Check out the area before you view the property for the first time. Driving around will give you a clue as to its charms and pitfalls but even better is walking around local streets, checking out the shops and facilities.
Try, if possible, to go more than once and to go at different times of day to get as good a feel as possible. The neighbourhood vibe is likely to be a whole lot different at 11am on a Monday to 11pm on a Saturday.
Get there 10 minutes before your appointment and give the exterior of the property a good look over. Check for any dampness, for broken brickwork or guttering that’s leaking or loose. It’s harder to see the roof, but look for anything obvious like missing tiles. Visible signs of exterior neglect, such as an untended or unkempt garden, might give a heads up as to what the interior looks like.
Write down any questions you want to ask in advance because you’re likely to forget something in the excitement of a viewing. Questions should include practical stuff such as where the stopcock for the water supply is and if there’s a water meter.
Don’t be embarrassed to ask to look in cupboards, under the stairs and even inside the toilet cistern! If there’s a loft, ask to see it, too. Channel the Boy Scouts and be prepared by carrying a torch!
Even if you know nothing about how a central heating system works, ask to see the boiler, check if it’s regularly serviced and take a note of its make and type so you can do your own research later. Turn on the hot water tap and see how long it takes to run warm. If there’s a shower that runs off the hot water, ask to see it in action. Do the same with an electric one.
Find out if any work has been carried out on the property, when it was done and if there are any guarantees still in force – that could include a loft extension or conservatory. Same applies to double glazing if there is any.
Ask what is to be included in the sale. That could be carpets, blinds and curtains, light fittings and curtain poles. Some sellers might be willing to include white goods, particularly if they are integrated.
Flooding has become a major issue in the UK after heavy rainfall in recent years. Find out if the property you’re viewing has ever been flooded as that could affect both a mortgage offer and buildings insurance. Even if flooding is not an issue, look for any signs of damp in corners and ceilings, and if there’s double glazing, check there’s no misting inside the units.
Ask when the seller is looking to move. If they want a quick sale, you’re in a great position to make an offer and seal the deal fast because you’re not tied to selling a property to sell.
If you’re a first-time buyer, check out Homeward Legal’s comprehensive First-Time Buyers’ Hub where all your questions about purchasing for the very first time are covered in detail.