Buying A Home: House Viewing Tips
Congratulations - you’ve finally decided to take the plunge and purchase a home of your own.
This is an momentous milestone and a time that will no doubt be filled with an array of different emotions ranging from deep excitement to complete confusion!
As you daydream about cosy days spent in your family’s new space and envision of all the Pinterest-worthy decor you’ll purchase to fill the rooms of your #DreamHome, it can be easy to let emotion cloud your judgement about what type of property you should buy. Purchasing a property is a massive commitment - not just financially, but emotionally too. Likely you’ll be paying off a mortgage ; continually budgeting towards maintenance, repairs and renovations; and working closely with your partner or co-owners to ensure the property is suited to your lifestyle and the needs of a potentially growing family.
To make life that little bit easier for you during this testing time, we’ve put together some handy tips and things to remember when house hunting. Knowledge of what to look out for, and questions to ask yourself, when viewing a property can make all the difference in you being able to make the right decision about which house, flat or piece of land to make an offer on.
House Viewing Tips for First Time Buyers
1. Get a feel for the neighbourhood
Prior or after the property viewing, go for a drive on and around the property’s street to get a feel for the area it’s situated in and whether this is a place you might like to live. Get out of the car too and observe the street for things such as noise pollution. We would advise you to do this at different times of the day (e.g. 8am and 5pm) so you can assess, for example, peak-hour traffic noise.
2. Don’t go at it alone
Always take someone - your partner or a friend - to viewings with you, so you can have a second opinion and somebody to bounce ideas off. In this regard, a friend (e.g. not the co-purchaser) can be an even better option as they are more impartial to the purchase.
3. List it
Make a list of all the things that are important to you and any questions you want to ask before the house viewing, so you don’t forget anything during the viewing, when it’s easy to get distracted or overwhelmed.
4. Don’t be shy
Purchasing a property is a massive decision, so don’t be afraid to poke around. Look inside fixed cupboards, check under the sink, ask to view the loft. We always like to have a torch handy with us in case some areas of the house don’t have lighting.
5. Ask questions
A house viewing is also an information-gathering exercise. Ask as many questions as you can think of. Some useful questions to ask include:
- What work has been previously done on the property. It’s within your right to request copies of receipts and guarantees.
- What’s included, e.g. fixtures like the oven, dishwasher, carpets, curtain poles etc.
- If the plumbing, electricity and heating works. It is also worth testing this yourself e.g. seeing how long it takes for hot water to come through the tap and even by flushing the toilet (a weak flush can be an expensive thing to fix later on).
- Are there any issues with dampness. Some tell-tale signs include peeling walls, stains on the ceiling or steamy windows.
- The cost of bills, generally. Ask to see copies of utility bills, council tax, etc.
- Whether parking permits are required.
- More personal questions such as what the current owners like and dislike about the property or what the neighbours and other inhabitants of the street are like.
Again, it can be useful to list these down, so they don’t slip your mind in the moment.
6. Be friendly!
This goes without saying, we’re sure. Building up a rapport with the agent or seller might just make the difference between your offer and somebody else’s being accepted, come crunch time.
7. Outside matters too
Don’t get so caught up with the inside of the home itself that you forget to inspect outside too. That goes for the structure of the property (e.g. can you see any roof tiles missing?) and any yards, sheds and outside areas. This could be particularly important if you have a pet or plan on adding some furry members to your family upon moving.
Common house-buying mistakes - Things You Might Regret Later
There are a number of factors that could cost you money in the long-run or make it difficult to secure a favourable mortgage. They can include:
- Homes of unusual construction - any building not of standard brick and mortar construction
- High-rise flats - for example, ex-council flats in tower blocks
- Flats over shops, restaurants and offices - any property where other people could have the right to access your property
- Short leaseholds - flats are often sold on leasehold which means you only own it for a specific number of years. Leaseholds of 80 years or less can be a problem so look to extend the lease before you buy.
- New build properties - lenders often value newly built properties lower than the asking price meaning you will have to have a larger deposit.
- Brownfield sites - properties built on former industrial land can be difficult as they might be contaminated.
- Too close to the sea - coastal erosion could be an issue
- Character homes - converted lighthouses, windmills, schools and pubs might need a mortgage from a specialist lender.
- Grade 1 listed properties and thatched houses - the cost of repairs and the risk of fire could pose problems.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t buy one of the above types of properties, but you do need to be aware of the risks, seek expert advice, and understand that a specialist lender may be required in your case.
For more information on common buyers mistakes, read our article., 'Top 5 Common First Time Buyer Mistakes'
More advice for first-time buyers
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Content correct at time of publication.