Last Update, 26th July, 2016.
Have you seen our 1st Viewing Checklist ?
If you are renting you may prefer our Rental Viewing Checklist
The reason to be so thorough on a 2nd and 3rd viewing (always do 3 or more before committing) is that mentally we “assume” certain things to be in place. So we dont notice that there wasn’t a washing machine in the kitchen, or that there are no ceiling lights in the bedroom, because this is “normal” in our own homes. Once you’ve exchanged its too late, so better to be sure upfront.
There are items you will find that are ‘cost considerations’ (e.g. too few electrical sockets, a leaky roof) – get the price reduced or be prepared to pay the extra along with the house price. Then there are the ‘deal breakers.’ If the house is likely to be prone to flooding, there are noisy neighbours or there are too many small faults then it can be better to just keep looking.
Turn everything on and off! It’s surprising how many broken items aren’t fixed before a property is put up for sale. The right attitude is to get small problems fixed before you sell, but many sellers think “all these issues won’t be my problem soon.”
Turn on all lights, test dimmer switches, ovens, open fridges.
Open all doors and windows – ill fitting windows or doors that don’t close properly will leave drafts and can be a security concern. Both are expensive to replace, a few new windows will cost thousands of pounds. With wooden frame windows, press your finger into the frame. if you make an indent, the frame is rotten. You can also see this if the wood is splintering/ splitting.
Open every kitchen cupboard and all built in units or wardrobes.
Open Doors. Every door in the property should be opened – including those hiding storage spaces and closets. You never know what you will find. The most commonly found issue lurking behind a small door, or inside a cabinet is an outdated fusebox – this could be £250 – £400 to bring upto modern standards, or thousands if a full rewire is needed.
If the property has a roof directly above it (not always the case with flats, but always with houses) inspect them.
Flat roof – are their signs that puddles form on top? Flat roofs easily leak. Felt roofs in particular have a short life (10 years max), as do ‘tar and gravel’ roofs. Asphalt lasts longer. Look on Google before you visit so you can tell the difference.
Pitched / tiled roof – inspect the loft space – take your own torch and a face mask if you don’t like dust. Don’t wear your best clothes and if you have a small portable ladder, take it too (many owners won’t have one, or claim not to, to avoid you looking up there). Be polite and ask if you should put newspaper or a dust sheet down before opening the hatch. Look into the loft space to see if there is felt on the inside. This is known as sarking felt and protects the property from rain if a tile falls off or gets loose. Roofs without this will eventually need replacing (that could be tens of thousands of pounds on a house).
Look for missing roof tiles (anywhere daylight shines through), patches of dampness or water marked beams (indicates leaks). Check for loose wiring (could mean the electrics aren’t safe). Is there sarking felt (a black blanket type layer blocking ur view of the roof tiles – if not will need to be done at some time and is very expesnive, often requiring complete re-roofing.
Is there insulation? It will cost another few hundred pounds if not.
Note the condition of water tanks. Is the loft floored (it could become a storage room or a cheap extra room with a small staircase and a rooflight, for daytime use, like a games room). Are there services up there which would prohibit an extension or use for storage space?
Caution: An old roof may contain asbestos, which is dangerous when it breaks up and costly to remove and replace. Ask if the owner knows of any asbestos in the property. Most times you will have to wait for the survey to check this. If in doubt, leave the full roof / loft inspection to an expert.
Water, Electric, Heating
Water pressure. Turn on taps. Test showers and bath taps – is there enough pressure. Are noisy pumps installed that will wake up family members if you are showering early in the morning or at night? Pumps are often placed next to the water tank. If this is in a bedroom, it could be super noisy. Stand by the pump while someone turns the shower on to check. Also check outdoor taps – if there isn’t enough pressure, you won’t be able to water the garden quickly or wash the car.
Ask to see the boiler. If it is in a bedroom or lounge will it be noisy when switched on – something you won’t notice in summer. If in doubt, ask them to turn the heating on (even if it is summer!).
Turn on lights. If they don’t fully light the room, adding extra lights will cost. Does every room have ceiling lights?
Ask to see the fusebox. If it looks new it gives an indication the wiring might be. If it looks very old, chances are you may have to rewire. A new fusebox with fitting will cost £250+ and that’s only one element. Do ask if they have had any rewiring done themselves, or know when it was. Same with plumbing – have they had anything updated or added. If you proceed with purchase they will have to provide safety certificates for any work carried out (your solicitor will request these).
Check how many wall sockets each room has. Extra sockets can cost between £50 and £150 each to install – very expensive if every room needs more.
Ensure every room has a radiator and ceiling lights (you would be amazed how many don’t and they can be added, but it’s expensive).
Where is the TV point for the aerial, Satellite or Cable television? If it’s not in the corner or room you would place your TV then that’s another £100 to £200 to add.
