need to offer. This is obviously more important if it comes to a bidding situation or if there’s an open house.
However, it’s worth asking in any situation. It may also mean you can offer a lower amount if there’s been little interest. Whatever you do, don’t worry that you’re going to lose the house and cause yourself to offer way over what you could get the property for, or more than you can afford. Stay calm and get all the information first.
3. What’s the area like?
You need to think about your lifestyle and if the area is suited to you. If you’re young and don’t have children, you’re probably looking for somewhere with some good nightlife and nearby bars and restaurants.
Or if you’ve got a family, you’ll want to know what the schools are like and the crime rate; you can find out how many crimes have been reported in a neighbourhood by going to www.police.uk. . Make sure to ask these questions, because though you can change the house once you’ve moved in, you can’t change the area.
Google the schools in the area and read their OFSTED reports. Why not have some lunch or drinks at the restaurants and pubs nearby, and check out the reviews? Or head to town and scope out the shops.
You will also want to look at the sale price of other properties in the area. This will help give you an indication of how much to offer if the property appears to be overpriced. You can look at Zoom995’s property search to get a sense of prices in the South East.
4. Why are the sellers moving?
The owner may be moving to a different area or needing to downsize or upsize, but there could be other reasons that are unappealing to a prospective buyer. There could be an expensive bit of work that needs doing in the house, or there could be issues with neighbours.
Though you may not always get a straight answer, it’s worth asking, especially if your mind is put at ease by an obvious reason, such as relocating for a new job.
5. How long have the owners lived there?
If the owners are moving out after a short period of time, why is this? There’s often something about the property or area that has put the buyers off, however sometimes it could be something as simple as the sellers breaking up or the sellers flipping the house for profit.
6. What are the neighbours like?
Always ask about neighbours when viewing a house. If the sellers are close with their neighbours and seem to know a lot about them that’s a great sign. Most people keep themselves to themselves but try to read their body language and tone of voice when they talk about their neighbours if they’re at the viewing, especially if they seem awkward and want to get off the topic quickly.
Remember, sellers are obligated to divulge any disputes with neighbours, so it’s always worth asking directly if this is the case, even if you have to go through the estate agent.
7. Have there been any major renovations done recently?
If you don’t intend to have a full structural survey on your home make sure you find out about work that’s been recently undertaken. It’s wise to see evidence of this, such as guarantees and receipts from the relevant professionals.
If applicable, check any planning permission for recent work and consent from the freeholder if it was needed (you’ll also want to check generally if the property is leasehold or freehold, but this will probably be mentioned in the advert). If proper permission wasn’t obtained for any big pieces of work like an extension, you may end up having to tear it down. Ask what work was done and consider if a lot of money has been added to the price of the property as a result. Is there room for further improvements?
8. Is the property listed or in a conservation area?
This information will show up during the conveyancing process, but it’s you can check with your estate agent before you look at the property. If you buy a listed property the changes you can make both outside and sometimes inside can be restricted and the process difficult.
If you have no intention of changing the property it may be worth using the fact it’s listed to get a discount on the property. If the property is in a conservation area other restrictions may also apply. The Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 creates special controls for areas designated as conservation areas. The local authority can tell you about any conservation areas in the location you’re looking to move.
9. What condition is the plumbing in?
Check the water pressure and the plumbing. It may not be the make or break of whether you buy the property but imagine waking up on the first morning in your new home to discover that the water goes hot and cold or the shower only trickles. It’s something you may want to think about in advance and make sure you can budget if the situation arises that changes are needed. It may even affect how much you offer.
Check the taps and shower yourself as you’re looking around as the sellers don’t have to be honest and it’s always better to see things for yourself. Get under the sink and check for damp (maybe do this on the second viewing if you decide you’re very interested)!
Be sure to check how old the boiler is and if it needs replacing soon. You can also ask the seller whether the pipes are insulated and if the radiators work effectively too. Feel if there are different temperatures in different parts of the house and ask why that is. Your heating and water bills are a regular expense that could be affected, so it’s important to consider these things.
10. How much will the bills be?
Check how much the council tax and utility bills are from the owners and try to push them for an exact amount if they’re at the viewing, or ask the estate agent to check with them. Consider if they have more people living with them which may push the bills up.
11. What’s included in the sale?
Ask the owners what will be included in the sale. Something like the garden shed, greenhouse or summerhouse is an expensive extra that could make all the difference if they’re letting you keep it or taking it away.
If you don’t have a dishwasher or tumble dryer and they plan to leave it that could be a welcome added bonus. What other fixtures and fittings will be included and exactly where does the boundary lie? Make sure you know what you’re getting for your money.
Equally this could mean you could leave some things for the buyer of your property, making yours more appealing if you haven’t sold it yet.
12. Have the sellers found their next property?
When are the sellers planning to move? Being in a chain can create problems for buyers as any delays or complications for the sellers will have a knock-on effect for your sale.
Your buyer could even pull out and find somewhere else if it’s taking too long. The optimum situation is that the property is chain-free but, if not, knowing the sellers are organised and keen to move quickly can bode well for a quick and easy sale.
13. Is there parking?
Do you have a driveway at the property? If not, ask if there’s a garage or parking space or if that’s not the case, what the parking on the road is like at different times of day. If you’re near a town or city centre or station, will people try to park there during the day time leaving you unable to park? Or do you have to pay for resident parking permits?
This could significantly add to your outgoings each year. You could also consider if there’s potential to build a driveway, and consulting with a builder about how much that might cost. If you’re planning on having children in the near future or already have young children, not having a driveway and living on a busy road may be a no-go for your personal preferences.
14. Is the building in good condition?
Check the walls for any big cracks which could mean the house has subsidence. Hairline cracks aren’t usually a major issue as they’re to be expected but you can always get a builder to look around for you, and you’ll have a survey done later down the line if you’re serious about buying the property.
Keep an eye out for damp on the walls, floors and ceilings and look out for any signs of cover up such as new paint, and lift up rugs if you need to. Smell in the air to see if it smells musty; the smell of damp can be quite difficult to cover up. Check the windows too, if there is any rotting wood or condensation between the double glazing these may be things you will have to think about paying to replace when you move in.
15. Which way does the garden face?
It can be hard to tell which way the garden faces, but it’s an important question. South facing gardens are known to get the most light, but you might prefer east facing gardens if you tend to be out there earlier in the day, or west if you tend to be out in the afternoon and evening. It also depends what the garden is used for, whether it’s sunbathing, BBQs or if you prefer to sit in the shade. It’s worth seeing the property both in the morning and afternoon.
16. How good are your transport connections?
Ask the sellers where the nearest train and bus stations are. Is it easy to get to London or the nearest cities and towns? You can always look on National Rail’s website and see how many changes you’ll have to go on and the travel duration. Do the sellers commute to work? If so, how?
If it’s especially rural you’ll want to know how long the drive can take at different times of day to the nearest main town and supermarket.
You can read our page about the Crawley area, and find out about its fantastic connections to London and Brighton. For more information and to work with us, please contact us on 0333 358 3095. Lines answered Mon-Fri 8-8, Sat 9-5 and monitored on Sunday.