Viewing a property is an emotional experience and it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. But a property viewing isn’t just about looking around and deciding if you like what you see. It’s also an amazing opportunity to quiz the estate agent and find out plenty of information that can help you decide if it’s the right property for you.
‘’What should you ask, though? According to ‘Kate Randall – Managing Director‘ at Parkers, these are the 10 questions that you should be asking when viewing a property to be sure you don’t miss anything!”
In this guide, we’ll:
- Reveal the 10 questions you should always ask the agent on a viewing
- Give you some amazing tips that you can action during a viewing to make sure you get the most from it
How long does a house viewing take?
A typical first viewing should take 20-30 minutes, which is enough time for you to explore the property’s interior and chat to the estate agent.
Spending some time outside is also recommended to get a feel for the property’s exterior condition.
A second viewing may take longer, sometimes more than 60 minutes, as you’ll need time to do measurements and look around the property in much more detail.
How should you act when viewing a house?
Viewing someone else’s home requires a certain etiquette – and as a rule, you should act as you would in your own property by:
- Turning up on time for your viewing
- Phoning the estate agent if you’re going to be late, or need to reschedule
- Taking your shoes off when entering the property
- Asking the agent before opening cupboards, windows, or wardrobes, or turning on taps and flushing toilets
- Keeping your questions for the estate agent, even if you meet the sellers during the viewing
- Ensuring young children are well behaved and don’t run around the property
- Leaving pets at home
- Switching off your phone, or leaving it on ‘silent’ during your viewing
What should you not do when viewing a house?
Selling yourself as a reliable and professional buyer is hugely important you should make a good impression by not:
- Making any unnecessary noise that could disturb neighbours, or the property owners if they’re in
- Touching or moving any of the seller’s personal items during the viewing
- Bringing food or drinks, which could cause damage to the property
- Saying more than you should, including criticising the property’s décor or upkeep when in earshot of the estate agent
The house viewing questions you should always ask
1. How long has the property been on the market?
Knowing how long a property has been up for sale can help you assess where to pitch your offer, should you wish to make one.
In a healthy market, a property that’s been unsold for more than three months could mean other buyers have spotted a potential problem.
Or it could be that the property is simply overpriced.
The average amount of time to sell
At the start of 2022, it was taking an average of 44 days for sellers to secure an offer, according to Rightmove’s House Price Index.
2. What items are included with the property?
Fully understanding what’s included with the sale of the property you’re viewing can help you decide if you’re getting value for money should you make an offer.
In most cases, all property fixtures (everything that’s a fixed item) will be left behind by the seller, including:
- Shower units
- Built-in storage like wardrobes
- Laminate or hard flooring
- Integrated appliances like a fridge freezer and dishwasher
- Kitchen units and worktops
Freestanding items, however, will generally be taken by the seller when they move out, including:
- Furniture, including beds and soft furnishings
- Items like mirrors and artwork
- Freestanding appliances like a fridge freezer, washing machine, and dishwasher
Knowing what the seller is leaving behind can help you plan for making an offer and negotiating over the asking price.
And it can also help if you’re moving with very few items of your own, so don’t be afraid to ask if the seller would be willing to include freestanding items with the sale
3. How long have the vendors lived there?
Knowing how long the sellers have lived at the property you’re viewing can help give you a better idea of what it would be like to live there yourself.
If they’ve been there for several years, that would indicate they’ve been very happy in their home.
But if they’re selling after less than 12 months, for example, that could hint at either a problem with the property or issues with neighbours.
Sellers are legally obligated to tell you if they’ve had disputes with neighbours, so don’t be afraid to ask this as a follow-up question.
How soon can a vendor sell after buying a property?
While there’s no law stipulating how soon someone can sell after buying, most lenders won’t offer a mortgage to a new buyer if the seller has lived in their property for less than six months.
The six-month ‘rule’ starts from the date the property was registered with the Land Registry, too, rather than the date the sale completed.
4. How many owners has the property had?
Ask the agent how many previous owners the property has had, as a high turnover of owners can indicate potential problems with the property, neighbours, or area.
You may also be able to find out this information online.
The lower the number of previous owners, the more likely those people were to have been happy living in the property.
A higher number could suggest otherwise.
How long do people stay in their homes?
In the 1980s, people moved home every eight years on average.
But since then, homeowners have stayed in their properties much longer.
According to Zoopla, the average person now stays in a property for 21 years.
5. How did the agent and vendor reach the asking price figure?
A good estate agent will be able to back up a property's asking price with the reasons why they reached that figure.
They should know the local market conditions and figures that similar homes have sold for in the area.
Asking this question, though, could provide you with a great bargaining chip if the agent feels the property is slightly overpriced.
How do agents value a property?
When valuing a property, an estate agent will consider:
- The values and sale prices of other properties in the street/area
- The number of bedrooms a property has
- Local schools, transport links, and amenities
- Room sizes, unique features, and renovation work
- The age and quality of major installations like electrics and heating
- The age and condition of roofing and the property’s exterior
6. Have the sellers already found a property?
Being part of a long property chain can be more complicated and stressful for all concerned.
So, ask the agent about the seller’s situation.
