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A man holding a magnifying glass and a model house. Learn what to look for when viewing a house with SAM Conveyancing.

What to look for when viewing a house

Jack Meadowcroft
(Last Updated: 13/06/2024)
9 min read
Key Takeaways
  • The exterior of a property can reveal as much about its condition as the interior. It can give you quite a few clues about the structural soundness of a home.
  • Top Tip – if you can fit the edge of a 10p piece in a crack, it’s very likely to warrant further investigation from a RICS-accredited surveyor.
  • Always view the property at least twice, if possible, before making an offer.
  • Ask permission before taking photos or touching things like taps and radiators.

Ever wondered what to look for when viewing a house? A property purchase is a significant but thrilling decision, and it's important to conduct your own research to ensure that the new home will be the right fit for you.

During a house viewing, it’s vital to look out for warning signs or validations that this is your next home. You will not be legally obliged to buy the property until you exchange contracts, so once your offer is accepted you'll have another chance to send a RICS accredited surveyor around, to inspect the property for any defects.

House viewing questions for your estate agent

Asking your estate agent the right questions during house viewings can reveal important details that may not be immediately apparent. Here are some key questions to consider asking the estate agent:

  • Why is the property being sold? Understanding the seller’s motivation can provide insight into potential issues or the urgency of the sale.
  • How long has the property been on the market? A property that has been on the market for a long time may indicate underlying problems or an overpriced listing.
  • What is included in the sale? Clarify if fixtures, fittings, and appliances are included, as this can impact your budget.
  • Have there been any major renovations or repairs? This can reveal the property’s history and any significant improvements or issues.
  • What are the average utility costs? This helps in understanding the ongoing expenses associated with the property, e.g. gas, electricity, and water bill.
  • Are there any issues with the neighbours or the neighbourhood? Local area knowledge can alert you to potential noise problems, security issues, or community disputes. Ask about the local schools and public transport too.

Council Tax Band

As well as asking about utility costs, look at the property's listing ahead of the viewing to see how much council tax will be payable. This will help you budget the monthly expenses before you make an offer.

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Internal inspection

When inspecting the inside of a house, it's crucial to examine every room and detail. It’s arguably the most important part of the property viewing checklist as you’ll be living in the property and any internal issues could ruin your enjoyment of it.

Structural issues

  • Look for cracks in walls or ceilings, sagging floors, and any signs of subsidence.
  • Tip – if you can fit the edge of a 10p piece in a crack, it’s very likely to warrant further investigation from a RICS-accredited surveyor.
  • Beware of ‘cover-ups’. Some sellers might paint over damp/mould or hide wall cracks with a piece of furniture.
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Damp and mould

  • Check for damp patches, peeling wallpaper, and musty smells, particularly in corners, on window frames, and behind furniture.

Windows, doors, and floors

  • Ensure all windows and doors open and close properly.
  • Do the windows have double glazing? Single glazing wastes energy and makes the property more expensive to heat.
  • Check for drafts and condensation, which might indicate poor insulation or ventilation.
  • Check any wooden doors and window frames for dampness, dig a finger nail in too see if the wood has become soft
  • Properly assess if there are floor problems and if they need to be replaced.
A window with condensation. SAM Conveyancing provides a house viewing checklist for you, helping with serious problems such as exposed wires, noisy neighbours, and electrical items

Plumbing, water pressure, and electrical systems

  • Test the taps work and for water pressure, inspect under sinks for leaks and verify the condition of the boiler.
  • Time how long it takes for hot water to come through.
  • Check the fuse box and look for signs of outdated or exposed wiring.
  • Observe where the phone points and TV or aerial points are.
  • Test the light switches work.
  • Check the alarm system and if there is a burglar alarm.
  • Count how many power sockets there are and see if they suit your needs.

Storage space

  • Assess the availability and adequacy of storage spaces, including closets, cupboards, and loft areas. Make sure there will be enough room for you and/or your family to move in.

Natural light and ventilation

  • Ensure rooms receive sufficient natural light and are well-ventilated; check which rooms are south-facing. Poor lighting and ventilation can affect comfort and the energy performance certificate.
  • Check if the bathroom has an extractor fan.
A surveyor viewing a house externally for some potential buyers. SAM Conveyancing can help with your conveyancing process and find you the right property.

