Renting? See your Rental Viewing Checklist
Last Update, 26th July, 2016.
Buyers continue here…
We give you 2 checklists for viewings. A short list for the first viewing and a comprehensive list for second/ third viewings. This one is important if you really want to buy the property. Some of the checks we list, would be carried out by a surveyor. Other suggestions are items that should be mentioned in response to a good set of enquiries questions.
So why should you check these yourself? Simple: unearth issues before paying the professionals to do so; it may change your mind about buying the property, which would save your time, hassle and survey/solicitor fees.
Remember, no matter how thorough you think a survey is, a surveyor will not point out to you that the property has mice, or the road noise is unbearable when the windows are open in summer. You really need to research everything and anything about a property you are prepared to buy – your attention to detail is required! Luckily, we have the perfect guide for you:
* Write down your personal list of requirements so that you can check them off as you walk around (for example: space for large fridge freezer, lots of storage space, good view from the lounge). It’s easy to forget all your requirements when you are viewing several properties in a rush.
* Make a note of the size of your rooms at home. When you walk into each room of the new property, check the room dimensions on the floorplan (the agent will give you this). Now you can make meaningful comparisons between the space you are seeing and the rooms you know at home: this helps by making comparisons: ‘this bedroom feels small, yet it’s a little bigger than our current bedroom’ because you were able to check it’s dimensions against yours (dark colours, lots of furniture or odd shape rooms can look small).
* Write a list of dimensions of key furniture you have or will be buying: Sofa, Dining table, Bed, Wardrobe. When you view each room, measuring how these items would fit gives you a good sense of proportion and space. This avoids you being tricked into thinking a room is large just because it is very bright, or square in shape, or without any furniture. Remember your measuring tape!
* If you like the property, when you get home, measure out the rooms, using the sizes on the floorplan, at your own home. You get an idea of how much bigger or smaller each new room is.
* Viewing kit: Tape measure, notebook (good for sketching ideas aswell as notes). Digital camera, or camera phone. Torch.
Questions to the Owner or Estate Agent
Porters & doormen. Does the block just have a cleaner, or do they have porters and even doormen? If they have a porter, are they on duty just in the day or can you call them 24 hours (some live in the block). Do they help with accepting deliveries, maintenance of your flat (blocked drains, small jobs) or only look after common parts?
Security history – Ask if there have been any issues with security, neighbours, noise or other disturbances. Be aware sellers may not tell the truth. Look for CCTV and warning signs.
Fixtures & Fittings – Enquire as to which fixtures and fittings, or appliances will be left behind (carpets, curtains, dishwashers). If you like a piece of furniture (perhaps a custom made bookshelf to fit an alcove) ask if it can be included in the sale (if not, offer to pay extra).
Charges – Enquire as to service charges, ground rent (for flats and some leasehold houses) and council tax. For leasehold or share-of-freehold properties (mostly flats) ask about service charges and if it has increased recently. Ask if any works need doing to the building and if there is a sinking fund (money set aside for works). If so, how much is in it?
Flats – Are there any communal services (if so they are usually paid in the service charge): hot water and heating in blocks of flats is often from a communal supply. If so, ask if water is hot all the time. Does hot water run out at any time? Is heating available all year round, or is it only turned on at the mains in certain months? Is heating fully controlled from within the flat?
Heating – How is the property heated (gas central heating, electric storage heaters, air heating system).
Insulation – Is there cavity wall insulation (houses) or loft insulation (houses or top floor flats with pitched roofs).
Conservation Areas – Ask the agent if the property is in a conservation area. If so, you may not be allowed to install a Satellite dish, change the colour of the property externally (if outside walls are painted), change the door colour or even convert old single glazed windows into efficient double glazing.
Houses – is any part of the front or back garden (including driveway) shared with neighbouring properties.
Building work – has any been done by the current owner. What and when?
Utility bills – Want to understand how much utility bills could be? Ask the seller what their gas, electric and water bills are like. Everyone lives differently, so you can only take this as a guide. Many websites tell you to ask for an Energy Performance Certificate. I’d be surprised if it is of much use to you (click here for a description).
Better to look at (or ask about) the elements that increase or reduce bills: Double glazing or single glazing? Sash windows in particular can leak alot of heat. Insulation in the walls and roofspace? Lots of halogen lights will drive up your electricity bill, whereas lots of LED lights (mandatory in newer builds) reduce electricity bills. Electric storage heaters are expensive, as is electric underfloor heating.
Gas fired central heating or underfloor heating is much cheaper. Basement flats will be cold in winter and need more heating. If you have flats below you then their heat will rise and heat your flat for free! Terraced houses tend to be warmer than semi-detached or detached houses in winter.
