Tips for an effective viewing for first-time buyers

Buying your first home, either alone or as a couple, is an exciting time. Without property to sell, you can afford to take your time in order to find your dream home and, in a buoyant housing market, choose from a wide portfolio of potential properties.

In the entire process of purchasing a property, viewing potential homes is the most important part, as this is when you’ll make those snap decisions about the properties in which you are most interested. But it’s easy to get carried away by the romantic notion of owning your own home, so following these tips will help you to make a considered, rather than a rash, judgement:

Remember it isn’t your home

Few properties are perfect in every respect, so falling in love with a house or apartment can blinker your view and prevent you from seeing its disadvantages objectively. When viewing a property, try not to regard it as your future home, but simply a building with positive and negative aspects that need to be evaluated.

Always visit more than once

If you’re serious about a property, ask the estate agent if you can visit again – and again, if necessary. At the end of a busy day viewing properties, it’s easy to forget about the idiosyncrasies of each one and you will never see everything that you need the first time that you look round. If possible, arrange your second viewing for a different time of day, such as in the evening, during a weekend or at rush hour.

Don’t just focus on the house

Buying a home isn’t just about living within the four walls, but in the wider community as well. For example, if there’s a play area outside your home that is a magnet for noisy youths every evening, it’s likely to disturb you when you try to settle down to an evening of relaxation. So when you view a property, take a little extra time to walk around the neighbourhood and always revisit at the critical times of day: during the rush hour, in the evenings, and over the weekend.

Be prepared to ask probing questions

Few properties are presented in show home condition, but expect that an extra effort will have been made to smarten up a house when you visit. However, look for the warning signs of neglect or unfinished jobs, such as peeling window sills, dripping taps or missing roof tiles, as these could suggest that other, more serious maintenance problems also lie unresolved. This isn’t always the case, but you need to be confident that you’re not buying into expensive repair bills.

Engage all your senses

More serious maintenance issues may be difficult to spot so you’ll need to engage all your senses when you view a property. Damp, for example, which can be easily painted over or concealed behind furniture, exudes a musty smell that is difficult to disguise. Cracks in the brickwork, particularly close to ground level around the outside of the building, could be indicative of subsidence. While these sorts of problems shouldn’t prevent you from making an offer if the property exactly meets your needs, you’ll certainly need expert advice before committing to the purchase.

Remember, conducting a viewing of a property is an information-gathering exercise that will help to establish if a house or apartment is right for your needs and your lifestyle. Once you’ve had your offer accepted and the legal work has begun, withdrawing from the purchase is far from ideal, so it’s better to enter into the process confident that you’ve made the right decision.