Things you mustn’t forget when viewing a property

Become a house viewing pro with our practical tips and suggestions

Marcus Webb – Virgin Money Living Mentor

by Marcus Webb | Independent Money Mentor

Editor of Delayed Gratification and independent journalist

Buying a house is a strange experience. We can easily spend 15 minutes agonising over the choice between a cheese ploughman’s or prawn cocktail for lunch, yet we get barely more than that to pick where we might spend the next 25 years. Here’s our guide on how to maximise that time and become a house viewing pro.

Ditch the estate agent

Ask the estate agent to let you walk around on your own so that you can get to know the place that might cost you your life savings. You can’t concentrate on the details if you’re making polite conversation. Are there huge cracks in the ceiling? Have the skirting boards shifted? Run the shower, see if the water pressure is strong enough… None of these may be enough to make you walk away from your dream house, but can give you leverage to get the cost of fixing them off the price. Also, take a friend with a keen sense of smell. One scent of damp and you’re out of there…

Open the cupboards

Yes, it may seem rude in a house that isn’t yours yet, but you need to know how much room there is for your life’s collection of bits and bobs, so look behind those cupboard doors. Be realistic about the amount of space you’ll need now and in the future. This is especially true if you are a hoarder in a relationship with somebody who considers more than three pairs of underwear to be excess baggage. If you’re messy there’s no point promising your partner you’ll live the clutter-free life of a zen monk from now on. You won’t. A loft may not be the sexiest room in the house, but it can be a relationship saver.

Think ahead…

Living in a one-bedroom converted store cupboard above the most banging club in town might suit the hardy, carefree you of today, but a property you own needs to be able to grow with you and you might want the option of kids/a garden/sleep at some point in the future. Consider parking spaces even if you can’t drive, a well-sized kitchen even if you can’t cook and, yes, schools even if you consider children to be little more than adorable parasites. Like Dorian Gray in formaldehyde, you may never change, but it’s nice to have the option.

Check the leasehold

While they’re difficult to avoid if you are buying a flat, leaseholds should still be treated with extreme caution. It doesn’t matter how long it lasts, a 999-year lease is not ‘virtually freehold’ – if you don’t own the land you are essentially a tenant. Most leaseholders are benign dictators, but there are horror stories of ground rents being raised on a whim and service charges being introduced for everything from painting a wall to keeping a pet. Check the details. Then check them again. The excellent Leasehold Knowledge Partnership offers free advice if you’re unsure and unless everything is perfect, step away from the lease.

Be aware of your environment

Not that they need to get any smugger, but Phil and Kirstie are right – it’s all about location. Embrace your inner pessimist. Don’t see a charming stream at the bottom of the garden, think potential floodplain. Are those some minor roadworks at the end of the drive or are they laying the foundations for a new motorway? Nice copse or migration route for a herd of wildebeest? Note down everything and then check if there’s a history of anything untoward in the area or a new development about to spring up around the corner.

Talk to the owners

It may feel like meeting your new love’s ex on the first date – but a cup of tea with your desired home’s current owners can be a clincher. Find out what they love about the area, as well as what they dislike. Quiz them on the quirks of the building and why they are moving. Most people are either fundamentally honest or terrible liars. More likely than not, you’ll see if they are simply moving on or attempting to offload a money pit.

Before making financial decisions always do research, or talk to a financial adviser. Views are those of our mentors and customers and do not constitute financial advice.