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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Viewing a property you are thinking of buying

There are certain important questions you need to ask when viewing a property. Use these checklists to help you prepare for visits to properties you are interested in. The lists include questions you could ask the seller and what to look out for while you are in the building.

Research the area and property

Try to do as much background research as you can on the property and the area. This makes it less likely you’ll waste time seeing something that doesn’t meet your needs.

An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) will provide some information about the energy efficiency of the building, so ask the seller for a copy.

Read ‘Choosing a new area to live’ to help you find sources of background information about an area, including flood risks, house prices and jobs.

Viewing the property

When you're ready to view:

  • take someone else with you if you can, preferably someone with different tastes who can spot things that you miss
  • make sure you view the property during the day when you'll be able to see better and spot problems
  • if you really like a property, try to arrange to view it again at a different time of the day to give you a different perspective
  • try not to view too many properties in one day
  • take your time looking round the property
  • don't be afraid to ask direct and blunt questions about the property
  • don't be pressurised by the estate agent or vendor into making an offer

Questions to ask the seller

You might want to ask the seller the following questions:

  • what is included in the sale - land, garage, furniture, fittings, etc 
  • what is the cost of Council Tax and the average costs of other utility bills such as electricity, gas and water 
  • why are the sellers moving 
  • have there been any problems with the boiler; when was it last serviced by a Gas Safe engineer 
  • if there is a loft, has this been insulated - if so, how long ago 
  • does the property have cavity wall insulation 
  • has the property been altered in any way - if so are the relevant planning and building control consents available to inspect 
  • does the house have full central heating - if so, how old is it
  • is the property in a conservation area or a listed building - this could restrict any future alterations 
  • have any of the rooms been decorated recently - if so, why  
  • what are the neighbours like - are they noisy 
  • has there ever been a dispute with the neighbours or anyone living nearby

Inside the property – things to look out for

Look out for the following when you are inside the property:

  • does the property need updating - if so, how much will this cost
  • are the rooms big enough for your needs - for example, your furniture will fit, etc
  • what are the views like
  • how is the water heated - combination boiler or tank, etc 
  • is there any sign of subsidence, like major cracks in the walls or the doors sticking
  • is there a smell of damp or any other sign, like the walls feeling damp, wallpaper peeling, paint bubbling, watermarks or mould
  • do the window frames have cracking paint; if you can press your finger easily into the wood it's rotten
  • how much storage space is there
  • are there enough power points - how old do they look
  • does it feel like it could be your home

Before you buy a property, it’s a good idea to have a property survey done. This can help to point out defects you might not have noticed. See ‘Property surveys’ for more information.

Location - things to think about

You should also make sure the location meets your requirements, so here are a few things to think about when choosing somewhere to live:

  • whether the property is near main roads, pubs, clubs or restaurants, as these can be noisy 
  • nearby railway lines  
  • overhead flight paths 
  • the feel of the community - does it seem friendly 
  • does the house get enough natural light  
  • is the property well maintained 
  • the age of the property 
  • garden size 
  • the condition of nearby properties 
  • what is the public transport like in the area 
  • are the local schools good 
  • are there any known plans for development in the area 
  • what are the local amenities like - shops, hospitals, leisure facilities, etc
  • what is the crime level like in the area

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