Property viewings can be hard to understand if you are someone working out how to buy a property to rent out or to live in. Should you follow what the estate agent says or should you do your own due diligence once you arrive at the property?
There are a few tips and tricks that experience will teach you but if you aren’t used to viewing houses, reading this article should present some good tips on viewing a house depending on what type of house it is.
General house viewings
When viewing a house, there are some general things to look out for in every room that determines the quality of the space. If there are issues you don’t spot until after you have bought the property, you could have to spend a lot of money on repairs and struggle to find affordable home insurance.
Combining the below list with additional questions to ask when buying a house should prepare you well for a property viewing.
Is there damp in the property?
Damp can present itself as black spots on the walls or mould that doesn’t dislodge itself when touched during a property viewing. It may also be noticed that the wall is particularly cold with the damp on it which would indicate poor insulation. However, it is possible for the wall to be dry but only get wet at certain times of the day. This can still result in dampness in the property.
If dampness is noticed in the property, this can be dangerous as it can cause irritation to the lungs and besides the health of people living in the property, there is also the chance that mould can damage paint and plaster of the walls.
Are there any structural problems in the property?
If there are structural problems that are obvious during a property viewing, this may result in having to pay a lot of money to fix. Structural problems tend to be complicated and cause a lot of headaches if you aren’t aware of the damage before you buy a house.
Look for the quality of the supporting beams, any subsidence in the property, cracks in the walls, floor or ceiling and any obvious sagging. Also, any doors or windows that don’t open correctly are also signs that the dimensions of the property have changed.
Is there sufficient storage space?
If buying a property to live in for the long term and there isn’t sufficient storage space, this can be problematic. Checking how much space is under the stairs, in the loft and also in any outdoor trunks or sheds is essential during a property viewing for those who already have a lot of belongings to move into their new house with.
In addition, if it is the first time a landlord has bought or rented a house and they haven’t accumulated that many things yet, planning for the future as you live in the property for years are all ways to prevent you from having to limit the number of belongings you end up buying.
Does the property get enough sunlight?
Sunlight is an important factor for the well-being of anyone living in a house. Perhaps there are certain rooms you would like to have more sunlight than others. For example, the main bedroom or kitchen are common rooms in a house that benefit from an extra bit of sun.
If you notice in a property viewing that a property has only a few windows or there are walls or trees outside that block the amount of sunlight a property can receive, this may be a drawback of the home you may want to consider.
How big are the rooms?
Checking for sufficient bedroom size is an important part of a property viewing checklist. Not only do you want to make sure you have enough space to fit important bedroom furniture like beds, wardrobes and cabinets but you’d also want to have a property that is suitable for the people who are in the building to grow into.
If you have children who are of a young age or you are planning on having kids in the future, making sure they have their own space as they grow up and that space is big enough may be something you want to consider. Enough space for all the family must be thought about.
Is the property actually valuable?
Sometimes, when you attend a house viewing to go through a property viewing checklist, an estate agent will fill the property with furniture that isn’t necessarily expensive but tries to improve the outcome of a residential property valuation. For example, fancy light fittings, lampshades, mirrors to make the spaces in the house seem bigger or even rugs and carpets can all pull the wool over your eyes.
This is a common trick that landlords and estate agents use to be able to charge higher to buy or rent a property and something you should be aware of.
Consider the property for the things that cannot change like the size and quality of the home rather than the furniture within that can be changed. Especially if you’re using the property for investment purposes like planning for your pension.
Is the roof in good condition?
Roofs are commonly known to be expensive and hard to repair. Looking out for any leaks in the ceiling of the property and observing how old the tiles of the roof look from the outside can be ways to gauge if the property has a roof that is in bad condition as you go through a property viewing checklist.
Additionally, you could ask the landlord and estate agent about the quality of the roof and when it was last worked on.
What are the plumbing and electricity like?
Electricity and plumbing are essential for a property viewing checklist as it is a major problem if there are any issues. You should check if the sockets work, the lights work when you switch them on and also don’t be afraid to check if the hot water works in the areas of the property where there is running water too. Checking to see if the hot water works too and how long this takes can also be a wise idea.
Is there anti-social behaviour in the area?
