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What to look for in house viewings

What to look for in house viewings

When you think about it, the process of deciding to buy a property seems a little strange.

Most people only spend around 20 to 30 minutes viewing somewhere that might cost them hundreds of thousands of pounds – less time than they might take to decide to buy a sofa!

So when you go on a viewing, stay focussed, take your time and ask questions. It’s an especially good idea to be armed with a checklist of things to look for and ask about.

Here’s what you should consider to help avoid making a major financial mistake:

Always go back

Rule number one is crucial: Always, always go back a second time – even if you quickly put in an offer after a viewing, perhaps due to competition for a particular property, you can always go back later. If possible, take someone with you that has some building experience, or at least a decent level of DIY knowledge.

Don’t be dazzled

Sellers can be great at masking problems with a fresh coat of paint, or a well-placed chest of drawers or bookshelf. Look around, under and behind things.


Look out for signs of rough plaster patches on walls, ‘soft’ skirting and ‘spongy’ floorboards – signs the wood is damp and perhaps rotting – and darker patches on exterior walls. Also, never underestimate the power of the nose! Have a good sniff for damp smells.

Don’t be too worried though. A small amount of damp is very common in older houses and won’t necessarily be a problem.

Be practical

Falling in love with a home can be easy if it looks lovely. But think with your heart, not your head, and ask yourself questions; if you have kids, how near their school is it? Is it on a main road? What’s the parking like around there? Do you want some green space nearby? What’s the crime level like? How about your commute to work?

Check out the neighbours

Neighbours from hell can make anyone’s life miserable. Don’t be afraid to knock on doors and say hello to neighbours, or other people on the street, to try and find out if there are any ‘problem’ houses.

Test things out

Don’t be shy about opening cupboard doors, going up into lofts and lifting up rugs etc.

Flush loos, start up the shower, turn on taps; any signs of problems with boiler pressure or drainage can sometimes be easily spotted, such as slow draining sinks or poor water-flow, but only if you check. And don’t rely on the property survey; unless you pay for the most expensive, they often don’t tell you much.

Don’t be pressured

Unless you know full well that the market is hot around where you’re searching, take your time and don’t fall for typical estate agent pressure. For example, after a viewing you might find you’re told that a house which has been on the market for ages ‘suddenly’ has another interested party as well as yourself.

Obviously, if you find somewhere you think is perfect you might have to go in at full asking price to make sure you secure it, but otherwise take your time and think carefully, checking what other houses on the street have sold for and speak to any agents you trust for their opinion or family and friends with more experience of buying and selling.

Ask for details

Some elements of a home, such as boilers, windows and roofs, inevitably need replacing after a number of years. Ask the agent to find out how old a boiler is, when the windows were last changed and if any work has been done on the roof. Be wary if answers are vague and non-committal.

External and internal cracks

Look for any cracks in walls – anything wider than a fifty pence piece should concern you, especially if the cracks are around where walls have been removed, or emanating from chimney breasts or door frames (it could be a sign of subsidence).

Try and take a good look at the roof and chimney. Again, look for cracks in brickwork, render and parapet walls, as well as leaning chimney pots, loose tiles, sloping roofs and poor, crumbling pointing (the cement which is used to hold bricks together).

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Published 21st March 2019