Would you spend just 20 minutes viewing a property that is going to be your home for many years? Some buyers do – and live to regret it. Don’t remember the things you should have looked for after you have left.
- Is there damp?
The main giveaway signs are a mouldy smell, flaky plaster, and watermarked walls or ceilings. It sounds obvious, but make sure you look closely near the ceiling and around the skirting boards. Another clue might be if the room has just been repainted – possibly covering any damp.
- Is the building structurally sound?
If the house looks and feels solid and structurally sound you may not need a surveyor at all. Big cracks are what you are looking for – you should expect some hairline cracks. Look especially around where extensions join, end-of-terrace walls, and bay windows, all of which can start to fall or bow away from the rest of the house. If you see major cracks or have any doubts it might be worth getting a surveyor See What sort of survey should I have? – if only for peace of mind. If any walls look like they are seriously bowing consider engaging a structural engineer.
- How much storage space is there?
Storage space is a valuable but often overlooked asset. Where will you keep your vacuum cleaner, towels, spare linen, and boxes of junk? Is there room for cupboards or shelves to be built in? Especially in newly built houses, storage space can be scarce.
- Which way does the house face?
In winter, during a cloudy day or at night, it is difficult to tell the difference between a north and south facing house or garden – but in summer it can make the difference between a home that is full of light and warmth, and one that is frustratingly dark. Your favourite plants might notice too, and protest by dying. Don’t be shy about taking a compass with you to the viewing – you might have one on your iphone.
- Are the rooms big enough for your needs?
Occasionally, it has been known for sellers to put smaller furniture in rooms to make them seem bigger.
- Have you been fooled by staging?
Cleverly placed mirrors, strategic lighting, delicious smells, cosy fires, and fresh licks of paint are all tricks sellers use to make their home more appealing. Make sure you don’t get fooled.
- Do the window frames have cracking paint? Is the double-glazing intact?
The state of the external window frames is a great indicator of the state of the house – if people look after those, they are likely to have taken great care of the rest. If you can easily push your finger into wooden window frame, they are usually rotten. If there is condensation between double-glazed window-panes it means that they are faulty.
- How old is the roof?
Replacing roofs is an expensive business, and newer roofs have a life expectancy of only 15-20 years, depending on the materials. Also, if the property has a flat or nearly flat roof, check out the material with which it sealed. Nowadays a membrane is used and is better than asphalt and gravel, which can leave seams and edges unsealed.
- Are there enough power points and what condition are they in?
Dodgy wiring can be dangerous, and rewiring your new home can be an expensive business. Also check out the fuse board – often an indication of the state of the wiring. Does it look old and outdated?
- Is the plumbing up to scratch?
Run the taps to check the water pressure. Ask if the pipes are insulated, and ensure they are not lead which would have to be replaced. Do the radiators actually work? How old is the boiler? If the hot water tank is situated in the roof it is probably an old one, and may have to be replaced soon…