Have they found a property to buy, or are they still looking?
Perhaps they’re moving into rented accommodation, making the property chain-free.
Understanding a seller’s situation and being able to sell yourself as a reliable and proceedable buyer can also help with deciding what kind of offer to make, if any.
How often do property chains collapse?
It’s estimated that one in three property chains collapse before completion.
In a market with strong buyer demand, competition for the properties available is high, meaning buyers often feel pressured to make a quick decision, before later changing their minds.
7. What modifications have been done at the property?
Find out from the agent about any work that has been completed on the property by the current owners.
You should also ask to see any guarantees on renovation work carried out by trades and planning permission for major work.
If the right permission wasn’t obtained by the current owners, you could be forced to correct any work should you buy the property.
Planning permission, conservation areas and article 4 directions
Find out from the agent if the property you’re viewing lies in a conservation or article 4 area.
Conservation areas and locations with local authority article 4 directions have stricter planning rules – meaning you may not be able to carry out your own renovation work in the future.
Listed buildings, too, are subject to tighter planning rules, so be aware of this when on a viewing.
All of these issues should come up during the conveyancing process should you buy the property but finding out about restrictions earlier can help you make a sound decision on whether to offer.
8. How much are the council tax and utility costs?
As well as the overall purchase price of a property, it's also important to know what your monthly outgoings will be when you move in so you can budget effectively.
Ask the estate agent which council tax band the property is in and what the annual cost is.
The property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) should also shed some light on the potential costs you’ll be facing from gas and electricity, so request to see it.
EPC rules when selling a property
It’s a legal requirement for a property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to be provided to potential buyers as soon as a property is placed on the market.
EPCs are valid for 10 years, so if the one provided with the property you’re viewing is close to that expiry, find out if any energy efficiency work has been carried out on the property since the certificate was issued.
9. How good is the water pressure?
Out of courtesy and respect for the seller’s property, always ask the estate agent first before turning on any taps.
If they’re okay with this, testing the water pressure will give you a great indication of how well the plumbing in the property functions.
If the pressure is low, or the hot water takes a long time to come through, this could indicate that work on the system is required – at your expense if you buy the property.
10. How fast is the broadband?
If the property you’re viewing is in an urban location, there should be no issues with broadband speed and reliability.
Rural properties, however, can sometimes experience slower speeds, so ask the agent for details on this.
If you need fast broadband for business use, find out if the connection to the house is fibre-optic all the way to the property, or part fibre-optic, part copper connection.
Top tips for house viewings
1. Find out if the property is leasehold or freehold
When viewing a flat or apartment, find out from the agent whether the property is being sold on a freehold or leasehold basis.
Most houses are freehold, while the majority of flats are leasehold.
A freehold property means you’d own the property and the land beneath it should you buy,
A leasehold property, however, means you’ll be buying the right to own the property from the freeholder for the amount of time specified in the lease.
How long is the lease?
If the property you’re viewing is leasehold, ask the agent how long is left on the lease.
A lease with less than 70 years remaining could mean you’d have problems securing a mortgage on the property, as lenders will look for leases that extend for 40 years beyond your mortgage term.
Is the property shared freehold?
Sometimes, it’s possible for leaseholders to purchase the freehold of the building from the freeholder.
If the property you’re viewing is on a shared freehold, you’d be purchasing a share in the management company set up by the leaseholders to look after the overall building.
This means you’d have more control over property maintenance alongside the other leaseholders, but is also more responsibility.
2. Take your time looking around
Make sure you spend at least 20 minutes looking around the property you’re viewing for the first time.
This will give you enough time to get a good feel for the property, its condition and how it could work for you if you were to buy it.
Don’t feel rushed at any stage and spread the time you have between looking around and asking the estate agent everything you want to know about the property and its history.
3. Check the exterior
As well as time spent looking around the inside of the property you’re viewing, spend some time outside to check its exterior, too.
Look up at the roof to assess its condition and check exterior downpipes and drains for signs of damage or blockage.
Issues with exterior drainage can cause penetrating damp inside the property, which can be costly to rectify.
If you go on to buy the property and have a survey carried out, you’ll be able to note any concerns you have with the surveyor in advance because you were thorough during your viewing.
4. Use your sense of smell
If the property you’re viewing smells of fresh paint, ask the agent why decorating work was done so close to your appointment.
If the property has an issue with damp, decorating work may have been carried out in an attempt to cover it up.
Damp itself gives off a pungent, musty smell, so also look out for this, or strong air fresheners which may be a bid to hide it.
5. View again at a different time of day
Properties can look and feel different depending on the time of day.
So, always view a property you’re interested in more than once, with your second viewing taking place at a different time to your first.
Examine how the light entering the property differs between the morning and afternoon and think about your needs if you were living there.
Viewing mid-morning, for example, could also mean the property was quieter than at 6pm during the rush-hour.
6. Look around the area
Before or after your viewing appointment, spend at least 30 minutes exploring the area around the property.
Look for the things that are important to you and how close they are – for example, pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, schools, and transport links like train stations and bus stops.
Visit the area at different times of day, too, so you can assess noise levels.