The Essential 2020 House Viewing Checklist
Whether you’re a first-time buyer looking for your dream home, a prospective tenant looking for a rental property, or simply interested in climb further up the housing ladder — viewing properties can be an exciting milestone in your life. However, while house hunting may seem like a painless, simple task, it can quickly grow into a confusing, stressful process — particularly if you have little or no experience when it comes to what things you should be looking out for.
Here at House Buyer Bureau, we recognise the importance of choosing your new home carefully, as it’s likely to be one of the biggest investments of your life. We’ve created our ultimate house viewing checklist to guide you on what you should be looking out for. The property viewing checklist below offers tips room-by-room, advises on which important questions you should be asking your estate agent/landlord and general points to keep in mind as you assess the overall suitability of your new home.
What Should I Look for When House Hunting?
One of the most straightforward things buyers or tenants forget to double-check when viewing a property is that all the general house utilities are in good working order. As your guide moves you from room-to-room during a viewing, take several minutes to ensure the following utilities are in a good, functional condition — and if not, be sure to question why.
- Plug sockets and light switches
- Water pressure and temperature
- Do the taps work and how long does it take for hot water to come through?
- Check the built-in kitchen appliances work (e.g. the oven, hob)
- Are fireplaces functional — do the chimneys work and when were they last swept?
After making a note of the working utilities, there are several other factors to consider when observing the interior of the property, so be sure to ask yourself the following questions:
Inside each room:
- Is the flooring in good condition?
- Are there any visible signs of damp or mould?
- If you can’t see mould — can you smell it?
- Are there any exposed wires or other dangerous issues?
- Are there cracks in the walls or ceilings?
- Do the windows open and close easily?
- Are the windows double/triple or single glazed (this can affect things like condensation, noise and your heating costs)?
- Do the locks work on the windows and does the homeowner have the keys?
- Are there signs of condensation?
Top tip: We recommend you pay particular attention to the bathroom and kitchen areas, as these tend to be the most used areas of the house, so you will need everything to be in working order.
Space and Storage
Another factor to consider when house hunting is that properties you view may be tidied and re-arranged to look welcoming and spacious. Unless you’re viewing a rental property with existing tenants and their furniture present, chances are the property will be stripped back, so it’s as minimal and appealing as possible. This is an especially important factor to consider if you’re downsizing from a larger property. The layout of your prospective new home may appear spacious — but realistically fitting your belongings into space may be an issue.
As well as making a mental note and envisioning where your belongings may go and what you would use each room for, check the amount of storage space on offer in each room. Are there built-in wardrobes? Can you check inside them or are they locked? While it may be awkward, it is worth checking the inside state of built-in furniture. If you are unable to see inside, consider organising a second viewing after forewarning the current occupier.
Sometimes properties are refurbished for a sale and a very small room may be listed as an additional bedroom. Ask yourself whether you could actually fit a bed and storage inside that room — and if not, what would you use the room for? If you’re planning on moving furniture to-and-fro, it’s probably worth taking a tape measure with you and having a list of your furniture measurements handy to ensure they fit in the new space.
If you are going to be renting the property on a part or fully-furnished basis, ask the agent for a full list of the furniture included in your tenancy agreement. Sometimes tenants will have added items to rooms that they will be taking with them when they move out.
The Exterior of the Property
While the exterior of the property may not seem as important as what’s inside, exteriors can identify problems with structure, roofing and more. These are things that could end up costing you if you were to proceed and purchase the property. For a tenant, exterior issues could cause potential disruption or tenancy delays in the future. Be sure to walk around the outside of the house. Look for signs of damp, hairline cracks in the walls, missing or possible loose tiles across the roof and issues with guttering.
If you identify signs of a growing problem, ask the agent, or landlord, as many questions as possible to find out what the cause of the issue is, if they are aware of it, and what they can do to amend the situation. If they promise to resolve any problems you spot, it is not unreasonable to ask for this in writing and also ensure you are aware of any timescale and likely disruption to you as either a new homeowner or tenant.
- Are there cracks in walls or brickwork?
- Does the house have render? If so, are there any cracks in it? Render can often hide deeper structural problems.
- Are any plants growing from (or up) the brickwork — or roof?
- Are there any loose or missing roof tiles? If the house is thatched, when was it last re-done?
- What condition is the guttering in? Are there any apparent blockages or leaks?
- Are there any signs of Japanese knotweed or any other invasive or hazardous natural damage?
- Is the garden south facing? What time of day will you get sun on the garden or into the rooms?
- How overlooked is the garden or property?
The Surrounding Area of the Property
As house viewings are fairly quick and typically last around 20-30 minutes, it’s important to spend some time outside the property surveying the surrounding area, as you may identify problems that could lead you to consider looking elsewhere. These problems may only be identifiable in the evening or at certain times of the day. For instance, you may have noisy surrounding neighbours, a loud or busy road during the commute or school run times.
We recommended taking a stroll around the surrounding area to assess the proximity of local amenities, such as nearby transport links, parking spaces and more. If you have children — or plan to have children — then it is also worth checking out the local schools or childcare facilities as your catchment area will affect your choice. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when it comes to viewing the surrounding area of your property:
- Is the property located near any main roads? Will there be a chance of disturbances?
- How close are the transport links? Are there nearby trains or bus stops?
- Is the area outside your home permitted for parking spaces and is there sufficient space for your parking needs?
- Is the local area safe? Check the crime statistics — this may affect things like your car insurance costs
- Where are the nearest supermarkets, is there a doctor/dental practice close by?
- Have any planning applications been submitted or approved for developments nearby?
- What are the nearest schools like — what rating does Ofsted give them?
- How noisy is the area surrounding the property at different times of the day?
Questions to Ask the Landlord / Estate Agent
Build a rapport with the seller, landlord and estate agents — this is your chance to ask a variety of questions not covered on the initial listing specification. It is also worth keeping in mind that letting agents and landlords may use the viewing as an additional way to judge your reliability as a tenant — this is especially important if renting in highly competitive areas where multiple tenancy applications per property are commonplace. Similarly, if the existing owner of a house is showing you around, if they like and trust you to look after their home, this can sway some people who have an emotional attachment to the property— especially if they have multiple offers.
Asking questions will help tailor your offer, or buying/renting strategy if you do decide to pursue the property. While the estate agent or landlord may not be in a position to disclose certain information, any information you can find out is a good starting point and you should follow it up after your viewing, asking any questions that weren’t answered. Below are some of the key questions you should consider asking while you are shown around a property:
- How long have the current owners/tenants lived in the property for and what are their reasons for leaving?
- Have they made an offer on another property — and if so, when are they likely to be moving out?
- How long has the property been available on the market for and how many viewings has it had?
- Have the current owners had any disputes or issues with surrounding neighbours or the general area of the property?
- Would the seller or landlord be likely to accept an offer below the asking price? You may not get a definitive answer, but this can help you gauge whether there is room to negotiate.
- What council tax band is the property and how much does that work out as monthly?
If you’re reading this post as an interested seller looking to identify issues that potential buyers look out for, why not consider selling your property with reputable house buyers, House Buyer Bureau? Regardless of your property’s current condition, we buy all types of property, in any shape and location — and offer a fair, genuine cash offer.
There are no legal, valuation or estate agency fees to pay with us, along with no viewings or unnecessary delays — just the certainty of a quick and efficient sale with a competitive cash offer. Get in touch with our team of buying experts today or take a look at what our customers say for further information on our buying process.