Examining the property you are interested in at all hours of the day is the best way to ensure there are no intimidating neighbours, loud members of the public or activities that happen at night. This can impact the quality of time that people have in the property which is why it should be on a property viewing checklist.
Not being able to sleep due to loud noises, not feeling safe to leave your house or feeling on edge in the space you call home should be avoided if possible as it may become hard to rent out the property.
Have you looked in the loft?
Lofts can come with their own set of problems even if the rest of the property appears to be in good condition on your property viewing checklist. When you look in this part of the space is it important to check:
- If the loft has signs of pests like bees nests, rat droppings or gnaws marks
- If there is enough insulation to prevent heat loss
- If there is space for storage
- If the loft has the space to be converted in the future to another bedroom
Is the EPC rating any good?
An EPC rating is the Energy Performance Certificate given by an energy performance assessor. If it is the case there is a good EPC rating, the chances are that utility bills will be lower as this indicates the property has good insulation.
You can also ask to see the full EPC report as part of your property viewing checklist rather than just the score (scored from A to G). This will show things like the property’s energy use, typical energy costs and also advice on what you can do to reduce energy consumption within the space.
Is the property being shared?
If you are buying a HMO property to rent or you are buying a house with a tenant in situ, you would have to consider who is living in the property and what this means to the space you are buying. Rude, loud or troublesome tenants in a HMO property can be difficult to deal with and may severely impact your ability to find other tenants.
Also, buying a house with a tenant in situ can mean the tenant is hard to evict or they are not a good fit for the business model you’re trying to follow as a landlord.
Is there a sufficient garage or drive space?
Driveway space is important for motorists. Being able to park a car on a drive can reduce your chances of your car being damaged or stolen, reduce your insurance and also mean you have a guaranteed parking space that is convenient.
You may also find there is enough parking space but it is a shared driveway. Click here to learn more about the risks and laws surrounding shared driveway space and why it’s vital to this part of a property viewing checklist.
Is there a mobile signal in different parts of the house?
You may have visited a building or home before where there is a poor signal in different areas of the house. You may think this isn’t a big deal but for those who enjoy working from home and prioritise having a good mobile signal, this could be a deal breaker. Especially if there is a poor signal in the rooms of the property that is typically used to work in like an office.
Flat viewings for tenants
In a flat, you may also look at the general things you should look out for in a property viewing checklist of a building but you should also be aware of checks you should conduct specific to flats. So, if you are looking at flats such as build to rent flats to buy, the following question should help reduce the risk involved with buying.
Is it a leasehold or freehold?
A leasehold property means that to move into one, someone has to buy the flat but only temporarily. They buy the flat but the land the flat is built on is owned by someone called the freeholder. This means the leaseholder is limited in what they can do in the property.
Your property viewing checklist can also observe if there is the option of a lease option agreement, where there is the opportunity to buy the flat later down the line, but this is dependent on the specific agreement you have signed.
Are there any service charges?
Service charges are common in new builds which are likely to be “help to buy properties“. They may also be found commonly in leasehold agreements.
Service charges are where the owner of the property pays rent and then an additional charge on top of this which is called a service charge. This charge is paid to the freeholder or owner of the block of flats to hire people to take care of the shared spaces in the property.
For example, cutting lawns and cleaning the corridors of a flat. If you don’t put this on your property viewing checklist you could be surprised y the amount you have to pay if you don’t consider this before moving in.
What should you pay attention to in every room of the property?
As well as the general things you should look out for in a property, there are also specific things that should be noted for every room that is visited so you can be sure the value of the house is what it appears to be before you make the big decision of making an offer, taking out a house mortgage and paying stamp duty to own a home.
When inside a bedroom, there are a few questions you should ask yourself as part of a property viewing checklist. This will depend on what you want to get out of a property and the specific property you’re viewing.
These questions are:
- Is there space for a bed?
- What are the positions of power sockets?
- Is there sufficient wardrobe space?
- Is the bedroom big enough to rent out?
If you are a landlord who is looking for an alternative investment property by converting it into a HMO for example, the last question is particularly important. If you have a bedroom that isn’t big enough to charge an individual rent for, this can reduce the rental yield of a property as there is one room that cannot be charged rent.
