The Ultimate House Viewing Checklist
House hunting shouldn't be a struggle and with Compare My Move's ultimate house viewing checklist, you'll be ready to explore your dream home in no time. Ease yourself into the process by preparing in advance and looking at the important questions you should be asking to get the most out of your viewing experience.
In this guide, we will explain what you need to know to leave your property viewings as fully informed as possible by providing you with a room-by-room checklist and the questions you should ask your estate agent. Plus, we also explain the warning signs you must look out for during a house viewing, describing the symptoms of structural damage or damp that may require you to call in a chartered surveyor.
The General House Viewing Checklist
There are many home buying options, from buying at auction to using a government scheme, this checklist will cover all methods of buying a house. First on our house viewing checklist, is finding out the condition of the property. This section includes general questions you’ll want to ask to gauge the overall suitability of the house you’re viewing. This will help you develop your opinion of the property ahead of a more detailed room-by-room checklist.
Here's a basic property viewing checklist for you to keep in mind when walking around the building:
- Are the doors secure and are windows double glazed?
- How old are the electrics, plumbing, and central heating system?
- Is there a burglar and smoke alarm system?
Is the building listed or in a conservation zone?
- Is it big enough? Will all your furniture fit?
- Is there an attic? Is it suitably insulated? (Take a torch just in case there isn't a light.)
- Do you have mobile phone coverage throughout the house?
- Is there enough storage and power sockets?
- Does it have planning permission granted for any future changes?
- Has there been any recent work done to the property that is still under warranty?
- Does it have parking?
- Will the house need renovation to meet your expected standard?
- Can you fit your car in the garage?
The Area Around the House
The neighbourhood, the local schools and the overall feel of the area is as important as the house itself. Keep in mind the following questions when viewing a property so that you can determine if the local area suits you and your needs:
- What are the nearby schools like?
- Are there good transport links?
- Is it noisy?
- Where is the nearest supermarket?
- Are there any plans for new developments?
- What is the crime rate?
- What is parking in the immediate vicinity like?
- Do the neighbours seem pleasant?
Extra Details to Consider
These are some of the finer points of the property viewing checklist that you'll need to consider when looking at your dream house:
- How much is the council tax?
- Internet connection speeds in the area?
- Is it lease or freehold?
- If leasehold, is there a ground rent?
- Is there a property chain?
- What is the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of the property?
A Room-by-Room Property Viewing Checklist
The kitchen tends to be one of the most renovated parts of a house and you certainly shouldn't settle for a sub-par cooking area. Take note of the fixtures, counters and design as a whole when viewing the house. Here are the questions you should be asking when viewing the kitchen:
- What fixtures and fittings are included in the sale (counters, refrigerators)?
- Are all fitted cupboards in good condition? Remember to check inside.
- Are the taps and drains functioning?
- Are the built-in kitchen appliances such as oven and extractor fan working?
- Will the kitchen be professionally cleaned before you move in?
- Is there any sign of damp or mould underneath the sink?
Bathrooms are an important part of any property, but they can sometimes be neglected in terms of renovation. A poorly maintained bathroom can cause all sorts of problems within a house, so keep the following in mind:
- Is there adequate ventilation?
- Do all hot water taps work?
- Are there any signs of mould or mildew?
- Is the silicon sealant still water tight?
- Is the bath panel loose? Is there signs of rot underneath?
- What is the water pressure like?
- Does the toilet flush?
Living Room and Dining Room
You'll probably spend a large amount of time in both the living room and the dining room so be sure to check them thoroughly. It's likely to be the area you redecorate and change to fit your own tastes after moving in, so here’s what to ask yourself:
- How much light does the room get?
- Is there textured wallpaper or ceiling plaster?
- Is the wall behind sofas and counters clean and smooth?
- Any unsightly wall mounts?
- Is the fireplace functioning?
- Are there enough radiators and wall plugs?
- Are the carpets in good condition?
These private spaces are likely to be redesigned to fit your personal tastes and style, so it's worth concentrating on the quality and size of the rooms during the property viewing. Here's what you should consider:
- Is there enough storage?
- Is the flooring, carpet and wallpaper in good condition?
- Are the rooms well ventilated?
