Questions to ask when viewing a house

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When you’ve found a place you like, it can be easy to get carried away. But knowing what to ask when buying a house could save you from heartache later. With the help of our members, we’ve put together a property viewing checklist, to help make sure it’s the right one for you.

1. What's the area like?

You’ve already narrowed your search down to your preferred area, but what’s the immediate vicinity like? You can make all the changes you like to a property, but you can’t stop people parking on your street for the local shop or noise coming from the builder’s yard nearby. Consider the following:

  • Can you hear noise from nearby roads, schools or businesses?
  • What are the neighbours like?
  • Is there usually space to park on the street or does it get busy?
  • Has there been any flooding to the property or around the local area?
  • Is there much crime in the region?
  • Are there any planned developments nearby for new housing estates or roads?

Member tip

It usually pays to go back and look around the immediate area at different times to see what the area is like for traffic, parking, noise etc.

Check out the Environment Agency Map for flood risk.

2. What direction does the property face?

There’s no right or wrong with this, and it may not bother you at all. However, if you’re a keen gardener, it could impact what you can grow, or maybe you want to make sure your front room won’t be gloomy during the day, or that your patio will get the evening sun when you want to dine al fresco. As you know, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West so:

  • The south side of a property will get the most sun.
  • You’ll get more morning sun on the east side.
  • And more evening sun on the west side.
You can find out the direction the property faces by using online maps and satellite images.

Member tip

The street view on property selling websites will help you get an idea of what the property looks like in different seasons e.g. the shading caused by that massive tree which wasn’t so obvious when you viewed the property in the Winter, or that the garden is in the shade due to neighbouring properties (something that you wouldn’t notice during a Summer viewing, when the sun is very high in the sky).

3. Does it need structural work?

It’s often part of the fun to put your own stamp on your new home; however, it can be a nasty shock if your decorating budget has to stretch to urgent work like damp-proofing or repairing the roof. A property survey will pick up these things but that’s later in the process, so get a head start by looking out for the warning signs:

  • Look for cracks, stains or mould on the walls, inside and out.
  • If there is a loft or basement, make sure you take a good look around.
  • Is the roof flat?
  • Be nosey - check behind furniture and in cupboards in case anything is hidden.
  • Does it smell musty or damp?
  • Have the sellers done any work to the property? If so, be sure to get proof of planning permission and building regulations where necessary.
  • Has planning permission been obtained for any future work?
  • Are there any restrictions on the property e.g. is it listed or are there restrictive covenants?

Member tip

It is especially important to understand individual concerns relating to the type of property that you maybe purchasing. For example, considerations regarding adjoining land purchases, shared boundaries, existing covenants (particularly on old houses), flying freeholds can give you lots to consider.

4. Will the space work for me?

Don’t be fooled by the presentation – good or bad. Décor can easily be updated. Clutter can make a home look much smaller than it is and a more minimalist style can look very spacious – if you don’t have many belongings! What matters is how you will live there.

  • Will your furniture fit? Measure up beforehand and take a tape measure with you to check the dimensions.
  • Does the kitchen have space for all your appliances?
  • Check the position of light switches, light fittings and plug sockets as it can be disruptive to move or add new ones.
  • Are there signs that there’s little storage e.g. bulging cupboards? It’s not always a problem as there are many nifty storage solutions but it’s best to know this in advance.

Member tip

Ignore the décor and style of furnishings – try to picture each room as an empty neutral space, it is very easy to repaint or wallpaper to your own taste!

5. What fixtures and fittings are included?

Just because something is in the property when you view it, it doesn’t mean it will be there when you move in. Don’t get your heart set on the garden shed that’s great for extra storage, or the decorative fire surround that completes the living room, without first asking which fixtures and fittings will be included with the purchase.

  • Don’t make assumptions and ask what’s included e.g. light fittings, curtain rails.
  • What’s the condition of the items included?
  • Do you have manuals/guarantees where needed?
  • Ask how old the boiler is, when it was last serviced and whether it’s under warranty.

Member tip

Run the water on your visit – so you can check the pressure. Test the broadband speed and ask the owners about the number of devices, etc. they use on the line.

6. What are the running costs?

You’d be forgiven if you’ve not got further than calculating your mortgage costs. While this can be a big one, don’t forget to budget for your other monthly outgoings too as they might add up to more than you expect.

  • Is there a water meter? Or do you pay a fixed amount?
  • What’s the council tax band?
  • What’s the broadband like?
  • Is there a service charge or ground rent to pay?
  • What is the EPC rating? As this may affect your energy bills. If the seller doesn’t know you can find out here.
  • Is there off street parking? If not, this could affect your car insurance.
  • What’s the price of home insurance? Ask about the price of the building’s insurance and if there’s anything that may affect the cost.

7. What’s the seller’s position?

If you’re considering putting in an offer, it’s a good idea to get a better understanding of the seller’s position. This helps you understand if their timescales will suit yours, whether there’s potential to get a great deal or if you’re more likely to end up in a chain or a bidding war.

  • What’s their reason for selling? This might give you a good insight into the property or the seller’s position.
  • How long has the property been on the market for?
  • Has the seller found a property to move to?
  • Are they in a chain?
  • Has there been much interest in the property, or any offers made? This will tell you whether you need to act fast for the seller to take it off the market, or if they might be open to lower offers.

In addition to our tips when viewing a house, think about taking a family member or friend with you, they can take note of answers to the questions on your house viewing checklist, as there can be a lot to take in. In all the excitement, it could also be easy to miss any warning signs when viewing a property, so it’s always good to have another pair of eyes.

Once you’ve decided the property is perfect for you, check out our guide on Making an Offer.