Kitchens are an important part of a house that will be used every day in a property where people like to cook and dine in general. If you’re a landlord and are buying a property to rent, a good kitchen can be excellent in being able to charge more rent to increase rental income.
- Are the fittings in good condition?
- Is there space for dining tables and chairs?
- Are there white goods and a fridge/ freezer?
- Are the gas and electricity working?
White goods may or may not be supplied in the property you are in. However, if they are, it is vital they are in working order as if you have to replace them or repair them when you move into the property this can bring additional costs. Including if appliances are working should therefore also be noted in a property viewing checklist.
Living rooms often are the centre of a house and where people spend most of their time relaxing. Most of what you have to look for in this room is the quality and extent of the furnishings. Make sure they align with your tastes or there is the option to change the living room if it doesn’t by asking these questions:
- What is the condition of the decor?
- Is the fireplace decorative or working?
- Is the chimney in use?
- What is the condition of the curtains and blinds?
- What is the condition of the decor?
Gardens may seem straightforward to view. However, asking the following questions can make you aware of what could go wrong when you view property in general.
- Is there enough sun in the garden?
- Are there signs of Japanese knotweed?
- What is the condition of any outbuildings?
- Are there any large trees that overshadow the property?
Trees can be cut down but in Japanese Knotweed in particular is something that you must be aware of. If you do not identify this at a property viewing, it could cost you thousands of pounds. Learn how to spot the plant here.
When learning how to buy a property, it is vital to stay on top of the quality of a bathroom. Also, in your property viewing, make sure you observe every bathroom that is in the property too. As you do so, inquire with the following prompts:
- Is there enough ventilation?
- Is the hot water working?
- How long does the hot water take to start working?
- Does the toilet flush
- Is there a shaver socket?
- Is there sealant and grouting to prevent leaks?
How long should a house viewing last?
If you are familiar with property viewings because you have bought a second home or have built a property portfolio, you’d know that house viewings do not go on for that long and you can expect to be out of the property within an hour at most.
However, there are of course exceptions and a few factors that determine how long the viewing should go on for.
What factors impact how long a house viewing lasts for?
The size of the property. Also, whether a landlord or the estate agent is showing you around the property will determine how long this goes on for. Estate agents tend to want to sell the property by showing as many features of a property as they can.
In addition, estate agents will likely group multiple people into one property viewing to save time. This may result in the property viewing taking longer than expected as each prospective buyer will have their own unique questions and may want to stay in different areas of the property for longer.
Lofti’s house viewing tips
Lofti can help keep viewings organised because of our features that organise viewings with calendar integration. If this isn’t enough, you can also send holding deposits using time saving e-signing documents.
Once you have onboarded a tenant into a property using the software, everything to do with tenant management can be streamlined too. So, if there are any issues in the property that the tenant notices, it can be quickly reported on the app and a landlord can arrange repairs as soon as possible. Sign up below to get access to the platform with a free tenancy agreement template given on signup.
How does virtual viewing work?
Some estate agents will organise a virtual viewing. This is where buyers are able to see what the property looks like online by accessing the property through an estate agent’s website.
In order to set this up the property would have to be previously recorded with a 360-degree camera so people can virtually enter the property and look around on screen.
Virtual viewings are certainly a less accurate way of viewing a property. However, they have their advantages like enabling a landlord to view multiple properties at once and in a small amount of time. A landlord can also view properties that aren’t near their location but still make an offer, increasing the number of properties available to them to buy.
As a tenant or landlord, knowing what to do when you visit a property is essential to get the most out of a viewing. You should take advantage of the opportunity as it means you can give an extremely accurate property offer unlike if you were to buy a property at auction.
If you aren’t sure about your own observations, you can look at the property valuation report from a surveyor to help give a lender confidence you should be able to take out a buy to let mortgage too.
On top of doing your own set of observations in a viewing, do not be apprehensive about asking an estate agent or landlord for their opinion too. Nonetheless, estate agents are incentivised to lie about anything disadvantageous about a property because it is in their best interest to sell it as quickly as possible.
Therefore, take anything an estate agent says with a degree of scepticism and don’t be afraid to verify anything with other professionals such as a surveyor.