- Is there any sign of mould or mildew?
- Is the size adequate?
- Are curtains and fittings included in the sale?
The Garden Viewing Checklist
If the property you're viewing has a garden, then there are a few points to keep in mind during the viewing like how much sun it will get, who owns it and what it contains. Whilst viewing the garden, here’s a checklist to consider:
- Is the garden private or shared?
- Where are the boundaries?
- Which way is the building positioned? What time of day does the garden get the sun?
- Will the seller be moving parts of the garden such as pots and trees?
- Will the garden take a lot of effort to maintain?
- Are there any large trees dominating the garden?
- Is there a clear divide between the garden and neighbour?
- Do neighbouring houses overlook the garden?
- If there is a shed, is it in working condition?
- Do hedges overhang pavements or roads? Are they the homeowner's responsibility to maintain?
Whilst you're viewing the garden, keep an eye out for things like plants that can damage your property, damage to out buildings or general signs of neglect as the work needed may be rather significant if previously left unattended. Issues like Japanese Knotweed, ivy, large cracks or rotten structures, could be indicators that the garden needs more work than you're willing to provide.
Warning Signs During Your House Viewing
Here, we’ve created a house viewing checklist of the main issues to keep in mind when walking through a property. These are points to consider across the entire house as many of the issues highlighted may be a sign of structural problems and require a property survey to dictate the extent of the damage. These include:
- Are there any cracks or signs of subsidence? Major cracks could be a sign of structural movement which will mean hiring a structural expert to assess the issue. Major structural movement could result in costly damage control and constant monitoring. If the issues become too dangerous, it could mean underpinning is required which is an invasive and expensive procedure.
- Is the roof in good condition? Does it dip in any points? Roofing is expensive to replace and a poorly maintained roof can lead to structural and damp issues in the future.
- Is the roof flat? Though a cheaper option, flat roofs won't last as long as a pitched roof, so keep an eye out for signs of wear and tear.
- Is the property at risk of flooding? Speak to your estate agent about whether the property is on a flood plain, but also keep an eye out for any running water nearby.
- Are the drains and gutters modern and functioning? Avoid stagnant, pooling water by keeping a scrutinising the drain pipes and guttering during your home viewing.
- Can you see or smell damp, mould or mildew in the house? Keep a keen eye out for any signs of damp, especially in older homes. In many cases this is easily managed, but you'll want to arrange for a specialist damp survey to properly assess the situation. Damp proofing may prove costly and may affect your choice to go ahead with the purchase.
- Do the windows and doors open and close easily? Warped frames can be a sign of structural movement or at the very least, mean replacing the windows and doors.
- Are the taps and shower working? Check all the taps to highlight low water pressure.
Generally, if you pick up on any of these issues during your house viewing, you'll want to arrange a specialist property survey to gauge its severity and decide on a course of action. This will likely cost a few hundred pounds but may save you thousands in the long run. You can save yourself extra time and money by using Compare My Move’s free service to compare the most trusted surveyors in your local area.
How Long Should Your House Viewing Last?
Property viewings are all different and so there’s no set time for how long a viewing should last. However, in 2018, Terry’s Fabrics discovered that 22% of people in Britain spent 30 minutes or less on a house viewing - only 35% of people spent 2 hours or more at the property. They calculated that more than half of the 1,000 people surveyed, took longer to plan a holiday than view a property.
It’s important to inspect the property before committing to the purchase so that you have no regrets when it comes to moving in. You need to be absolutely sure that it’s the right house for you before committing to an offer. You may initially feel like rushing as you don’t want to waste anyone’s time, but it's completely up to you.
Factors that could affect the length of time your house viewing takes include:
- The size of the property
- Whether other parties are interested or have viewings booked
- If the structure or layout is unusual
- If it’s your first viewing
- If there are obvious issues to inspect
Questions to Ask When Viewing a House
1. Why is the house being sold?
Your estate agent doesn't have to tell you exactly why the owners are selling, but they can hint at the reason why. This is an important factor as knowing why the current owners are moving may be telling of serious issues. It may also help with negotiating the house price as if you find that the owners are selling due to job commitments for example, they might be in a rush to sell and accept a lower offer.
