It’s easy to get carried away when searching for a new place to live. You want to find your dream home, your own safe haven.
But even if you get that “this is the one” feeling as soon as you walk through the door, be sure to check it out properly. Your home is one of the most important and expensive purchases you’ll ever make; it may be the place you live for many years.
Don’t remember all the things you should have looked for after you’ve left. Instead, keep these tips in mind and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
There may be some clear indications, such as a musty smell and mould or mildew on the walls or ceilings. Perhaps the plaster is flaking away or there are blisters on the paintwork. But damp isn’t always obvious, especially if a room has been recently decorated to cover it up. Make sure you look closely near the ceilings and around skirting boards.
If you decide to go ahead and make an offer then a survey will be part of the buying process, but keep your eyes open for warning signs. Hairline cracks aren’t unusual, but large ones could mean there’s a problem. Examine the areas where any extensions adjoin the main structure and, if there are bay windows, see if they are bowing or falling away.
You might not have your heart set on a south-facing garden or a bedroom where you wake to the sunrise, but where light falls at different times of the day makes a big difference to how a home feels and how well plants and flowers will grow. It’s worth checking, and if you have a smartphone it’s quick and easy to do – most models have a built-in compass.
You might love the place, but make sure there are enough rooms for your needs and that they’re big enough for your furniture. How much storage space is there? Is there room to install extra cupboards and shelves, or for free-standing units? Newer properties especially can be short on places to stash objects out of view, so think about where you’ll keep items like your vacuum cleaner or ironing board.
If the property has wooden window frames and you can push your finger into them easily, they are likely to be rotten. If it has double-glazing and you can see condensation between the panes, this indicates the seals have gone. Don’t be afraid to ask how old the roof is, especially if it’s flat; life-expectancy depends on the materials used and if it needs replacing soon that will be an additional and substantial costs to add into your budget.
Rewiring a home can be expensive, so at the very least check out the fuse board – if it’s old and outdated, the wiring could be too. Look at the condition of power sockets and light switches. Ask if the water pipes are insulated, and how old the boiler is. Running the taps will give you an idea of the water pressure; do so both upstairs and down.
If there’s a loft or attic, is it easy to access? Is it boarded so that you can move around safely? Check whether it’s insulated or whether there are any leaks. If you’re likely to want extra living space further down the line, assess whether it could be converted.
Make sure you look at where external drains are located, and their levels. See how accessible they are and that they are functioning properly. If you have any concerns about drainage for a property you want to buy, make sure you get a structural survey.
If you view a property and can imagine where your own furniture would go or where you’d hang pictures, then chances are you’ll want to make an offer.
Just make sure you see the place as it really is, looking beyond any staging that might have been carried out. Arrange a further viewing for a different time of day so that you can see it in a new light – literally. This will also give you the opportunity to see and learn more about the area – neighbourhoods aren’t usually the same at 8pm as at 11am, for example – and hopefully confirm that this is the place for you.