Check for signs of damp on walls and ceilings – look for water-marks: brown/ discoloured walls, peeling or bubbling wallpaper or paint. Also peek behind furniture – it’s often moved around to hide problems. (patches of discolourment, bubbles on paint or paper). Check around windows and radiators to ensure no signs of damage like damp or cracking (this can be really expensive). Any crack you can fit a coin into will be a major repair. Patches of paint are a good indication that damp may be behind the surface.
Touch walls that are exposed to the outside (not internal walls), especially near corners, to feel for dampness or paper bubbling. Outside look for grey mould. Sniff – your sense of smell can usually pick up damp, especially in basements. Be aware that in basement flats, sellers often use air freshner, scented candles and other aromas to mask smells.
Fresh paint anywhere, rather than the whole wall or ceiling painted is usually a rush job ahead of marketing a property for sale. What is it hiding?
Check for vermin – look for droppings in corners and dark areas (take your own torch). In a block of flats check if there are traps left in the hallways or staircases (if you take the lift up, take the stairs down).
Walls and Floors
Wooden floors? Houses: if they are in upstairs rooms will they make alot of noise for those sitting downstairs. In flats, ensure the owner had permission to install them and ask if they used noise dampening materials. If not, or if they are unsure, you may have to rip up those wooden floors if neighbours below you complain. Knock on the door of the upstairs flat and ask them if they can walk around for you so you can check there is no noise intrusion into your property. Heels on wooden floors are one of the biggest noise disturbances.
Shared walls. If the property shares walls with any other property then knock on the wall. You want it to be solid. If it sounds hollow you could end up hearing everything going on next door (especially their TV and music) and they will be able to hear you. Noise proofing standards only got serious in recent years, so it’s worth checking.
Look at the main switchboard. Does it look new? An old one will cost £250 to upgrade. Installing extra lighting in a room will cost £50 and more. Are there enough electrical sockets and are they well placed?. There’s no point having sockets by the door in a bedroom if you want them near a headboard. Extra sockets cost between £50 and £150.
Is there heating in every room? Especially check bathrooms, kitchens and smaller rooms like a guest bathroom or WC. If rooms have one or more outside walls, they wont be warm enough in winter unless heated. Check for water leaking, stains or rust around radiators. Electric heaters can lose their power so ask when they were installed (if known) and if they were ever serviced.
Look at the boiler, ask when serviced, often it will have sticker on it with the date (this should be no more than a year ago).
Bathrooms, Kitchens and any other rooms that have tiled floors can be very cold in winter. If there is no underfloor heating at least check the radiators are sufficient to provide good heat.
Floors – check exposed floorboards or any exposed timber, like beams, for small holes that may indicate woodworm. Get down on your knees and inspect wooden floors for stiletto heel marks. Womens high heels often damage wood, you may not notice when standing, yet sitdown and you may have an unpleasant surprise.
If a carpet looks temporary, or there are rugs, lift them to check they arent hiding something.
Street lighting. Street lights infront of your house or flat – even across the street can beam light straight into a lounge or bedroom. In lounges this can be so strong it disrupts television viewing (just like strong sunlight). Bedrooms can be lit up by street lights, meaning you have to buy blackout blinds.
Your view. When viewing property in Autumn/ Winter, look at any trees nearby. Will the leaves on trees block your view in Spring/ Summer, reducing your viewing distance and making rooms feel claustrophobic? If you have a nice view of plants, trees and bushes in Spring/ Summer, will the view look very bleak in Winter?
Natural light. South, South West and West facing is best for lounges and gardens. Bedrooms facing north or east will keep cool in summer. If you need to put lights on in the daytime in the main rooms (especially the lounge and kitchen) then that lack of natural light will raise your electricity costs and feel detrimental. Natural light in the bathroom makes a big difference when applying makeup too!
This alerts you to noise from roads, pedestrian crossings (the ‘beeping’ sound can be annoying at 3am!), children playing and so on. In the summer when you want to leave the windows open for cool air, you’ll encounter a huge problem if that road noise that the double glazing usually blocks out, suddenly drowns out the television, with traffic noise as your fresh air comes through.
Drains/ Pipes. Visually inspect all pipes as much as you can and look for signs of overflowing (rust on older pipes or water marks on newer pipes or areas surrounding the pipes).
Check drains that the pipes run into – does the area around look like it has been water marked or is dirty? This can suggest blocked pipes or inadequate drainage (which may mean bigger problems such as waterlogging on flat roofs, or damp patches).
Remember to check for any drains in the garden, that are used to take away excess rainwater – if they are not doing the job (if you can see alot of dirt outside the drain or water marks) this could cause damp on the walls.
Gardens – walk over the grass: are there uneven bumps suggesting soil or drainage problems? Perhaps some patches of grass are much more damp than other areas, suggesting poor irrigation.
Boundaries and Beyond
Regardless of the property type, check what adjoins each side of the building or gardens. Backing onto open space, like parks and golf clubs can be a security hazard. Backing onto a school puts purchasers off. If the back garden has a road on any side of it, this reduces property value on the basis of safety. Houses with garages at the rear, backing on to alleys are deemed less secure. Sometimes it’s possible to get together with other residents and install security gates, but it’s costly and you’ll need council permission.
