What To Look For When Buying A House

house viewing

Buying a house can be an intimidating, exciting and nerve-wracking experience, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. There’s so much to consider when deciding which property is best for you, so it can be easy to overlook significant issues and forget key questions during the initial buying stages.

Buying a property is a massive investment, so it’s important you make the most of each viewing to spot any problems that may affect you once you move in. This blog offers house viewing tips, questions to ask your estate agent and a checklist of what to look for when buying a house to help you find the perfect property for you.

House viewing tips

It can be easy to get overwhelmed or feel like you can’t thoroughly inspect the property in front of the homeowner or estate agent, but you also need to be able to make an informed decision about whether to proceed with the sale or not. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your viewing:

  • Take your time: Don’t feel pressured to look around quickly by the estate agent or homeowner. Make sure you can thoroughly look in each room and around the outside of the property to get a feel for the place. Leave enough time after to explore the neighbourhood to find out what amenities are nearby.
  • Bring a friend: It’s safer to attend a viewing with a partner or friend and it’s easier to identify any issues with the property with a second pair of eyes. It’s also helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off when considering how you’ll utilise the space.
  • Test things out: Although you may feel awkward during a viewing, testing things out will help make sure there are no nasty surprises once you move into the property. Run the taps, open the windows around the house and lock the front and back doors to check they’ve been fitted properly.
  • Be pragmatic: Even if you’re head over heels in love with a house, it’s crucial that you take a step back and be ruthless when evaluating what might be wrong with the property and how it could impact you once you move in. On the other hand, don’t let superficial issues like ugly wallpaper or torn carpets put you off a beautiful home.
  • View it more than once: There’s so much to take in during a viewing that it can be easy to overlook key aspects or forget to ask questions you had about the property prior to seeing it. Additional viewings allow you to either confirm your initial impressions or change them completely. It can also be useful to arrange viewings at different times of day throughout the week to get a better feel of the neighbourhood.

It’s also important to be aware of how the seller may have altered the property to make it more attractive to prospective buyers. Keep an eye out for fresh patches of paint or touched-up exteriors, as the seller may be attempting to conceal issues like rising damp or cracked walls.

Buying a house checklist

There are lots of things to consider when evaluating whether a property is right for you, and it’s not always possible to feel like you’ve seen everything you need on a first viewing. Here’s a checklist of what you should look for when buying a house to help you decide if a property is worth a second viewing or not:

The structure

While it’s natural for some shifting to occur in traditionally constructed buildings, extensive movement and settlement over time can result in structural issues. These can be relatively minor and easy to repair, or they can become so serious that they compromise the safety of the building. You should thoroughly check the property for big cracks, bowing or bulging walls, splintering window lintels, doors that stick when opening and closing and any sagging in the roof.

The roof

Roof problems can vary in severity from cracked tiles to the overall structure being unstable and needing replacing. Catching roof problems early is the best way to limit the extent of damage done to the rest of the property, but if the previous homeowner didn’t notice or address them, they could turn into major issues soon after you move in. Common roof problems include poor or faulty installation, leaks, improperly installed flashing, invading wildlife, ponding water, punctures, ventilation, shrinkage and blistering.

The plumbing

The average water heater lasts about ten years and if the tank is situated in the roof it’s likely very old and may need to be replaced once you move in. Run the taps to check the water pressure, ask the estate agent to find out if the pipes are insulated and check whether the radiators work or not. It’s also important to determine what type of sewage system the property has – if it’s septic, find out where the tank is located and inspect the area for water, seepage or unpleasant smells.

The wiring

Faulty wiring can be incredibly dangerous and rewiring your new property can be an expensive and time-consuming process. If the fuse box has a wooden back, cast iron switches or no labels on it, it’s likely very old and will need replacing. A black electric cable entering the box may also indicate it is old, as modern wiring is PVC insulated in grey or white. Take note of how many electrical sockets, plugs and switches there are in each room; if there are only one or two, the electrics in that part of the house are out of date.

The damp

Environmental problems like damp and dry rot are common in older buildings, particularly on outward-facing walls or in basements. While it’s easy for homeowners to cover up the physical symptoms of a damp issue, the main giveaways are a musty smell, a cold atmosphere, flaky plaster and watermarked walls or ceilings. Don’t dismiss any signs of condensation, as it indicates that there’s too much water vapour in the property as a result of rising damp or poor ventilation.

The outside

Although most house viewings focus on the inside of the property, it’s important to look at the outside for any issues like Japanese Knotweed. Japanese Knotweed can grow through concrete foundations and brick walls and is notoriously hard to get rid of. Mortgage lenders generally won’t lend on a property if its revealed to have an issue with this perennial root, because it can seriously damage the structure of your house if left untreated.

The local amenities
Whether you’re looking for a long or short-term purchase, ensuring your home is close to local amenities and public transport links will make your day-to-day life easier, as well as increasing the saleability of your property. If your children are almost of school age, making sure the property is in a catchment area for a few different schools will massively help your family in the future.

The neighbourhood
If you’re wanting a property to make into a long-term family home, you should investigate any planning applications that have been submitted in the surrounding area to get an idea of how the neighbourhood might change. It’s also important to know how safe the neighbourhood you’re planning to move into is, particularly if you have young children in your family.

The neighbours
Nobody knows what an area is like to live in better than the next-door neighbours, so it might be worth knocking on their doors and asking them about the neighbourhood. You could ask them what the surrounding streets are like at night, if any households can be noisy or inconsiderate, or whether any children live nearby that play in the streets. If the neighbourhood is generally quiet, well-lit and populated with other families, it’s likely to be a good place for your family to live.

The best way you can make sure you know everything about the property is with a structural survey. A full structural survey is a comprehensive report on the condition and construction of a property and will detail any serious problems that will require repairs or maintenance when you move in. If the surveyor finds a lot of issues, you can request that the seller fixes them before purchase or negotiate a lower price.

Questions to ask when buying a house

House viewings can be an overwhelming experience and it’s easy to forget what questions you previously wanted answering before looking around the property. Some of the questions you might want to ask when buying a house are:

  • What council tax code does this property come under?
  • How old is the property?
  • What’s included with the sale?
  • Has the house had any major building work done recently?
  • How long has the property been on the market?
  • What is the minimum price the owners will consider?
  • What offers have the owners had so far?

Asking why the current owner is selling can be one of best ways to find out if there are any issues with the property or neighbourhood. Also finding out how long the owner has been there can help you anticipate what to expect once you move in. The longer the home has been owned by the same person, the more likely issues have gone unnoticed and essential repairs have been put off.

In summary….

Buying a house can be intimidating, so it’s important to make sure you make the most of each viewing and take the time to fully evaluate the property before making a commitment. We recommend seeking professional guidance if you feel you need support. If you’re looking for a fast house sale so you can move into your new home quickly, contact the experienced professionals at Good Move today.

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