Buying a property is likely to be the biggest purchase of your life. Whether it is your first home, or you are up-sizing, downsizing, or buying to let, there are a number of things you can carry out that will make your life as a potential buyer easier. By making the necessary preparations, doing your research, and knowing what to look for during your viewing, you will in turn think about the property in a more considered fashion, feel confident that you are viewing the correct properties for you, be able to weigh up the pros and cons, which will all result in you making more informed decisions when it comes to buying.
We aim to help you with planning and participating in making your potential property purchase as much as we can here, so read on for our helpful tips for viewing properties;
Before you even view your first property, make a list. Many people have a vague list of what they are looking for in their head, but it is a really good idea to get it down on paper - not only things you are looking for, but make a note of any specific things you do not want in a property, along with any deal breakers.
This makes a good reference point, however at the same time don't be too restrictive with the things you do not want. Examples of things you are looking for could be; large kitchen, low maintenance garden, en suite, and a garage, or enough room for one. Similarly, things you do not want could be; a renovation project, a high maintenance garden, or a dark kitchen that never gets the sun. Your list can help you in many ways, but don't get bogged down in details that are easily changed, such as style of flooring, fireplace, kitchen units and so on.
Sometimes when viewing a property you can become overwhelmed, your heart might start to rule your head, or you may even feel a bit stressed. This is where it is an excellent idea to have something written in black and white you can refer to.
Keep in mind the difference between Needs and Wants. It can actually be helpful to write two lists, one containing your Needs, and the other documenting your Wants. Needs are the things you 100% need the property to fulfil; number of rooms, parking, back garden, the amount of light in the property, and so on. These are things that cannot easily be changed if you buy the wrong place. Wants on the other hand are things that can be compromised on if you find the perfect property that meets all of your needs. Wants can often be done at a later time too, once you actually own the place. Examples of items on a Want list could be; a south facing lounge, a downstairs toilet, patio doors, wooden flooring, and so on. Each list you make will be individual to your needs and wants as either a home buyer, or a buy to let landlord.
Make a list of questions specific to each property before you arrive for viewing. The more questions you ask, the better. It is often typical that you start thinking of all the questions you could have asked, after the viewing, which is fine if you want to view the property a second time, but be sure to note them down. When put on the spot, it can often be difficult to come up with what we really want to know. Questions you might want to prepare before you even see the property are things like what and when repairs have been carried out as regards the structure of the building and the roof, what the heating system is, and so on.
Research the area, and think about how this meets your needs, just as you have done with the property. While it is important to keep an open mind, and your wants can change and be compromised if you so wish, your needs cannot. If you have children, schools are usually a number one priority, as are transport links and commuter links to places of work. Ask yourself what amenities you need access to, and think about whether you drive, and whether everything is as accessible as you would like. Consider things such as crime rates and noise levels too, all these things will impact upon your life should you move to the new location.
Always spend a good amount of time viewing the property, 15-30 minutes usually, depending on size. Once you have been shown around, take some time to walk around on your own and get a feel for the place. If it feels right, you might begin to see your own things in situ, and your imagination might wander as to what it would be like to live there. This is a good opportunity to refer to the list you have made and see how well it fits in with your needs as a property buyer. Also, make a mental or written note of any questions that you want to ask before leaving, as the answers might determine whether you come back for a second viewing.
View a property you are interested in multiple times, and do so at different times of day. The more times you view the property, the more chance you will have for spotting potential problems, and being really thorough about checking it out. By only viewing the property on a rainy afternoon, you might fail to appreciate it in the morning sun. Similarly, by visiting the property in the daytime only, you will fail to see how well lit the area is at night, and what the levels of people and noise are.
Walk or drive around the local area. Perhaps park at the house, walk to the local shops, take a different route back through some neighbouring streets. This is an excellent idea to really get a feel for an unfamiliar place. Taking a drive past the property, as well as the area at various parts of the day or night is also a good idea. This allows you to see the neighbourhood during rush hour, during the working day, and after dark.
Don't see it as a home straight away, see it as an empty shell, a blank canvas, and remember that the previous owner's personal belongings will be removed, and any individual stamp they have put on the place can be erased with a tin of paint. Get the structural basics and layout in place, and the home décor will follow.
Taking a friend with you is often a good idea. This allows you to get an objective opinion, and it is someone who can help you keep your feet on the ground and look at the practical issues such as room sizes and storage solutions. An objective friend can also remind you of the positives if you feel down about any one aspect.
Look at the building structure. And as well as looking at the building structure, look out for other parts of the property as a whole such as the electric light fittings and sockets, taps, windows and doors. Small cracks on a building can be common and are not necessarily something to worry about, however larger cracks are something that you should pay attention to - look for them around joins in buildings such as walls, extensions and bay windows. If you are thinking of going ahead with buying a property, it is highly recommended that a professional survey is carried out to properly check and document the condition and structure of a building as a whole.
Ask the owner what work has been done. Ask them if any repairs been carried out on the building, or if building maintenance has been done on a regular basis. Asking about this will also give you an idea of the structural state of the building. Roofs are known to be an expensive repair when they pose a problem, therefore it is always a good idea to ask about the life of the roof, such as when it was renewed or repaired. Depending on the materials, newer roofs can have a life expectancy of only 20 years.
Ask the homeowner what their utility bills are like, and maybe they will show you copies to inform you of Council Tax rates, and the level of their energy bills. With each property being different in terms of energy efficiency, it is a really good idea to enquire about this, especially on older properties.
Ask what comes with the sale of the property, for example, ask if the white goods come with a fitted kitchen, ask if carpets are included in the sale, and curtain poles, etc. Also, don't assume that garden sheds, decking and fences will come with the sale of the property either. You might also want to confirm the exact land that is included in the sale of the property, and if there is any doubt over parking spaces or garden areas, it is best to get this confirmed in writing.
Look behind furniture, and be alert to odd stains and smells. There are various giveaways when it comes to lingering mould and damp – look out for musty smells, water marks on the wall and ceiling, and flaking plaster. If there are any freshly painted areas, this could be in attempt to cover mould, so be sure the check the possibility of this thoroughly.
If you are only viewing and you feel that the property looks structurally sound, then you may not feel the need for a surveyor, however when parting with large sums of money in property it is always best to get a professional survey done. This will uncover problems with the building that might be hidden to the unassuming buyer, and is a legal document which can put your mind at rest when buying a property.