When you view a property it is easy to be distracted by small things like the colour of the carpet, but when it comes right down to it – the surface elements are easy to change. Look past the violent purple shag carpets or eye-watering wallpaper and look for things that can really affect the property long term.
On the Outside
1. Parking – Is there off-street parking, a garage, permit parking or no parking at all?
2. Roofs and gutters – are there slates or tiles are missing? Are the gutters clean? Are there streaks of water running down the walls, or signs of mould, that suggest leaks or poor maintenance? Flat roofs are particularly problematic so check them for signs of leaking or wear and tear.
3. Walls – Is the mortar on the brickwork cracking as this could suggest subsidence? Is the paintwork peeling? Have extensions been done well?
4. Windows – check that double glazed windows don't have condensation forming between the panes and that seals are in good repair. If the frames are wooden, what is their condition? Keep an eye out for rot or mould. Check if the windows have locks.
5. Garden – what direction does it face (if it is important to you, bring a compass to double-check). Ask the agent to clarify what features in the garden are included such as sheds. (Be aware that what you see is not necessarily what you get. To read about what a seller is entitled to take with them, click here). Also ask what areas are shared, if any. Be sure to clarify how the maintenance of these areas will work. Ask about the boundaries between properties to prevent any future mis-understandings.
On the Inside
1. Floorplan – Check the floorplan provided by the agent to check that your furniture will fit, but don't get too hung up on furniture – if the property ticks all the other boxes then simply get some new furniture.
2. Storage – Is there enough for your purposes? Fitted wardrobes, loft, garage? Could you add storage or de-clutter your belongings to make it work?
3. Décor – don't get too hung up on decoration. Paint, wallpaper and floor coverings are easy to change, so look past these things.
4. Heating – Is the property centrally heated? Is the boiler system an antique? When was it last serviced? This can be costly to replace. Is the house insulated? Is it double-glazed? Both can mean lower fuel bills.
5. Electrics – What about the state of the electrical wiring and the fuse box? Are there enough power points and what condition are they in?
6. Water – Run a tap or shower and check the water pressure. If there are lead pipes, they'll have to be replaced.
7. The Loft – check if it is insulated and also to see if there are any obvious problems – this is an issue that could be costly.
Trouble with a Capital T?
Look out for:
1. Smells that could suggest damp, mould or decay.
2. Damp on walls such as dark patches, peeling papers, bubbly paintwork, mould, newly painted sections of wall? Do the walls feel cold and damp? Is there mildew on the windows and window sills?
3. Subsidence could be a problem if there cracks in plasterwork in walls and ceilings (or brickwork outside)? Are there cracks around doors and windows? Do doors and windows 'stick'? Are there cracks at the join where an extension meets the main building?
4. Neighbourly noise – If the owners have the TV ,radio, a fan or other source of white noise on, have it turned down to check if you can you hear the people next door or upstairs?
If your careful viewing of a problem leads you to second guess offering on a property, but you are still interested, think about offering an amount that reflects the work that would need to be undertaken. It might give you an opportunity to bag a bargain and add value to the property quickly by lowering your offer and fixing the issues when you move in.
Remember that a survey is absolutely essential to ensure that you get a professional opinion on the state of the property as there may be issues that you just don't spot.
Ready to start looking for the home of your dreams? Call Northfields now to register on 020 8740 6622 or email us. We'll let you know about properties as soon as they come onto the market – and often before they ever hit the internet.