Why Sell? – Finally, ask why the owner is selling. If it sounds suspicious, probe further. Ask about their timelines (do they need to find a new home first, or are they ready to move). Special tip: ask them what is important to them in finding the right buyer. Some say highest price, yet many want someone who will respect their home, especially if they have taken years making it look lovely. If so, don’t mention any plans you have to change the property. Psychology is a big element in having your offer accepted. Ask the owner how long the property has been on the market (sometimes they have used another estate agent and not told the new one this). Enquire as to if they have received any offers. They may tell you they rejected offers below the asking price, they may tell you a buyer fell through (could mean they are more keen to sell, or that you should impress how committed and financially suitable you are when making an offer).
Storage space – Is there enough space to store all your clothes and junk, or to install cupboards and wardrobes for this. This should include a storage cupboard for the ironing board and hoover. Space for winter coats. Shoe storage near the entrance door. Storage space for prams, bikes and kids toys.
Kitchen – is there space for full size fridge freezer, dishwasher and enough cupboards? Be aware of a boiler hiding in a cupboard. Can you fit in a washing machine and a dryer if you need one? Or is there another location these could go.
Lounge – can you fit enough seats (sofas, chairs) and a dining table if there isn’t a separate dining room. Will this leave enough space for a bookshelf or an area for children to play?
Kitchen – Is this next to the lounge/ dining room. If yes, great for convenience and gives you scope to knock through if you like open plan living. If not, will it be practical having the kitchen so far away?
Bedrooms – is there space for the size of bed you have or want (double beds vary from 140cm to 180cm in width) and enough wardrobes and drawers for your clothes.
Bathroom – how much storage space is there? Is the shower a ‘power shower’ (or does it have a pump fitted). If there is a pump, turn it on and turn the tap on – will it make too much noise early in the morning or late at night when others are sleeping (the pump is usually near the water tank so the noise will be highest there – often this is in a bedroom).
Water Pressure – How much water pressure is there? Is there an extractor fan. Is heating provided by radiator, heated towel rail (rarely enough to heat a bathroom on their own) or underfloor heating. For towel rails and underfloor heating, is that electric (expensive to run) or via central heating pipes.
Hot Water – Where is the boiler, hot water tank, cold water tank. Are they located where they may disturb you – for example in bedrooms.
Storage – Ensure you open all cupboards and wardrobes to ensure a wall of wardrobes isn’t hiding a fireplace, hot water tank or something else which reduces storage space.
Communal areas – in a block of flats or house converted into flats, go top to bottom, using the stairwell. You will quicky see if there are any untidy neighbours, you can look out for mouse traps (small grey or black plastic boxes). As you will be contributing towards maintenance bills as part of your service charge it’s good to see if there are areas in need of urgent attention which could push up the service charge. If you can get onto roof have a look – same with basement storage areas.
Security – Check for the types of locks the property has, alarm systems and other security measures like a door entry system with camera (especially for flats) or security CCTV.
Look through every window (open curtains and blinds or ask the agent to do so). Look up, down, left and right. You might spot a terrace or garden for the flat below (noisy in the summertime?), an eyesore such as a view onto rubbish bins (watch out for smells in summer when the windows are open) or spot that neighbours can see right into your property.
Parking – Is there off street parking? If it’s a car park are you guaranteed a space or is first-come, first-served. If you have to park on the street, are there enough free spaces, or will you have to drive around for 10 minutes every time you want to park up? With on street parking, if residents bays are in your street, are they 24 hours? If not, will you get a space on weekends and evenings when they are not in operation and visitors may use spaces when visiting local bars and restaurants.
Snoopers – How many properties look onto the windows of the house or flat? Will you feel you are always being watched? If office blocks are close to the flat, can office workers see straight into your home.
Damp – Can you see any ‘wet patches’ or discoloured paint or brick – a sign of damp. If there are patches of new paint, this could be hiding damp. Especially check around window frames.
Drains – Check for discolouring below drain pipes – indicating they are blocked.
Outside rooms – Look in garages and any areas only accessed from outside the property (side passages, old outside toilets, sheds).
Windows – Do wooden window frames and doors look like they are cracking. Do frames have large amounts of putty covering up large cracks? New windows are very expensive.
Gardens – Do the front and back gardens slope towards the house (potential for flooding after heavy rain) or away from it? For flats this is also important for ground floor and basement properties.
Gardens – Are there any patches of grass missing or wet grass patches in the garden – sign of poor drainage? If the house is lower than a neighbouring house water may run off their gardens into yours and keep it very wet (drainage systems are expensive).
Location – Is the house at the bottom of a hill or at the lowest point on the road – again a flood risk. Speaking of this, if there is permanent water in local area – a river, lake, even streams or large ponds, this can send insurance premiums up as your flood risk is deemed higher.
Ready for your second viewing? Ok here are some more things to check: