The 12 most important things to check when viewing a property

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Are you looking for the next place you will call home?

And we know very well that this a process that can take a while. However, when your list of potential properties is narrowed down to just a few options, it’s time for you to become comprehensive and picky.

That said, you better put on your detective hat and grab a magnifying glass because we have prepared for you a list of the most important things to check when viewing a property.

#1. Research the area and the neighbourhood

Sure, the area you want to move to is probably something you have considered already. However, if you are seriously considering a certain property, then make sure to find out more about the neighbourhood it is in.

Figure out what are the local amenities and institutions, the nearest points of transportation, what’s the local community like, and so on. Also, you can search online for recent news related to the area but it would be great if you actually happen to know somebody who already lives there.

#2. The building’s orientation. And how’s the view, by the way?

We can safely say that the UK is a cloudy place. Therefore, even if the building happens to be with a North-South orientation, the neighbours aren’t getting all that much direct sunlight most of the time either. But if you are moving somewhere sunny, then an East-West exposure will definitely be a factor in what’s the indoor temperature throughout the year.

On the other hand, the view from the place is something you should consider as well. For instance, looking at a park is surely more appealing than, say, a wide parking space. Or a dump. And surely there is a scientific study out there that says a pleasant view from the home is related to longer and happier life.

#3. Determine if the building is structurally sound

In case the building was recently raised (think last 15-20 years) and there are people living it, then it should be just fine. Of course, the landlord or seller you are dealing with should be able to present the most recent report done by a qualified inspector.

On the other hand, you can conduct a little survey by yourself. Well, right now you might be thinking “I am not a civil engineer, how could I possibly do it by myself?” but such an assessment is actually not too difficult to make.

Simply do a lap around the building and pay attention to its walls. Are there any menacing cracks and holes in it? The signs of serious structural damage are usually quite obvious, especially if you’re dealing with timber decay.

#4. Is the property big enough for your needs?

Before anything else, you should have a clear understanding of exactly what your needs are. Naturally, they should be in alignment with the life stage you are in right now.

  1. Are you a student?
  2. Are you pursuing a career?
  3. Are you looking to settle down and start a family?
  4. Are you definitely turning one of the rooms into a home gym?

When viewing a potential property, try to imagine your life there for the next five years or so. This mental exercise should provide you with a nuanced perspective which will help you make the final decision.

#5. Watch for signs of dampness

All sorts of things can lead to the appearance of dampness at any given property. Accidental leaks, plumbing issues, indoor flooding and so on. If not addressed immediately, this can be the cause of water damage to certain surfaces and areas.

The situation is complicated even further when poor air circulation is added to the equation which inevitably leads to the formation of mould and mildew. Which in itself is an actual health risk. Here are some of the usual sign that a property has a dampness problem:

  • Huge dark spots on the outside walls
  • Cracked and discoloured plaster
  • Blistering wallpaper/paint
  • The place smells musty and stale
  • Mouldy spots on the walls and ceiling
  • Decaying wood

For more detailed info, read our guide on checking for damp in a commercial property.

#6. Pest infestation

There are countless rodents and bugs that adore the idea of moving in with you. Shelter and food, they love those equally. Or maybe some pests have already settled in the property you are viewing and are just waiting for you to join the party.

Well, not on our watch! Even though most pests species are in hiding during the day, there are always signs that give them out. For example:

  • Gnaw marks on cables and skirting boards along with musky smell from the secluded corners of the property means there are mice.
  • Looking under the mattress might reveal a few bed bugs. Which means there’s an entire colony that is hiding. Other signs include small brownish flakes and reddish-brownish droppings.
  • A weird musky smell plus small black pepper-like droppings in the kitchen cabinets indicate a cockroach infestation.
  • Strong musky smell accompanied by blackish rice-shaped droppings — you’ve got rats in the house!

In case the property is infested, you’ve got every right to ask for the seller/landlord to handle the pest control treatments needed before you sign any papers.

#7. The electrical installation

The golden rule of property hunting is: always bring your cell phone charger. It is your best friend when it is time to check the electrical system. Simply, go from room to room and plug in your phone in each socket to check if they are working properly. Don’t forget to turn on the lights to check if they are working as well.

Ask the agent to see the electrical panel. Sure, you might have no idea exactly what you are looking at but just pretend that you carefully evaluating it. In case there’s anything wrong with it, the agent will probably come clean right away and promise that it will be fixed soon.

If you’re rather short on trust, you can always reach out to a certified electrician and carry an independent electrical fault finding inspection. Although sockets and lighting switches might seem to work without bringing any red flags at first, you never know what’s lurking in throughout the electrical wiring of the property.

#8. Plumbing and gas

When it comes to plumbing, your biggest concern is leakage. Make sure to carefully examine all indoor pipes for dripping spots. Have a look in the bathroom and check the space under the kitchen sink.

Remember that where it drips, soon it will pour. On the other hand, the gas supply (if any) is another major concern so kindly ask when was the last it was inspected by a gas safety inspector.

#9. What about the basement and the attic?

The indoor checks mentioned above apply pretty much to the basement and the attic as well. So ask the person showing you the property to go and take a look at those places so you can just poke around. If anything seems damaged or negatively affected in any way, then state it clearly. If it is something costly to patch, then ask to have it repaired.

Here is a handy tip: if the seller/landlord promises they will fix a certain problem, then simply take a picture of the affected area. This way, you can use it later on as evidence in case they don’t adhere to their promise.

#11. The condition of the roof

Alright, if you are viewing a house, then surely you’d want to see the roof. But what if you are viewing an apartment that is not last-floor? Then the roof is somebody else’s problem, right?

Well, the thing is, the condition of the roof can affect the entirety of the building and the people living in it in all sorts of ways. If you want an example, then we can give you hundreds. And they’re called pigeons.

That’s right, there might be an entire platoon of winged rats living up there, fully prepared to bombard everything you hold dear in this world.

#12. Are the neighbours socially acceptable and reasonable people?

This is probably the trickiest item on this list. But you definitely don’t want to have everything finalised, move in, unpack. And then find out that the place next door is a den of wolves. So, what can you do about it?

Well, you can cold-call the nearest apartments or houses, see if you can get somebody to open the door and have an honest conversation about the place. Maybe ask them for how long they’ve been living there and if they have experienced any unpleasant situations in the past. Surely you’ll be able to obtain some useful information.

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