Finding a home - Conveyancing - First time buyer

Viewing a property

6 min read

Be prepared for viewing a property by reading our house viewing tips and checklist. Know what questions to ask and red flags to look out for.

  • Abigail Bolton Senior Digital Website and Content Marketing Executive
    Abigail Bolton

    SEO Specialist and Senior Copywriter

    Published March 11th 2024

a couple looking at the kitchen at a house viewing

Viewing a property

House viewing is probably the most exciting part of the homebuying process; with every property, there’s a chance this could be ‘the one’. When you go to a viewing you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared so you ask the right questions and know what red flags to look out for, so that if you want to make an offer after the viewing, you have all the information you need to know.

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First-time buyer? Find more tips in our detailed first-time buyers guide

House viewing checklist

The first step of house viewings is to do your research. Look at the listing’s photos online and find out information about the house’s location and area. Doing both of these, will provide a good starting point for questions you want to ask and what you want to know more about.  

With so much to take in at a viewing, it’s easy for important things to slip your mind. Write these questions down and take them with you, whether that’s on a piece of paper, or on your phone notes, having the questions down in front of you, will make sure you remember exactly what you wanted to ask.

When you explore the property, find out more about its condition. Make sure you look around the house in a lot of detail, looking in every nook and cranny and tests things such as the light switches and bathroom taps.

Need more inspiration? Read our dedicated property viewing questions guide.

What red flags should I look out for when viewing homes?

It can be easy to get caught up in the moment at house viewings, however it’s one of the earliest opportunities you’ll have to spot any problems, before getting deeper into the buying process. If you go on to buying the house, the building survey before contract exchange, should pick up any major issues, however you could save yourself time, money and heartache, by looking out for these key issues before you make an offer.

Keep an eye out for: 

  • Damp, anywhere in the building. You can spot it on walls, floors or ceilings that may look a different colour or texture, and feel cold or wet. Jo Behari, DIY expert, adds “Never ignore signs of damp, as there could be a huge problem lying underneath

  • Plumbing issues. Flush toilets to check the drainage, look out for leaks below the sinks and radiators, turn on the taps to check pressure and check the boiler’s service history. 

  • Dry rot can cause major damage to your home, leading to significant structural issues. Decaying timber, deep cracks in the timber grain and a damp and musty smell are common signs. 

  • Japanese knotweed in the garden or neighbouring properties can cause damage to building structures and weaken housing foundations.  Find out more on buying or selling a house with Japanese knotweed.

  • Water damage. Watch out for stains, spots and mould that could indicate a leak. 

  • Condensation. The warning signs are water collecting on the inside of windows, black mould on the walls, wallpaper peeling and a strong musty smell. 

  • Room size and storage. Ensure all rooms will meet your needs (and factor in space for any furniture you’re planning to take with you). 

  • Insulation. Are the windows double glazed? Check windows to spot signs of poor insulation that might cause issues in keeping the house warm and increasing energy consumption. 

  • Noise. Note whether you can hear the neighbours chatting next door or the road traffic during the viewing. 

  • DIY fails. When DIY is done wrong, it can be costly to rectify. Check for obvious DIY jobs that have been completed by the owner instead of a professional Jo adds, “[if a job] is done badly, you’re looking at thousands of pounds worth of damage to repair.

Although these red flags can be alarming, they don’t mean that you shouldn’t make an offer. However, the sooner you can uncover potential issues the better, as you can go into the purchase without any nasty or expensive surprises further down the line.

What do I need when viewing a house?

Mortgage in principle

In the early stages of the buying process, it’s essential to work out how much you can afford to borrow. This worth doing before you look at any houses, as you won’t know what’s within your price range. Getting a mortgage, or agreement in principle will provide a good indication of what a bank will lend you. Not only will this ensure you’re looking at houses within your price range, but, in some locations, you need this before an estate agent will let you physically view a property, as having an agreement in principle shows sellers that you’re a serious and well-prepared buyer.

