The viewing stage is the most important part of the whole property buying process. This is your opportunity to look in detail at the things that matter to you, and the information that you gather at this viewing will determine everything to do with that property. It is a bit like speed dating, get as much information as possible before committing! In most cases you will be able to visit the property more than once before making an offer, but in a busy market or with a popular property, you may only get one chance to see it because of other interested buyers. The points below are all important things to bear in mind when you are at a property viewing.
It is a good idea to get there early and have a walk around the surrounding roads to get a feel for the area. Are the streets clean and do people look after their homes? Are there any ugly buildings nearby or sites that will attract unwanted traffic? If there is a park nearby, have a walk around it. Will you actually use it if you live there? Is the walk to the station well lit? Is there a useful grocery shop close by?
Do some research into the various transport options that would be available to you if you lived there. If there is a tube strike, is there a bus that could get you to work? If you actually walked to the station that was slightly further away, would you actually be able to get into work quicker? The cost of monthly or yearly season tickets should also be considered when thinking about offers and finances. These could become important when combined with mortgage repayments for example. If you are very serious about the property then it is a good exercise to actually do the route that you will travel most, and time how long it takes.
When you are in the property listen to whether or not you can hear the neighbours. Look out of the window and see how tidy they keep their garden. If you are viewing an apartment, what are the communal areas like? This may tell you more about the freeholder than the neighbours which is still important because an inattentive freeholder could become an issue further down the line.
Fixtures, fittings, and general decoration
You will naturally look at the most important things, and it is often how the place feels that will guide your overall impression. It is easy though not to look in much detail at things like kitchen appliances. Are they in good condition, what is included, and are they big enough for your needs? Although these things can be changed it will be frustrating when you can’t remember whether there was a dishwasher or not and how big it was.
Look at the general paintwork and decorations. Most places will probably need a lick of paint, but if there are more serious decorative issues then you want to see these now. Don’t panic about every little crack you see, these may well just be in the paintwork, but it is always advisable to get a survey carried out to give you peace of mind. If you are looking at a lower ground, or basement flat, then the chances are that there will have been damp at some point. Ask your surveyor to look into this, or organize for a specialist damp survey.
Natural light and space
These are two very important things that are very hard to change. Where does the natural light come from and into what rooms? There may be a large tree that isn’t blocking the sun currently, but in summer when it is full of leaves, all the natural sunlight will be blocked. The overall square footage of a property is important when comparing prices, and look at how the space is used. Could you use the space better, or are there naturally lots of areas of wasted space (such as hallways)?
Room for improvement?
Many properties on the market have not ben updated for a while and have the potential to be opened up and extended. The reason you may have seen people knocking on walls at viewings is because they are ‘testing’ whether the wall could be knocked down. If it sounds hollow then it is probably just a plaster board wall, also known as a stud wall. This isn’t a bad thing to do to give you an idea but it is also not a very scientific test. If you are thinking about extensions, look at other properties in the street. If they have extensions then there is a much better chance that you will be able to do the same.
What to ask the agent
Ask the agent what the vendor’s position is in terms of moving. Are they looking to buy somewhere themselves (ie. Will you be in a chain), what are the expected timescales, and what sort of offer are they looking for? You probably wont get too much information from the last question but they may tell you that the vendor is looking for someone who can move quickly for example, so you can then use this to make yourself more attractive to the vendor.
Ask the agent how long the property has been on the market (you can also see this on Rightmove, Zoopla etc), and what interest there is currently. If there are no other offers then you have more scope for negotiation. There is also no harm in asking what the other offers are. But don't expect to get an answer to that one! By talking about offers with the agent you will come across as a much more serious buyer, and you will therefore be more likely to get useful information out of the agent.
Last but not least: Take your time
Don't let yourself be rushed by the agent, if you are serious about the property they will not mind you taking your time. Try to imagine yourself living there and think about where you might put your possessions. Maybe even take a seat if it is appropriate. Ask the agent if you can take pictures because this will help you remember the property.
For more help and advice with your property search visit www.foyspropertysearch.com