Although extremely exciting, buying a property can be a daunting process, particularly when taking the initial steps and first viewing houses. There will be a vast amount to take in when first looking around a property, which means key factors can be easily overlooked.
Here, property expert Michael Bruce, CEO of the UK’s leading hybrid estate agents Purplebricks.com shares his expert thoughts on property viewings, providing top tips to get the most out your experience whilst keeping on top of the crucial information.
1) Failure to prepare, prepare to fail
Before your first property viewing, create a list of key questions you would like to find out the answer to. Decide what is important for you in a house, whether that be distance of local schools, how long since it was last decorated or type of neighbours, and do not be afraid to make sure your wish list is answered before you leave. On the day it is essential to take a pen and paper and make notes, both for the answers to your wish list questions, but also for any additional comments. When viewing lots of properties, particularly if these viewings are spread over a few weeks, important information is likely to slip your mind. Jot down some defining features to help you remember the property, for example, statement fireplace in the kitchen, and also use your notebook for any ‘red flags’. Once home, finalise these notes so they are in an easy to read document. Although this may seem time consuming this will prove invaluable when you begin to shortlist your properties. In the same vein, take photos during your viewing. Often people feel too embarrassed to do this but there is no better way to remember exactly what a room looks like than having the image in front of you.
2) Time of Day
In the first instance I would always suggest viewing a new property in natural daylight. The light will bring any problems to your attention quickly, whether that is a larger external structural issue or simply a stain on the carpet. Plus, you can explore the garden (if there is one) and also take a stroll around the surrounding area to get a feel for your potential new neighbourhood.
If you like the property and are considering making an offer, I would suggest attending your second viewing at a different time of day. This could be in the evening so you can assess what it would be like to spend the night in your new home. Do you have an avid music fan next door ?Alternatively, book your viewing in during rush hour to assess whether it is particularly busy or noisy. Finally, practice driving the route from work to your potential new home as an anticipated 10 minute journey may turn into a 50 minute journey during peak time.
3) Check for Red Flags
‘Red flags’ are particularly relevant for older properties – key issues that potentially may be expensive in the long run. A red flag doesn’t have to prevent you putting an offer in for a house but they are issues you should be aware of. Key flags to check for centre on appliances and utilities. Old boilers, for example, can be extremely costly and difficult to repair. As well as financial burdens, older models come with the impractical burden of lack of heating and water if they do end up breaking. Research boiler models before viewing a house and always ask if the current owners know how old it is.
There are a number of other key ‘red flags’ to look out for. Common problems in properties include mould and damp. Sometimes these can be disguised by tactics such as mould remover which doesn’t solve the root of the problem. Pay particular attention to outside walls, behind the sofa and the bathroom to spot the tell-tale signs.
Although we may take it for granted, not all properties have double glazing. It is extremely important to ask this question as single glazing will land you with large heating bills and double glazing is costly to install.
In addition, it is also important to know which ‘white goods’ are included in the sale of the property. Be direct and ask the questions – will I have this fridge, dishwasher, oven etc. when I buy the house? Once clarified you can then decide if these are items you actually want. If an item is slightly worse for wear ask the current owner if they can organise for the removal of said item. Removals can be another hidden, unexpected cost you may encounter. ‘White goods’ can be used for negotiations later on so it is essential to find out exactly what comes with the property and assess the condition of these items.
4) Storage Hunter
When you view a property be mindful of storage. You may fall in love with the property but if you cannot fit in all your belongings this may alter the feel of the house as it becomes cluttered. So decide early on whether you are ready to chuck things out or whether you can create extra storage areas. Many savvy sellers will ‘declutter’ before they put their house on the market, so it’s worth taking the time to visualise where you would put everything.
5) Mental Mind Set
Whilst this point may seem obvious it is important to be physically and mentally well on the day of viewings. Don’t go hungry as without realising it you never pay as much attention on an empty stomach! Do not try and fit too many viewings into one day – you may overlook a really great property in your rush to finish. Similarly, you may miss ‘red flags’ in a not-so-great property. Try to be well rested and go into the viewing with a positive mind-set, finding a property should be an enjoyable experience after all!