House hunting checklist

The search to find a new home can be enjoyable, but a little daunting. However, asking the right questions and knowing what to look out for can go a long way in helping you find the right home. Here are some suggestions on what to look out for when you start your journey.

Before you view

Prior to arranging a viewing it’s important to know what you want. Make a list of the features you’d ideally want the property to have. Is parking important? Are school catchment areas a factor? If you’re after outside space, should it be south facing?

It’s a good idea to take someone with you. A second opinion, as well as a second pair of eyes, can be very valuable to your search.

Know your budget and stick to it. Viewing properties outside of your price range can mean it’s hard to be completely content with those you can afford.

Make friends with local estate agents. They want credible, serious buyers. Make sure you’re on their radar and they have a good idea of what you’re looking for ­– you want to be first in line for viewings when a new property comes onto the market.

Before you knock on the door

Check the condition of the roof. Things like missing roof tiles could cost you money in the future. It could also be worth looking for problems like crumbling brick work, crooked walls or a bulging chimney. It’s always advisable to get a professional report or survey whatever house you are thinking of buying.  

What is the area like? Going for a stroll in the neighbourhood to find out where the shops are is always useful. It’s nice to know where you can buy a pint of milk and a newspaper.

Have a look at neighbouring properties. Are they neat and well-kept? Rundown properties might impact on the desirability of yours.

What is the foliage like around the property? Living in a leafy area can be nice, but trees also do a good job of blocking sunlight in summer – important to think about if you’re viewing in winter. In addition, the roots of large trees can damage foundations.

Will any outside space be easy to maintain? Look out for weeds and overgrown shrubbery that could be hard work if you aren’t up to the challenge.

Question time

Don’t be afraid to ask questions – this is probably the biggest purchase you’ll make so you should be 100% sure you’re investing in the right property for you. Depending on the viewing arrangements, you may meet the owner. You might wish to ask:

  • How long have you lived at the property?
  • Have you enjoyed living in the area? What are the neighbours like?
  • Why have you decided to move?
  • Have there been any big repairs that have taken place recently? And is there a guarantee on them?
  • If there is a real fireplace, is it safe to use it?
  • Does the property have the potential to be extended? Is there a loft that can be converted?
  • When was the fuse box and wiring last replaced or checked?

If you are viewing with an estate agent, they should be able to answer important questions, or find out the answers and come back to you. You might wish to ask:

  • How long has the property been up for sale?  If it’s been on the market for a long time, you need to know why.
  • How many viewings has the property had? It’s good to gauge the level of interest as this can help you decide what to offer.
  • What is included with the property? Sometimes, white goods are included, sometimes they are available by negotiation. If you need to replace these, you might want to factor in the costs.
  • Are the curtains or blinds being left? It seems a small thing, but having no curtains during your first few nights in a property can be inconvenient.
  • In which council tax band is the property?
  • If the property is in an apartment block, is there a service charge? If so, how much is it?
  • Is the property freehold or leasehold? In Scotland, only a tiny minority of properties are leasehold. In England and Wales, flats are often leasehold. Leases are normally long term, between 90 and 999 years. A short lease on a property can make it harder to sell at a later date and some lenders won’t grant a mortgage where there is a short lease.
  • If it’s leasehold, how long is left on the lease? And how much is the annual ground rent and any service charges?

When you’re inside

  • If lights are on, you won’t get a true idea of the natural light. You may wish to ask if you can turn off certain lights to check.
  • Employ your senses. It’s useful to listen out for any noise – is the property near a busy road, railway or below a busy flight path? Your nose can also be helpful in detecting signs of damp.
  • Take note of the layout. Does it suit your lifestyle? For example, would you rather have a large kitchen and dining space or a more spacious bedroom and living room?
  • Imagine your furniture inside the property. It’s worthwhile remembering that a bedroom, for example, may only look large because it contains a small bed. Picking up a floor plan from your estate agent will give you a more accurate idea of measurements.
  • It is usually a good idea to seek out all possible storage spaces, as good storage will become important when you move in.
  • Check your mobile phone’s signal is strong if good reception indoors is important to you.
  • Run the taps and flush the toilets if possible. It’s always good to check that the boiler and plumbing is in good condition. It may also be worth running the shower to check the water pressure too.
  • Have a look at the locks – some insurers require locks on windows or doors to meet a certain level of design or quality, for example, window locks may need to utilise a key. If you think you may need to replace locks, factor in the cost.

Other important things to remember

It’s good to go back for a second visit. You are likely to spot things you didn’t see before. Returning at a different time of day or day of the week will give you a feel of what the area is like in rush hour for example, or at the weekend.

The most important thing to remember is that if you’re not completely sure the property is right for you, don’t buy it. It’s a big commitment and investment, so you need to feel absolutely sure it’s somewhere you’ll be happy to call home.

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The material contained in this article is intended for information purposes only and not as advice.

You should obtain professional legal or other advice if you are unsure about the effect on you of any matter in this article.

Published 26 January 2018