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12 key things to look for when viewing a house

5 mins read
by Lisa-Marie Voneshen
Last updated Thursday, January 11, 2024

Considering buying a house? Here’s what you need to look out for and how to spot any issues so you don’t make an expensive mistake.

Buying a house is one of the biggest – and most expensive – decisions you’ll make in your life. 

It’s essential that you know what to look for when viewing a property, so you don’t end up making a decision you’ll regret.  

We’ll reveal 12 things to look out for when viewing a house.  

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1. Is there damp or mould? 

If there’s a mouldy smell, flaky plaster or watermarked walls or ceilings in the property, it may have issues with damp and mould, which can cause many problems, including structural issues.

A home survey should be able to pinpoint any issues with water damage and the causes.  

How do I spot this? Pay attention to the ceiling and the skirting boards, as well as any mouldy smells. If a room has recently been repainted, the owner could be trying to cover up any damp.  

2. Is the property structurally sound? 

Any structural issues can be expensive to fix, so this can be a huge issue.

While there are tell-tale signs of structural issues, a house survey is the best way to spot risks and how much it’ll cost to fix any problems. 

How do I spot this? Look out for any big cracks, particularly around any extensions, walls and windows, as well as bulging or bowing in external walls. Missing or loose roof tiles and broken guttering are also worth keeping an eye out for.   

3. What’s the condition of the plumbing? 

Plumbing issues, whether it’s faulty radiators or old boilers, can cost you dearly. 

How do I spot this? It’s a good idea to ask about the condition of the boiler, including how old it is, and check that the pipes are insulated and the radiators work. You can also run the taps to check the water pressure.  

4. How old is the roof, and what’s the attic’s condition? 

Newer roofs tend to last around 20 years, depending on the materials used, while an attic is hugely valuable in any property as it offers more storage space or even an extra room. 

How do I spot this? While you can look at the roof’s condition, you should ask how old it is and consider a roof inspection to highlight any potential issues. An energy performance certificate (EPC) will confirm how insulated the attic is, but you could also consider an attic inspection.  

5. How energy efficient is the property? 

You should get an EPC before completion, which will reveal the property’s typical energy costs and steps you can take to save energy and money.  

How do I spot this? Aside from an EPC, find out if the windows are double or triple-glazed, and check whether there’s condensation between the window panes, as this means they are faulty. You should push your finger into wooden window frames – if it easily goes in, they are rotten.  

6. Is the wiring in good condition? 

Poor wiring is not only dangerous but also a pricey problem to fix.  

How do I spot this? Check out the fuse board and get a house survey to confirm its condition and whether it needs replacing. It’s also worth checking if you’ll need more power points, as there can be fewer than expected in older properties.  

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7. Is the house big enough for your needs? 

This depends on your circumstances. For example, are you looking for a house to start a family? Would you prefer to have more storage space or room to expand? Are the rooms big enough? 

How do I spot this? Much of this is down to personal preferences, but be wary of how new builds are staged, as they sometimes use scaled-down furniture to make the rooms look bigger. If you want to keep any furnishings or fittings, it’s worth checking beforehand.  

8. Can I renovate the house? 

If you’re considering buying a listed property, there are likely to be limits to the renovation work that can be done, and you may need planning permission for any work.  

9. What’s the local area like? 

This is an easy one to overlook but take the time to scope out the local area at different times. 

How do I spot this? Have a walk around the local area after your viewing. How’s public transport? Are you close to any shops? Are there any nearby noisy pubs, train stations or busy roads? Are you near any green spaces? How long’s your commute? Are the neighbours pleasant or noisy? Answering many of these questions can ensure you choose the right area.  

Learn more: The happiest places to live in the UK

10. Are you happy with the garden, and is it overlooked? 

If the house has a garden, consider whether it’s big enough for your needs – or too much to handle!

Also, look beyond the garden to check whether any other properties are overlooking your garden, which means less privacy.  

How do I spot this? When looking at the garden, consider whether it meets all your needs and if other properties overlook it, if this is a deal-breaker or if there are ways to increase privacy. 

11. Which way does the house face? 

This may be odd, but where your house faces determines how much sunlight you’ll enjoy, especially in the garden.

A south-facing garden typically benefits from the most sunlight, while north-facing properties are shadier with more consistent temperatures.

East-facing gardens tend to have more sunshine in the morning, while west-facing ones have more in the afternoons and evenings. 

How do I spot this? Simply stand in the garden and look outwards with a compass, which should tell you which way the house faces. So, if the compass says ‘north’, your garden is north-facing. 

12. Can you afford the property? 

This is the most crucial factor. Before you start viewings, ensure your deposit is big enough and get a mortgage in principle to determine how much you can borrow without a hard credit check.

Also, make sure you can afford your mortgage payments and handle any volatility with rates.  

Buying a house is a life-changing decision.

While there is a lot to consider, it’s worth taking your time to find the right property.

It’s also a good idea to talk to a mortgage broker to find the best deal for you based on your personal circumstances. 

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Lisa-Marie Voneshen
Lisa-Marie Voneshen is a Senior Content Writer at Unbiased. She is an award-winning journalist with nearly a decade of experience writing and editing content across various areas, including personal finance and investing.