Look on a map to see what Landmarks are close by to the property. Many homes in London are near football grounds like the Emirates in Holloway or Stamford Bridge in Chelsea. Restrictions for car parking on match days (requiring residents to purchase special permits) and the large crowds make these properties noisy and less valuable. The same applies for being close to exhibition venues such as Olympia. Bus stops outside the property or rail lines running close by mean reduced prices for properties too.
If the property is above retail premises or on a street with businesses and retail consider what is there already: will a pub mean noise every evening, or in the early hours? Could a shop change to become a noisy restaurant with smells wafting up? Living above retail premises, especially bars and restaurants will increase insurance costs and can make a mortgage harder to obtain. Generally business premises are classified for certain types of use, and so a regular office or retail shop often needs a change of permission and classification to run a restaurant in the same space. Councils have differing rules on how they handle this, so don’t assume it can’t change a shops usage to something you wouldn’t like if you were living above it. If you are looking at first or second floor flats, directly above business premises, be sure to view during rush hour (daytime for offices, lunchtime or evening for restuarants/ bars) to ensure you can hear noise at it’s worst.
Do all rooms have natural light? Women in particular prefer natural light in bathrooms. Many newbuild properties sacrifice natural light to build more properties in a given space (flats or houses).
Kitchens and bathrooms are the rooms to suffer. This is ok if you know what you’re letting yourself in for, but always discount the value of a property without natural light in the main bathroom or the kitchen against a similar property flooded with natural light in every room.
If a kitchen doesnt have the natural light, does it have (or can you install) double doors so it opens out onto an area with light (dining room/ lounge). Or could you make it open plan – factor in the extra cost – knocking down walls and moving service pipes (for water and gas) is very expensive.
For bathrooms lacking light is there enough space to install a dressing table near a window in the master bedroom, or a spare room – and is that close enough to the bathroom to be practical?
Furniture sizes: if you wish to use your current furniture, measure everything up, write it down in a notebook (or on your smartphone) then take a tape measure. Think about where each piece of furniture would fit in the new rooms and measure up to see that they will be ok. Larger rooms dont neccessarily accomodate more furniture… a common issue is with through lounges (two lounges or a lounge and dining room knocked into one). With a gap where the wall used to be, one wall having a door and another often having a fire, your large L-shaped sofa might not have enough space.
If you will be buying new furniture, get an idea for what you need (e.g. if you need 2 sofas to have a minimum seating for four), goto a shop and measure up (just use something as an idea, not exactly the one you will buy). A key consideration for flats is the new trend of wider beds. If you have a 160cm or even 180cm (6″) wide bed, measure the new bedroom… you may find there is only space to walk on one side of the bed… is that practical?
Look around the property to see if renovations or extensions have been carried out. Ask the estate agent or seller when these were carried out and why. Ask about any structural work, including underpinning for subsidence – this counts as much for flats as houses. If the brickwork of the property looks very uneven, there are any large visible cracks (anything you can put a coin into is too big), or if it seems cracks have been filled in. Note hairline cracks are common and don’t count – these may even return after redecoration.
If a house has had a small extension the ‘permitted development‘ rights may have been used, which will make any new extension you wish to undertake harder to achieve planning permission for.
How do you tell if the street is getting better or worse with time? Look at the neighbours houses in your street and those close-by. How do their properties look? Do they take care of them? Are there alot of skips in streets – a sign of improvement works and gentrifying areas. Or are properties falling into disrepair. This could hinder your future resale value.
How is traffic? Does it change dramatically during peak commuting hours, or is it busy in the daytime because of local businesses.
In the evening listen out for neighbours, their noise, see which houses occupied, do all the parking spaces suddenly fill up, meaning you will have to park in a different street?
In the early morning (in weekdays) and late at night (at weekends) it is always worth going along and sitting outside the property in your car for half an hour or walking around and noticing what is going on – are there business deliveries that may disrupt you, is the street a cut through for people going home from the pub. Do delivery trucks and lorries use the road?
Chat to the Locals
If you can speak to neighbours and anyone else close by (shopkeepers, postmen, police on patrol). People walking dogs are usually very happy to talk. Ask them: how do they find the area? What is not so good, is there a noise nuisnace etc.
Now you have studied the property, does it “feel” right? lot to be said for this. You have to feel comfortable. Properties hold different energies, so if it doesnt feel right, walk away, even if you can’t rationalise it – your gut instinct knows best.
What you must bear in mind is that in a ‘fast market’ where there is lots of demand for the same property, you will be time pressured and will likely forego (or feel you have to forego) some of the checks listed above. In this case, do as many as you can. Then once you have agreed to buy, go back (even if it means a time off work) and do all the other checks.
If you dont have time, bribe a relative or friend to do it, in return for a gift. If the vendor or estate agent get in the way on the visits, tell them to leave you alone for 30minutes. If you tell them your checks will mean only major issues from surveyor will halt a sale – if they want sale to proceed quickly, they will agree.
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