If you’re not paying attention and asking the right questions to yourself, it’s hard to make the most out of a property viewing. There’s just so much to take into account, and so little time to spare! According to research conducted by Which? in 2015, “first-time buyers spent on average 53 minutes viewing their property”, which is nowhere near enough time in which to properly get to grips with everything.
Whether you’re looking to rent or buy, it’s always important to learn as much as you can about a property before you go rushing into a contract. In this post we’re going to outline the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of the viewing process, ensuring that you leave nothing out next time you go looking for the perfect home.
It’s easy to get distracted by the overwhelming aura of a beautiful home, but you need to remember that this is a place in which you will be sleeping, cooking, socialising and living, potentially for a very long time! While that nice warm feeling you get when viewing a property is a great sign, don’t forget to consider the functionality of a house as well as its wow-factor.
You might get so lost in the gorgeous view from the bedroom window that you forget to check if it’s well lit and cosy enough. Maybe the kitchen looks good and feels right, but is it efficient? Do you have to walk far from the sink to the cupboards? Has it got enough room for dinner parties? You have to make yourself at home during house viewings: imagine that you’re coming home from work at the end of a long day or cleaning the place up in preparation for guests. Only then will you come to view the house as a home.
When calculating the size of a house and its rooms, make sure you investigate the entire property. Leave no room for any doubt here: even if the living space is dazzling and spacious, the bathrooms might be unkempt and small. Open every door you can and judge each room on its individual merits. With such a big purchase, you’re allowed to be a little nosy (within reason, don’t go tiptoeing through the nursery during naptime).
With unfurnished properties, it can be difficult to visualise whether or not your furniture would actually fit within the space available. If you have a beautiful sofa that simply cannot go unused, arrive at the viewing armed with a list of dimensions and a tape measure. Don’t worry, you can leave the sofa at home… at least for now.
If you find that there is a good deal of clutter in the house you’re viewing it could mean two things: either the current tenants have a lot of stuff, or they have a regular amount of stuff and insufficient storage space in which to keep it. You can be the judge of this yourself. Have a look at the cabinetry in the kitchen, and check inside to see if they’re too shallow or small. Don’t forget to peek into the loft and assess the potential overhead storage space. You can check if it’s insulated properly while you’re up there, too.
- Maintenance and design
Often when prospective tenants find faults in a property they’ve already fallen in love with, they say things like “ahh well, we can fix that”. But bear in mind that there’s a difference between a little bit of DIY and a full-scale renovation. A house with a couple of cracks is one thing, but damp and mould all over the place is quite another. Make a note or take a picture whenever you see a broken tile, some steamy double glazing, a patch of mould or some peeling wallpaper. (In fact, take pictures and videos throughout the whole viewing, you never know what you might discover with the benefit of hindsight!)
Think about design too – are you going to have to paint over those stained walls and replace that garish 70s carpet as soon as you move in? You don’t have to worry too much about long-term maintenance with a short-term let, but if you’re looking to buy the property with a view to renovating it, get ready to factor some heavy costs into your budget.
Sometimes discerning the appeal of a certain room requires looking outside of the house. Ask yourself: where is the sun right now, in which direction will it rise, and where will it set? The position of the sun in relation to the position of the windows determines whether a room is bright and airy or dark and dreary on a nice summer’s day. Which way the house faces also plays into this, so whip out your compass app when you get there! If possible, try not to view the property after dusk so that you can get an idea of its natural lighting situation.
In terms of artificial light: test out light switches as you view the property to predict any electrical work that might be needed in the future, and look out for the placement of plug sockets to see if you could put lamps in the darkest parts of a room.
- Local area
Keep in mind that you’re not just buying into a house, you’re also buying into a particular area or neighbourhood. On your way to and from property viewings, pay attention to the surrounding environment, test out nearby amenities, soak up the local culture – there are tonnes of things you could miss if you don’t! Here are some things you might want to investigate as you explore:
- How close is the nearest shop?
- Is there a local park?
- How cheap is a pint at the local?
- Is the traffic too loud?
- What are the neighbours like?
- Can you park a car easily?
- Any good pizza shops?
Whatever your criteria are in terms of location, be sure to actually check it out before you move! And hey, why not make a day of it? If you were viewing a bulk of properties in Putney, for instance, you might want to go out for a quick lunch during the afternoon, or sample some of the neighbourhood’s finest pubs and bars when all is said and done. It’s not just the best way to end a long house hunting session, it also goes a long way toward discerning whether living in the area would be a good experience for you.
So you’ve moved into your perfect house, everything’s just right, everyone’s happy, and then you discover that the heating has only two settings: Antarctica and Sahara Desert. Not only that, but the shower takes five minutes to heat up, the toilets don’t flush properly, the kitchen tap has a maddening drip and the bills have got you spending way over budget. Such is the house-buyer’s worst nightmare!
Don’t be afraid to ask the current tenants about their utilities while you’re there. Have they had any problems in the past? How much is their gas and electric per month? Are there any quirks with the plumbing, such as loud noises or leaks? Are the pipes insulated, and are they made of a safe material such as PVC? You could even test out the taps and the showers for yourself (though you don’t actually need to have a shower, obviously!)
If you’re currently in the process of buying or renting property, you can take a quick look at the sales and lettings we currently have available throughout South West London. We know the area like the backs of our hands, and we’re always willing to go the extra mile to help you feel confident and well-informed about your final decision. Feel free to call us for a chat – we’d love to hear from you!