Home | What To Ask Or Look For At A Viewing

There's a lot of things you've got to think about when you start looking for your first place. And I know I probably skipped a whole part all about knowing what you need before you even start looking, but to be honest, being first time buyers... we don't know it all and I'm not going to pretend that we do. One thing we do know from viewing over a couple of weekends and the amount of advice we've received, is what you should look for during a viewing and the questions you should ask.
John and I spent months on end browsing websites like Purple Bricks and Right Move to figure out what we wanted for our first home together. Once we knew what it is that we wanted, and what we could afford, we refined our searches so much so that those searches became quite specific and we'd honed in on what could realistically be our future home.
For us, it was seeing a couple of places that we really liked on Right Move that prompted us to actively book our first viewings. It was a weird feeling going for our first ever viewing and being that it was much sooner than we expected, we felt like we'd thrown ourselves right into the deep end. We soon realised that it probably wasn't a bad thing because it led us to some decisions we wouldn't have made otherwise and maybe to the place we're potentially going to get. We thought about it and wondered if we would have known when the right time to start looking was otherwise. We thought: is there supposed to be a moment when you feel like you should start looking... or is that it?
Going to our first viewing was a surreal but exciting experience. We knew what we were looking for in terms of what we wanted, but there are general housing details you need to find out about or look for. Viewing is essentially walking around a total stranger's house and judging it. It's weird and almost harsh to say it like that, but it's the truth. You're looking for details, positive, negatives, potential and getting a general feel of the place. But what do you ask or look for exactly? Well... here are a few set questions John and I had in our heads when we viewed places and also a list of things we looked around for. Just as a disclaimer, we're just going by our experiences and not experts at this in the slightest! It's not all the potential questions you could ask or things to look for but the ones we thought were key for us as first time buyers. I hope they're helpful to you!
  • Damp. Damp is probably one of the first things you need to keep in mind as this could be a sign for hidden problems. Keep an eye out for this around the ceiling, skirting boards and windows. This could be covered up with paint so also look for freshly painted walls - it could be a sign.
  • Storage space. What is the storage like? Have you got built in wardrobe space? Is there an airing cupboard, space to put things away? This could be something that's important to you if you're thinking about how to use your space effectively.
  • Room size. We viewed a place that was advertised as a 3 bedroom but I would argue otherwise down the the lack of space and size in the third room. Are the rooms big enough for what you want/need?
  • Double-glazing. Does the home have double glazing and is it still in good condition?
  • Central heating. Which rooms have central heating and where is it? Which rooms don't? And if they don't - would you maybe need it in there?
  • Roof/Loft. Is there a loft space with the potential to convert if you like? Or would it be used for seasonal storage? Is the roof looking good from the outside? A common problem that occurs when a surveyor looks at the house is problems with the roof.
  • Local area. What is the area like? You could be looking for a bunch of things: parking, schools, access to public transport, nearby shops, neighbourhood, noise. We looked at all these things since they were quite important to us.
  • What might need a bit of work. If you're seriously considering a home you could be thinking about what you might need to fix up if you bought it. Does it need a fresh coat of paint? Does it need plastering? Do any of the rooms need refurbishing? E.g. Kitchen and bathroom primarily.
  • Potential to extend. If you're thinking this might be a forever home this could be something you want to look into. Is there potential to extend and if so, where and how?
  • Garden. This depends on what you want. For us, we wanted to have some good garden space. We looked out for any potential flooding areas and what the ground behind the homes were like. I looked for potential projects - Groundforce style!
  • The position of the house. Which way does the house face? This was somewhat important for us because of how much light will enter the house during the day. It could be helpful in terms of saving money on gas and electric in the summer months primarily but also because a home with more light in generally cosier and happier. Being in the dark could be frustrating (as it is sometimes at home now).

  • Property History. This covers a lot from how old the property is to what has happened in the property over the course of it's existence.
    • Has it had an extension?
    • How old is the building?
    • Which rooms are newly refurbished? Etc.
    • And any other questions you might have about the property that pop into mind when you're there. There's always one you never thought of.
  • What is the local neighbourhood like? 
    • Is it a nice area to live in?
    • What's around the local area?
    • Is it noisy?
    • What's parking like during the week/weekend?
    • Are there any plans to develop the local area?
  • What are the bills like? This might give you an idea of how much you can estimate monthly expenses could be living in that property.
  • Why are the sellers selling?
    • What's their story?
    • How long have they lived here?
    • When would they like to move out?
    • How much are they looking to sell for?
    • Is there any wiggle room on the asking price?
    • How quick would they like to sell?
    • Finding out about the sellers and why they're selling can tell you a lot about the property and the position you could be in if you decided to put in an offer.
  • Have they had any offers yet? Especially if you're interested, this could tell you a bit more about the position you'd be in if you'd like to offer.
So far, that's all I can think of but it is a lot already. It might cause you a little panic to look at all that and it's because it's a very important and huge purchase. The things above could help you make those important decisions about your first home and there is so much to consider. My top tip below helped me make sure that the above happened at every place we looked at. Either way... you only have a set amount of time to view a property and so you might not get to fit it all in. When we were viewing we viewed some for 10 minutes and some for 30 minutes and you've just got to ask what you can - sometimes you get some other questions pop into mind too and you have to ask those, but don't worry if you don't get it all in. It's a lot to go through so just ask about and look for what's most important to you. You can always find out more from the estate agents later on via phone or email if needed.

TOP TIP - TAKE A NOTEBOOK AND PEN WITH YOU. We did and it really helped! We used it to not only keep a list of all our to-look-for things and questions, but to keep tabs of each place we looked at. We gave a page to each house we viewed and wrote: the address, the asking price, the number of rooms and the time our viewing was at. After we viewed it we wrote a list of pros and cons and what we would offer if we were to on each place. This system really helped us keep a clear and level head when it came to the viewings and to see what we liked and didn't like. We also used it to compare places when we finally came down to I hope the questions and advice above is helpful to anyone who is a first time buyer or thinking about it soon!

Let me know what you think and if you have any advice of your own, please share them in the comments below!

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