It's often said that we spend less time looking at a house we might buy than we do checking over a car - and in our experience, there's quite a bit of truth in that.
Perhaps it's that fewer properties than cars will match your needs, making it harder to find something that's even nearly right. Certainly a healthy dose of compromise is important in the typical house hunt!
However, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't be thorough. It's perfectly normal to view a property two or three times before making an offer and the more you check yourselves, the fewer surprises you'll get from reading the survey report!
Checking things yourself may well therefore save you money and heartache in the long run.
During a first viewing, you'll generally be getting a feel for whether a property could become a home - and your heart will (quite rightly!) rule your head. However, on a second viewing you need to hold your emotions in check and dig a little deeper. Buying a property is a huge investment and it's important that you'll be happy with your decision for a long time to come.
A pair of more experienced eyes can be invaluable too, so take someone more knowledgeable with you if you feel you need to.
Here is our list of second viewing tips and checks (don't forget that a smartphone is very useful here!):
Location and neighbourhood
- Do you like the road and neighbourhood? Does it feel safe by your standards? Are the neighbours friendly? Do they take care of their properties like you would? Have they looked after any fences that border the property?
- For flats and leasehold properties, is the building (and any communal areas) well cared for? (Ask about service and maintenance charges)
- Is the location of the property commutable? Are you happy with the facilities nearby?
- Are the noise levels acceptable? Is the property near a main road, railway, pedestrian crossing, flight path or pub? (Open both upstairs and downstairs windows - and visit at different times of the day to make sure. In the UK, bedroom air conditioning can be a sign that it's too noisy or unsafe to open the windows at night)
- Is it easy to park? Are there any nearby schools or rat-runs which might cause a traffic crush at peak times? If you would need a permit, is there a waiting list?
- Does the property back on to a park or play area? As well as the potential for noise, is any youth trouble likely?
- Is any street lighting likely to be intrusive?
- Why is the current owner moving?
Layout and practicalities
- Can you afford the bills?
- Are all of the rooms big enough for how you would need to use them? Will your furniture fit? Is there sufficient storage, particularly by the front door and in the kitchen? (Minor day-to-day features can have a big impact on your happiness! Open kitchen cabinets to avoid surprises!)
- Is the layout practical? Will it work for your family (and pets)?
- Will the garden catch the sun? Is it overlooked? Does that bother you?
- Do you get reception on your mobile phone?
- Is the property nice and light - both naturally and artificially?
- Would anything need updating?
- Are rugs or items of furniture hiding any unseen stains on the carpet?
- Does the boiler fire (and quietly)? Has it been recently serviced? Do the radiators heat up evenly? (Test this even in summer!)
- Do all windows and doors open?
- Do all taps, showers and toilet flushes work? Is the water pressure good? Does the shower pump make an unreasonable amount of noise?
- Do all lights and sockets work? (Take a phone charger to check if you don't have a socket tester)
- Are the TV aerial and telephone line functional?
- Are there any cracks or stains on internal walls or ceilings? Or any evidence that the interior has been recently decorated to conceal any concerns?
- Are there any signs of damp? (Feel the wall, particularly on corner walls and chimneys - and use your nose too!)
- Are there any signs of mould? (Look behind furniture and inside cupboards)
- Do all included appliances function? (Ask before testing them, particularly fires which may not have been used for some time)
- Is there a reasonable amount of loft insulation? (Poke your head into the loft to check - it might well be worth taking your own ladders with you to be sure you can!)
- Is the cold water tank plastic? (Old galvanised tanks should ideally be replaced - and the existence of the tank might indicate some hidden galvanised pipework also)
- Are there any signs of mouse droppings under the sink or in kitchen cupboards?
- Does the property have a modern distribution board (fuseboard of old!) with separate trip circuits? (Updating wiring can be expensive)
- Is the brick work in good condition?
- Is the woodwork sound? (Press frames with your thumb to make sure they are firm)
- What about the roof? Are any tiles missing? Are there any signs that the roof is sagging at all? Are there any areas of flat roofing, which might be at risk of water ingress?
- Are the soffits in good condition? Will they need painting or replacing? (Use upstairs windows to check)
- Is the guttering system working well? (Easier to check when it's raining of course!)
- Does any outside tap work?
- Are there any open drains? Are they clear from debris and well tended?
- Have any changes been made to the property which your solicitor will need to know about? (Extensions, replacement doors and windows, conservatories, etc.)
- Is there anything else you should ask the vendors to leave? Custom-fit carpets, curtains and blinds in particular can be costly to replace (even if not immediately to your taste!)
Start making a list of things you'll need to do in the first year after moving in (changing the locks goes without saying!)
- What furniture will you need to buy?
- Is a smoke (and preferably carbon monoxide) alarm installed?
- Will you need to add a cat flap?
- Can you afford the associated costs?
Longer term costs, saleability and value
- Would anything potentially make the property difficult to sell on in future? Has it been on the market a while? If so, why?
- Are there any ways you could add value to the property? Can you extend it if your needs change?
- Is the property fairly priced in comparison to other properties previously sold in the area?
- Is there anything else which would affect your offer?
You shouldn't feel foolish for having a thorough look and taking several photos. The idea is to identify any deal breakers early on in the process, along with being sure that you are aware of anything which might affect your financial position.
A good estate agent would always rather you made your offer from a well informed position.