Thinking about buying a new home? Make sure you have a house viewing checklist handy.
A typical first viewing will last around 20-30 minutes. It’s not a lot of time to decide whether you’d like to put in an offer — especially if there’s a lot of competition.
Arming yourself with a property viewing checklist can help you stay focused on the task at hand and make the most of your time.
Here, we share ten things to consider when viewing a potential property purchase.
House viewing checklist: What to look for when viewing a house
1. Check the condition of the windows
Windows play a huge role in the energy efficiency of a property. If they’re in poor condition, the home could be harder to heat, and repairing or replacing old or faulty windows can be expensive.
Check that there are no gaps between the frames, that cold air isn’t getting in (or warm air is escaping), and that there’s no condensation between the panes of glass if they’re doubled-glazed.
And if the window frames are wooden, look for signs of rot. If the paint is flaking away and the frame is discoloured and soft to the touch, it’s probably rotting.
2. Make sure there’s enough storage
Viewing a property isn’t just about aesthetics. You need to think about the practicality of the home, too. The rooms might be big enough for your sofa or bed, but is there space to keep your vacuum cleaner out of sight? Where will you store your towels and bed linen? And what about all the other stuff we accumulate over time?
Think about these things as you walk around the property. Picture your day-to-day life, chores and all.
3. What should I check when viewing a house? Test the water pressure
You should be respectful when viewing someone else’s home, but don’t let politeness get in the way of checking the important stuff. Flush the toilets, turn the taps, and run the shower. The last thing you want is to buy the house only to discover the plumbing needs to be fixed immediately.
4. Look for signs of damp
The telltale signs of damp include watermarked walls or ceilings, plaster flaking, and a distinct mouldy smell. Look high and low for damp in every room you view, checking the corners of the ceiling and along the skirting boards. And if the room smells freshly painted, it could be masking damp patches. Ask the owner or estate agent to clarify.
If left unchecked, dampness can affect a home’s structural integrity, while mould could pose serious health risks.
5. Look beyond staging
When a home is staged for viewings, it’s to entice you into making an offer. The pleasant smells, roaring fireplace, spotlessly clean floors, and strategically placed artwork are there to make you feel like you can move in straight away. But it’s all for show, and most of it will go with the owner to their next home. So, try to remain objective and don’t get fooled by the aesthetics.
And if you like how the rooms have been laid out, take plenty of pictures. You could always recreate the design if you get the deal over the line.
6. Ask to see the loft (if there is one)
The loft is an often overlooked part of a property viewing. Check if there’s enough additional storage space, the condition of the beams and if it’s properly insulated.
7. Things to look for when buying a house: Inspect the exterior condition of the property
Avoid the temptation to spend all of your time inside the property. The outside also requires your attention. You’ll want to ensure the house is structurally sound, has adequate drainage, and the roof is in good condition.
Of course, not everyone is qualified to make these calls (especially during a 20-minute viewing), so consider getting a house survey done if you’re serious about making an offer.
A professional surveyor can help you spot issues like subsidence that might cause long-term, expensive damage to a property if left untreated.
8. Consider the weather on the day of the viewing
Ironically, viewing a house on a sunny day can cloud your judgement. Remember, you’ll be living there in all weather conditions, so think about the property’s position and how sunlight will move across it during the day.
South-facing houses tend to get the most sunlight during the day, as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
Try to arrange another viewing or drive by at a different time of day to compare your experiences.
9. View the surrounding area
Make sure you explore the area around the property before or after your viewing — especially if you’re unfamiliar with it.
While the house might tick all your boxes, the neighbourhood might not.
- Are you within walking distance of shops and other amenities?
- Are there busy roads or train lines within earshot?
- Are you underneath a flight path?
- Do you have public transport links nearby?
- What’s the nightlife like? (Noisy pubs, bars, etc.)
- What will the school run look like?
10. Pay attention to soundproofing
Viewing a property on a quiet Wednesday morning might only tell part of the story. What happens when neighbours get home from work? Can you hear their conversations, word-for-word, through thin walls? Do they have a drum kit? Barking dogs?
Consider arranging a second viewing in the evening to see if the situation changes.
What questions should you ask at a house viewing?
1. Why is the property being sold?
Understanding the seller’s motivations can pull back the curtain on the condition of the property and the quality of the area. If they let slip a negative reason for selling (noisy neighbours or rising energy bills), it could make you think twice about buying.
2. How long has the house been on the market?
If the property has been on the market for months, it could hint that there’s something wrong with it. Get a professional house survey done to make sure there are no underlying issues before going ahead with your purchase.
3. What’s included in the sale?
If you’ve fallen in love with the seller’s interior design, you may want to clarify what’s getting left behind as part of the sale. Fixtures and fittings are usually included, but not always.
4. How old is the boiler?
Replacing an old and faulty boiler can be expensive. While it might not be a dealbreaker, it’s a good idea to know if it’s something you’ll need to budget for in the future.
5. What are the neighbours like?
It’s hard to tell if you’re getting an honest answer to this question, but it’s always worth asking.
Pay attention to the detail in the seller’s response. If they can rhyme off their neighbour’s name, occupation, and offer some positive insight into their personality, it could suggest they have a good relationship. But if they give you a blanket “yes, they’re nice” with a forced smile, things might not be too rosy.
Don’t be shy. You could always chap the door, introduce yourself, tell them you’re thinking of buying the house next door, and ask for their thoughts on the property and area.
What not to tell an estate agent when viewing?
While the estate agent is on hand to show you around and answer your questions, you need to remember that they work for the owner — and they’ll be reporting back.
Above all else, you’ll want to present yourself as a serious buyer. So, don’t tell the estate agent:
- You’re still waiting on your mortgage in principle
- This is your first viewing
- You’ve made several offers elsewhere
You don’t need to lie. Just keep your cards close to your chest.
What not to do at a house viewing?
A good rule of thumb when viewing someone else’s house is not to do anything you wouldn’t do in your own home. Be respectful, polite, and professional. This could be the first step towards a major transaction, after all!
In general, when viewing a property, don’t:
- Be late (and don’t be too early, either)
- Bring food or drink with you
- Criticise the owner’s choice of decor (especially if they’re present!)
- Open cupboards or doors without permission
- Rummage through the owner’s personal belongings
- Use the bathroom
Hopefully, our house viewing checklist can help you lose the rose-tinted specs and make the most of your short time looking around a potential property purchase.
Try to be objective, think about the practicalities of day-to-day living, and ask the right questions.
All that’s left is to wish you good luck with your house hunting!
And once you’ve found your new home, make sure you’re insured from day one. Our new clients save an average of £149. Find out more here.