Viewing properties can be exciting and it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. However, it’s important to remember that you are shopping for a business and not a home.
There’s a lot to fit in and it’s essential that you make the most of the time to ensure that you have as much information as possible before making an offer.
In this article, we discuss the top 10 items to look out for when carrying out a property viewing and share some of our top tips.
Before you start
The main purpose of a property viewings is to survey the condition of the property and estimate the refurbishment cost. It’s also an opportunity for you to find out more info about the circumstances surrounding the sale to enable you to negotiate better. Is it a deceased estate? Are the vendors downsizing or getting divorced? Do they need to move quickly or are they in a chain?
Location is everything when buying a house – you can improve the house but not its location and the right location will attract the right tenants.
It’s important to consider if the area has good schools, transport links, and parks and green spaces. How about restaurants, shops and of course a decent pub? Does the area feel like it has a good sense of community or are crime rates high and the street noisy?
Before attending a viewing, you should do your homework to ensure that the area is suitable for your chosen property strategy.
It is also useful to bring along a viewings checklist to stop you from missing anything. Having carried out over 1,000 viewings, we still complete a viewings checklist for every single property we view.
Once at the property, you should start your inspection from outside the house, and usually from across the road, so you can get a good view of the entire property. Our viewing usually starts from the top of the property, and we work our way down, picking out the main parts as we go through.
1. Roof & Rainwater Goods
We start by inspecting the ridge tiles, which are right at the top of the roof, and the ridge tiles which run along the edge of the roof, from the top to the 4 corners of the house. We are looking to confirm that the general condition of the roof looks good, that it isn’t sagging in any part, and there aren’t any tiles or slates missing or displaced. We’ll also inspect the chimney for signs of cracks in the mortar and ensure the flashings are sealed – both of which can lead to water penetration.
We then move onto the gutters and downpipe. Are the gutters clean? Are they level? Are they displaying any signs of leaks? We also want to make sure the facias and soffits are in good condition and not in need of replacement.
Top tip – Look at the neighbouring properties. If any of them have had their roof replaced recently, it could be a sign that the roof may need to be replaced on this property in the near future.
2. External Doors, Windows and Brickwork
Working your eyes down the outside of the house, inspect the windows – are they double glazed? Are the frames and sills cracked and/or rotting? Is the pane misty?
Check the pointing or rendering on the external face of the house and check to confirm that the external doors open and close smoothly, without getting stuck. Are the locks working? Does the door need a door stop to stop is banging into the wall?
Top tip – Run your finger down the window – is there condensation? This could indicate poor insulation and you may need to replace the seals or the entire unit.
3. Front & Rear Garden
As your eye comes to the bottom of the house, inspect the front and then the rear garden/yard. Inspect the condition of any paving slabs, fences, walls. Will you need to do some work on it, or does it just need a little sprucing up to get rid of some weeds? Will it be difficult to maintain and put off prospective tenants or will they be glad to have a nice big garden?
Top tip – when in the rear garden, use it as an opportunity to inspect the roof and rainwater goods at the rear of the property.
4. Boiler & Plumbing
Inside the property, we always check the boiler and central heating system first. The boiler is typically in the kitchen, or the bathroom, but can be in the basement or even a bedroom. Are all the radiators working? Does there appear to be any old or odd pipework that needs to be redone? A new heating system will set you back around £5k depending on the size of the property, so it’s important to get this one right. While we are at the property, we also take it upon ourselves to do all the checks and push all the buttons – we flush toilets and run taps to check water pressure. Check that there are no leaks.
Top tip – If the property is a rental, check the kitchen drawer for a gas certificate, or ask the owner – to confirm that the boiler is in good working order.
5. Electrics & Wiring
Another big cost if it is not up to scratch is the electrics. We check the fuse box first to confirm that it meets rental regulation. This is usually in the basement or in the cupboard under the stairs. We confirm that lights work by flicking light switches and plug sockets on and off. Are there enough plug sockets in each room? Most rooms require 2 x double sockets, but Kitchens usually need at least 3.
Top tip – When checking the consumer unit, check that there is RCD Protection by looking for a breaker that is larger than the others and says RCD on it.
6. Kitchen Units & Bathroom Suite
This is usually an easy one. Most of the time, either you will need to replace the whole kitchen/bathroom suite or not. Check the taps and sink and check that the oven, fridge and stove work.
You definitely need to check the worktop and seals to ensure water isn’t penetrating through into the cupboards and while you are there, feel free to open and close all the cupboard, you need to make sure that none of them are broken. You’ll also need to make note of whether the tiling needs to be replaced.
Top tip – if you don’t want to replace the whole kitchen, you could get away with painting the cupboard doors in a gross white colour to modernise them.
7. Walls & Ceilings
In each room, we need to keep our eyes peeled for cracks and signs of structural issues or movement. Do all doors close properly? Are there cracks emanating from the corners of the windows or the chimney breast? These could all be a sign of movement in the property.
Once we’ve established that there aren’t any major cracks, in each room, casting your eye from the top corners to the bottom corners, look for the condition of the walls, ceiling and woodwork. Does the wallpaper need to be stripped? Will the walls need to be plastered or just painted?
Top tip – If you can fit the side of a 10p coin into the crack, there could by a structural problem which will require further investigation.
8. Flooring & Woodwork
In older homes, joists which support the floorboards can become damp and rot, causing the floor to collapse. So, check to see if any part of the floor soft or feels bouncy. Check the general condition of the floor coverings. Are the carpets, tiles/ lino in good condition or could they do with being replaced?
While walking around the building, you’ll get a good sense of the condition of the property and if it is going to require an overhaul, it is not a bad idea to replace the skirtings, doors and architraves. Sanding and painting old woodwork may work but may actually take longer and so cost more.
Top tip – Make sure the doors in the property stand up to the local fire regulations. Some rooms need a fire door and some may even need a self-closing fire door with an intumescent strip.
You can identify damp by the musty smell, mildew forming on the walls, peeling wallpaper, blistering paint, dark patches, discolouration and mould. There are many different types of damp and only a specialist will be able to tell you the cause and cure when you first start out, but it’s important to check as it can be expensive to fix.
Top tip – If the property is furnished, it’s a good idea to look behind the furniture and make sure you check the corners of the rooms as this is where mould tends to accumulate.
10. BTL Safety Measures
There are a number of additional items that you may need to consider depending on your strategy. Items like Fire Doors, Handrails, Smoke alarms, Heat Detectors, Carbon Monoxide Detectors, Escape windows, Keyless Window Handles, Fire Extinguishers, Fire Alarm systems. If you’re buying in a good area, the chances are you will not be buying from another landlord, so you’ll probably need to cost for some of these items in your refurb estimate. Some of these are nice to haves, but some are required by law. It’s best to check exactly what the requirements are in your area.
Top tip – If in doubt, call the council Fire Safety Officer or the Environmental Health Officer and ask!
BONUS TIP: Ask What’s Included
Always ask the agent what’s included in the price. Are the white goods in the kitchen, such as the fridge and washing machine included in the sale? What condition are they in? Is the property already tenanted? If so, what type of tenancy agreement is in place, what is the rent and how long is left on the agreement? Is there a garage or use of a communal area?
While the list of things to check is endless, looking out for these 10 big-ticket items will help you purchase a property with some piece of mind and reduce the risk of hidden surprises down the line.
To watch a viewing in action, why not check out our YouTube series here