Don’t know where to start? Find out more about the mortgage process.   

A prepared property viewing checklist

Gather as much information as you can, working through the list of questions you prepared above. You can also find additional useful questions for property viewings here.

A family member or friend

Take someone with you. Get a second opinion from a trusted friend or family member. There’s a chance they’ll spot things you don’t. 

Our recent survey* of 2,000 UK homeowners found that 49% believe it’s possible to find love within seconds when it comes to property. Size of rooms, big windows, built-in bookshelves, south-facing gardens and walk-in wardrobes were among the top characteristics mentioned that attract potential buyers.

House viewing tips when viewing a house

49% of Brits believe it’s possible to find love within seconds when it comes to property

“A home is so much more than just a building. It’s a place where people can start a family and make memories, so it’s no surprise that the right property can give Brits butterflies,” says Alistair Singer, E-commerce Director at My Home Move Conveyancing. “The search for the dream home can be daunting but when you know, you know – and there are many things prospective sellers can do to help make buyers fall in love right away. Small details and features can make a big difference – whether it’s a well-maintained flower garden or clever storage solutions.”

“The search for the dream home can be daunting but when you know, you know”

Get clued up and find a home that ticks all your boxes with our top house viewing tips:

Research the area online

Especially if you're moving to a new area, start off with some desk-based research. See if there are any guides on what it is like to live in the area, as well as what schools, transports and amenities are nearby.

Explore our guide on the best places to live in the UK or find more information on locations around the UK.

Go for a drive past

Drive past the property before your viewing to get a feel for the area. You could even park up and familiarise yourself with the neighbourhood. Try to do this on different days and times to get a feel for day-to-day life.

Take your time

It’s important not to rush your viewing, despite only being allocated a short slot. If you’re serious about the property, take as much time as you need to look around. 

If you didn’t manage to find out everything on your first visit and you’d like to spend more time in the house, remember that you can always arrange a second viewing. This is quite common before making an offer on a property.

Keep your cards close to your chest

How should you act when viewing a house? You want to seem keen, but not overly so. You don’t want to indicate that you’re so in love with the home that you’ll do anything possible to get it, as the owner might feel they can push you for a higher offer. However, try to find the right balance and don’t seem disinterested. A seller is more likely to favour and trust a potential buyer that seems engaged and eager, particularly when there are more offers on the table.

Leave a good impression

Being friendly and confident, as well as showing you’re a serious, reliable buyer can help you make a good first impression. You can also build a rapport with the seller or estate agent by arriving on time for the viewing, and being positive and polite. If you like the property, show you’re eager to start moving quickly to increase your chances of having an offer accepted. 

After the viewing

Before making an offer, make sure you feel confident that the property is right for you and anyone else who will live there.

Arrange a second viewing if needed

If you’re seriously considering making an offer, arrange a second viewing. Take some time to digest all the information and go back for another look in a few days’ time. Visit the property at a different time of day so you can see it from a different light and perspective. Inspect all rooms again to make sure you didn’t miss any potential issues and ask any questions you didn’t have the chance to the first time. 

Make an offer

According to our survey, 46% of viewers, couldn’t complete on a home they immediately fell for. But the good news is that you can avoid disappointment. “Our advice if you ‘know’ immediately about a property is to move quickly. The next viewer may be even more enamoured and make an offer before you get the chance – so it’s important to take the leap to get your happily ever after,” says Alister Singer.

46% of viewers, couldn’t complete on a home they immediately fell for

So, decided it’s the home for you? Make an offer either through your estate agent or by directly contacting the sellers. Email them your offer, emphasising the factors that make you an attractive buyer to increase your chances of getting the house. Try to show you’re flexible and don’t hesitate to negotiate the house price if you’re worried you’re paying too much. Researching the local market can be a good starting point to understand if a property is overpriced. 

Disclaimer: The article above is only a rough guide to give you some general advice of what is involved during a property viewing.

*Survey was completed in May 2022

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