External inspection

The exterior of a property can reveal as much about its condition as the interior. It can give you quite a few clues about the structural soundness of your building and whether any issues require addressing.

Roof and gutters

  • Look for missing or damaged tiles, signs of leaks, and blocked or broken gutters and downpipes.
  • The state of the flashing or weatherproofing surrounding chimneys or other roof structures is a good indicator of whether costly repairs might be required.

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Exterior walls and foundations

  • Inspect for cracks, signs of damp, and any evidence of structural issues. Pay attention to the condition of the brickwork or rendering.
  • Damp can leave tell-tale marks, but musty smells can also be an indicator.
  • If any plants are climbing and clinging to an external wall, it could weaken the wall over time and attract insects.
An external wall with cracks. SAM Conveyancing can help whether it's a garden shed, listed building, or communal areas in an off road property

Outdoor space

  • Does the garden face a suitable direction for you? A south-facing garden will get sunshine all day, but a north-facing garden will get the most sun in the mornings and evenings.
  • Evaluate the state of fences, sheds, and outbuildings. Check for overgrown areas and consider the maintenance required for the garden.
  • If the fencing is secure and complete, you should have no worries. But beware again of bushes, plants, or even large trees etc. hiding cracks or holes.
  • Check if there is access to the back garden from outside and whether it’s secured with a lock. Is the garden overlooked? That might also be a factor.

Parking and access

  • Confirm the availability and condition of parking spaces, driveways, and access routes alongside your needs and wants.

Neighbouring properties

  • Assess the condition of neighbouring homes as they can impact your home’s value and your living experience.

Local environment

  • Consider the property's proximity to amenities, local schools, transport links, and any potential noise sources like busy roads or train lines.
The exterior of a detached UK home. Don't go for virtual viewings when buying a house, let SAM Conveyancing help with your house viewing checklist.

Future development potential

When viewing a property, consider its potential for future development or improvement, such as room extensions or loft conversions. Check for planning restrictions and research local development plans. Keep in mind how the property’s development potential could impact its future resale value. Homes with flexible spaces or potential for upgrades often hold their value better.

Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

Energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important for both environmental and financial reasons. If your potential new home has an array of energy-efficient features, you can expect to pay a lot less in your monthly utility bills.

However, if it does not, you can expect to either pay more in your energy bills or face the costs of removal and installation.

Checking the quality of insulation in the roof, walls, and floors is essential because good insulation reduces heating costs and increases overall comfort.

If the windows and doors are double or triple-glazed, this will also enhance energy efficiency and reduce noise.

Inspecting the age and efficiency of the boiler or heating system can save you money too. Modern, energy-efficient systems will significantly lower utility bills.

Look out for homes with solar panels, heat pumps, or other renewable energy sources. These can reduce your carbon footprint and utility costs and will likely be listed as a unique selling point.

Review the property’s Energy Performance Certificate rating to understand its energy efficiency. Properties with higher ratings are more cost-effective to run.

A boiler with a technician inspecting it. SAM Conveyancing can help with your service charge when buying a house

Legal and environmental considerations in the house buying process

Understanding the legal and environmental context of a property can help ensure a smooth home-buying process and prevent future costs.

  • Title deeds – ensure the property has clear title deeds and that there are no disputes or claims against the property.
  • Local regulations – verify compliance with local zoning laws, building codes, planning permission, and any other relevant regulations that could affect the property.
  • Flood risk – assess the property's flood risk by consulting flood maps and checking with local authorities. Properties in flood-prone areas may require special insurance.
  • Contaminated land – investigate whether the property is built on or near contaminated land, which could pose health risks and impact property value.
  • Conservation areas – determine if the property is in a conservation area or has listed status, which can restrict home improvements or alterations and impact the cost of maintenance.

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Written by:

Jack is our resident Content Writer with a wealth of experience in Marketing, Content, and Film. If you need anything written or proof-read at a rapid speed and high quality, he's your guy

Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Reviewed by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.

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