2. How long has the property been on the market?
If you find out the house has been on the market for over three months, ask your estate agent why they think it hasn't sold. It could suggest there is a problem you’ve missed or that other buyers have avoided.
3. When do the sellers have to move out?
Ask your estate agent if the sellers have found a new home yet. If they have, they may want to sell as quickly as possible and may even accept a lower offer from you. Knowing the house's property chain can give an indication of the speed of the selling process.
4. What is included in the sale?
You need to know exactly what you’re buying. You may have fallen in love with the property’s garden and shed only to find that the owners are taking them with them. Make sure you find out exactly what fixtures and fittings are being left behind.
5. How many times has the property changed hands?
If the property has had several owners within a short space of time, it could indicate a more serious problem.
6. How was the asking price decided?
No one wants to pay more than they should for a house. A good estate agent will justify exactly why they chose the specific asking price. That being said, do your own research and compare the house you want to the price of other properties in the area and decide if you think the value is worth it.
7. Is the property listed?
Buying a listed property can restrict you if you had plans to renovate in the future. In some cases, this applies to both the exterior and interior. If the property is in a conservation area, find out what restrictions apply to it. Check out our guide on listed property surveys for what to expect from maintaining a listed house.
8. Ask about the local neighbourhood
The area you move to is just as important as the property. If you don't enjoy where you live, it's going to impact how much you enjoy living in your new home. Ask your estate agent about what the schools are like and the crime rates, as well as the transport links. That being said, you should also do your own research and take a tour of the local parks, cafes, pubs and shopping centres to familiarise yourself.
Reasons to View Multiple Properties
Finding a property you like can be very exciting, but it’s important not to get carried away. It’s good to view multiple properties before committing to a transaction as you need to compare houses to see which is worth the investment.
A study by the popular organisation Which? in January 2019, discovered that 39% of 1,200 home buyers viewed less than 5 properties before committing to a purchase. Even more shocking, 9% only viewed 1 property. It’s always tempting to rush into making an offer, but try to remember that this isn’t a decision to take lightly. Your home will hopefully be yours for a few years and so it’s important to ensure it’s the right fit.
By viewing different properties, you can compare furnishings, materials and property layouts to help you determine what you specifically want in a house. What you love in one property could be extremely different or better in another. It’ll help you inspect and view specifications that you may not have originally thought of.
You can even view multiple houses in the same street or area so that you can compare prices and see which one is actually worth investing in. You can compare specifications and calculate the difference in price to help you better understand the cost of homes in the areas that you’re interested in. It also ensures that you’re more prepared to make an offer and even negotiate on the price.
Compare My Move's House Viewing Tips
We've covered everything that you should be looking for during a house viewing in our property viewing checklist. But to go alongside this, we've also created a few top tips on how to get more information about the house and how to get the absolute best out of your viewing experience. Compare My Move's top tips for viewing a house are:
- View the property at different times of the day. If possible, arrange for a second viewing at a different time of day so you can get a feel for the property throughout a normal day.
- Explore the area at different peak times. Walk around the area in the morning, during afternoon commuting hours, and evening. This will ensure that traffic and noise is manageable at all times.
- Never view a property alone. Always go with an agent and bring a partner, family member or friend along to the viewing. A second opinion is always helpful as they will spot things you don't.
- Take your time. Don't feel rushed during your house viewing, take your time to really take in the property. Don't be afraid to split off from the estate agent for a walk around.
- Take lots of photographs. You'll likely be viewing a range of houses, so keep everything fresh in your mind by taking photos throughout the viewing (it's courteous to ask permission of course).
- Explore your potential commute. Perform a dry-run of your commute to work to assess traffic and timings.
- Drive around the area. Get a feel for the safety of the area by driving around the streets.
- Put together a list of questions. Prepare a list of questions ahead of time to ask the seller or estate agent so you're fully prepared. We have supplied a few below to get you started.
Download Your House Viewing Checklist
Next Steps of Buying a House
This has been part of our buying guide. We hope this house viewing checklist has fully prepared you for your viewings. In the next article, we look at the differences in freehold and leasehold properties. To find out more, read freehold vs leasehold.