Test the plumbing and electrics? Here's what homeowners regret not doing when viewing their property – and what checks YOU should do before buying your home.
Property viewings can be an exciting but nerve-wracking business – especially if you’re buying for the first time.
However, almost a quarter of us spend less than 30 minutes viewing a home we will go on to buy, according to research from Terrys Fabrics – with 60% spending more time selecting their holiday.
Despite a property purchase usually being one of the biggest decisions you will make in your life – not to mention the most expensive purchase – a lack of attention can lead to some regrets...
Top 5 things homeowners wished they'd checked before buying
- 30% wish they'd monitored how warm the house was in winter
- 24% wish they'd checked all the doors, windows and roof
- 20% wish they'd tested the plumbing – and leaks – by using the toilet, shower and bath
- 16% wish they'd spent the night at the property to discover how noisy the neighbours are
- 10% wish they'd checked all the electrics and plugs
But it doesn't have to be this way...
8 key checks make on a property viewing
Unless you're buying a new-build home, you're unlikely to find a property in pristine condition. But by doing all the necessary checks when viewing a property, potential buyers can confidently decide to put in an offer and avoid splashing extra cash on unexpected repairs. Here's what to check.
1. Doors and windows
Make sure that the locks on doors and windows are up to insurance standards. If not, be prepared to budget for the cost of new locks, as some insurance policies insist front and back doors have mortice locks.
Mortice locks are locks that are built into the door and usually operated with a key. Insurers prefer them because it lessens the chance of a burglar smashing an adjacent window and reaching through to unlatch the door from the inside.
Check that all the doors and windows open and close properly and whether the windows are double glazed and the frames in good order. If not, this is another cost you may need to budget for.
It's not just security to consider. Poorly maintained and draughty windows will mean it costs more to warm your home as the heat escapes. Not great for the environment – or your wallet.
Do a quick count to see if there are enough radiators to keep the place warm in the colder months and check they are in good working order.
Look also at where they are positioned and the size of them in proportion to the room. If you want the radiators replaced or moved, this will involve moving connecting pipework which can be disruptive and expensive.
The property may even have night storage heaters that take advantage of low energy tariffs at night to heat ceramic bricks that dispense the heat evenly throughout the day. Think about whether you would keep these or get them replaced.
The property might even have underfloor heating. If so, find out when it was installed, whether it uses hot water (a wet system) or is electric (a dry system) and if there is a warranty in place. Bear in mind that under-floor heating can be expensive to run.
If you're planning on installing underfloor heating, ask if it's been considered before and whether there were any potential stumbling blocks.
There are pros and cons to all different heating systems, so ask as many questions as you need to until you are fully comfortable with how it works.
Flush the toilet to make sure it not only has a powerful enough flush, but it also drains away sufficiently.
Similarly, turn on the taps to make sure they work and that both the flow of water and the pressure is adequate. When the tap is turned off, check that it doesn't drip, which could indicate that its washer has perished and needs replacing.
A dripping tap might not seem the worst offence in the world, but the cost will add up for anyone on a water meter.
Leave the hot tap running to test the hot water and also turn on more than one tap at the same time to see if that affects the pressure.
Pay particular attention to the shower. There are few things more infuriating than a feeble drip when you are expecting a warm jet in the morning. If there is an issue, investigate whether it's a blocked shower head or poor overall pressure – and what you can do about it.
You should also check that the shower tray and sink drain easily and that there are no nasty smells from the drains. Modern plumbing techniques should eliminate bad odours, so it could be a sign there's an issue.
Find out what make and model the boiler is, how old it is, and its service history.
Replacing a boiler can be a costly business – especially if you have to fork out just after moving to a new property.
Even more important than cost is safety. Boilers should be checked annually to monitor CO2 emissions and that flues are clear so it runs efficiently.
Ask if the sellers have a service history and when the next service is due. You also want to understand how the boiler functions. Is it a combi boiler that provides hot water and instant heating, or is it linked to a hot water tank, often found in the property's loft or attic space.
Turn all the lights on and off and make sure older switches are still in good working order. If any do not work, find out why.
Check that there are enough electrical sockets for your needs and that they are in the right locations.
Lighting can play an important role in making a house a home, so consider how the property will be lit during the twilight hours and into the night. Will is satisfy your needs, and if not, how easy and costly will it be to change?
Also check for lighting outside the property, particularly on your regular approach to the house. If you have steps, for example, it's important that you reduce the risk of an accident in the dark for both yourself, your family and any visitors who might not be familiar with your new home.
Keep an eye out for damp staining or discolouration and also note if there are any areas of condensation or peeling wallpaper – or if the property smells musty.
There can be a few reasons for damp in a property, these include it being poorly ventilated, not being damp proofed properly (or at all) or having the exterior in a state of disrepair. Some causes of damp can be more sinister – and expensive – than others.
Leaking pipes will contribute to damp and should be looked at by a plumber. Broken guttering, resulting in water running down the side of the property, can also be a suspect.
It's rarely easy to get a handle on the state of the roof when you're viewing a property for the first time, but there are clues you can look out for.
Missing tiles could be an indication that the roof needs work, as is broken and blocked guttering and rotting woodwork.
If the property has a fireplace, consider a chimney inspection to find out if it is in working order, whether it has a safety liner, and the last time it was swept.
While much of this should be pulled out in a home survey, it's better to have an idea before you put in an offer because it could lead to some expensive repairs. In short, don't be frightened to ask questions.
Find out who your neighbours would be and meet them. It doesn't have to be a laborious process, but just a quick hello will start off the relationship on good terms.
Although first impressions are not everything, a harmonious relationship with neighbours will make life easier all round.
While you are at the property, take time to listen for noise from them. If possible, try and visit the property at different times of day to see if this makes a difference.
The seller is legally obliged to tell you if there have been any disputes with neighbours, but you should do your own detective work too.
When it comes to noise, the neighbours aren't always to blame. Main roads and railway lines are pretty easy to acknowledge, but you could also be nowhere near an airport yet still under a flight path, or the country lane you think you're on might be being used as a high-speed cut-through by sneaky commuters.
DO: your own research
Gather all the information you can – and give it careful consideration – before going ahead and making an offer.
What is internet access like in the area? Has new planning permission been granted nearby? Are you paying a fair price per square footage? Are there any maintenance fees? How much homeowners insurance will you need to take out?
Also ensure your finances are in order. How much stamp duty will you need to pay? How much will your monthly mortgage payment be (the mortgage calculator provided on each Zoopla listing will help here)? Will your mortgage approval be straightforward? Should you use a mortgage broker?
Given that buying a home is such a big step, ask as many questions as possible because it’s vital to ensure you’re making the right decision before pressing the green light.
DON’T: be hasty
While many of us spend hours trawling through property websites, it's easy to get tunnel vision. We can be quick to fall in love with a place once we’ve actually seen it – or feel pressure to make a snap decision because of competition from other buyers.
When buying property, either as a primary residence, for rental income, or doing it up to make a reasonable profit, a rookie mistake could have far-reaching consequences – and create a lot of stress and expense further down the line.
You might also be interested in...
- Zoopla's handy Stamp Duty calculator
- Where to find the biggest property price reductions
- 9 ways you can help your child on to the property ladder
- 8 ways to keep your house purchase on track