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Questions to ask when viewing a house

It’s easy to get carried away when you think you’ve found your dream home. But no matter how perfect it seems, it’s always wise to do a bit of property probing to find out the facts. Have these house-viewing questions ready before you step over the threshold…

It’s easy to get carried away when you think you’ve found your dream home. But no matter how perfect it seems, it’s always wise to do a bit of property probing to find out the facts. Have these house-viewing questions ready before you step over the threshold…

Written by
Alex Hasty
Insurance comparison and finance expert
Reviewed by
Rachel Lacey
Insurance and money expert
Last Updated
31 OCTOBER 2022
8 min read
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How long has the house been up for sale?

The answer to this can be quite revealing. If the house has been on the market for more than three months, ask the estate agent why. Perhaps other buyers have been put off by something you don’t know about or maybe it’s overpriced.

If the house has been up for sale for a while, the sellers might be willing to accept a lower offer. So, it could work in your favour.

How long have the sellers lived there?

If the people selling have only lived there for a short time, this could be a red flag. Maybe they don’t get on with their neighbours or they don’t like the area.

On the other hand, they might be an older couple who’ve brought up their family there for the past 30 years. They may be more interested in a suitable family who will love their home, rather than the highest offer. In this case, you might need to charm them.

No matter how long they’ve been there, it’s important to find out why they’re selling.

Is there a chain?

Before you start thinking about putting in an offer, you’ll want to know exactly when the owners will be moving out. If they haven’t found another place yet or are in a chain, the whole process could take a while. Is it worth hanging on or should you keep looking to avoid the hassle of getting caught up in a chain?

What’s the area like?

If you have kids, you’ll want to know about local schools, parks and leisure centres in the area. Of course, you can do your own research, but the seller might be able to offer some valuable first-hand info on transport links, parking, local pubs and road noise. 

What work has been done on the house?

If any major renovations have been done, ask to see builders’ receipts, guarantees and any planning permissions. If they’ve extended without planning permission, you could end up having to tear down the extension.

Ask about any damp issues and whether they’ve been resolved. Minor damp problems that can be fixed could help you negotiate a lower price. And check with the seller whether the house has ever been flooded.

What’s included in the sale?

Make sure you know exactly what’s included in the sale. Are fixtures and fittings included? What about the garden shed and greenhouse? Are they leaving the satellite dish when they move?

What internet access do they have?

If the house is in a rural area, check what types of broadband are available. It could be an issue if you rely on an ultra-fast connection.

If you know the postcode of the property, you can check to see what broadband coverage and deals are available at the address.    

Can you see the Energy Performance Certificate?

It’s a legal requirement that the seller or estate agent makes an Energy Performance Certificate available to prospective buyers. The EPC can give you an idea of the property’s energy efficiency, and estimated energy costs and savings that could be made.

How much are the council tax and utility costs?

Ask what council tax band the property is in so you can check online how much it will cost you.

It’s also worth asking to see utility bills to get an idea of how much you’ll pay – or you could wait and get a copy from your conveyancing solicitor further down the line.

Can you turn on the taps?

It may seem a bit minor, but low water pressure is enough to put some buyers off. If it’s just a trickle, there could be larger problems looming.

How long does it take for hot water to come through? How old is the boiler and when was it last serviced?

What are the neighbours like?

Vendors are most likely to say, ‘They’re lovely – couldn’t wish for better.’ But, if they’ve had any past disputes with the neighbours, they’re legally obliged to tell you if you ask.

Did you know?

South-facing gardens are often listed as a ‘must have’ feature on property details. This is because, in the Northern Hemisphere, south-facing gives you more hours of sunlight during the day. A south-facing garden means you can make the most of natural light flooding your home, you can enjoy summer outdoor entertaining well into the evening, and you’ll have a greater choice of plants and flowers to grow.

If a south-facing home is important to you, don’t forget to ask which way the property faces, and which rooms get the most light. 

Top tips before the viewing

Here’s a few tips to ensure you’re as prepared as possible before you arrange a house viewing:

  • Check out the property from the outside, and drive around the neighbourhood to get a feel for the area – first impressions count and it could be enough to know if the property is worth pursuing or not.
  • Visit the property during the day and at night, to get an idea of traffic volume and noise.
  • Arrange to view the property with a friend who can offer an unbiased opinion – it’s also safer – you should try to avoid viewing a property alone.
  • Print out a list of important questions to ask so nothing slips your mind on viewing day. 

Compare cheap home insurance

Once you’ve found your dream home, you’ll want to make sure it’s protected. Compare home insurance quotes with us and see if you can find a cheaper deal.

Frequently asked questions

How long does a house viewing take?

While there’s no set rule, estate agents typically allocate a timeslot between 20 to 30 minutes for a first-time viewing.

If you’re interested in the property and you want to arrange a second, more in-depth viewing, let the agent know so they can schedule an appointment for up to an hour if necessary.

How should I act when viewing a house?

It’s best to be respectful, polite and friendly, especially if you’re viewing the property with the owner or tenant present. Be aware that it’s still their home, so be discreet and respectful of their personal space and belongings. They may not take too kindly to criticism of their décor or taste in furnishings.

An offer can be turned down simply because the owner takes a dislike to a prospective buyer, so establishing a good relationship with the vendors could help to smooth the sales process.

And if you fall in love with the place, try not to jump around with joy. If you’re too keen, the agent or owner might not budge on the price. Keep cool, show them you mean business and are interested enough to negotiate.

Can I take photos and videos during a house viewing?

Taking photos and videos during a house viewing is pretty much the accepted norm nowadays – however, it’s still polite to ask if it’s okay, just in case.

Should I take my children on a house viewing?

It’s probably best to view a house for the first time without younger kids in tow. They might get up to mischief or distract you from focusing on the property.

However, it’s worth taking them along for a second, shorter viewing – after all, it will be their home too, and their input and opinion is important.

How many times should I view a house?

If a house really grabs your interest, then it’s a good idea to view it more than once. In general, people will view a property between two to four times before making an offer, but you should view as many times as you need to be sure it’s the right one for you.

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