This is when it starts getting serious! The only way to truly appreciate a home is to see for yourself. Going round a few places will help you focus in on what really matters to you – but it will get confusing if you don’t get organised!
What to take on a viewing
A little preparation goes a long way. If you are seeing several homes, either one after another or over a course of a few weeks, then taking notes is the best way to differentiate one from another and to remind yourself which is which.
Take a digital camera. Take a picture of the front door and house number on your way in, so that you remember which home is which. Your photos will be separated by the front door.
Take a clip-board, with the agent’s details and a note pad. Jot down your observations as you go from room to room. Try to ignore the possessions in there – you aren’t buying the current owner’s lifestyle or furnishings. Decoration can be changed. Concentrate instead on the space, the natural light, the layout and the ambiance. Don’t forget to note which house the notes relate to.
Take your list of ‘must-have’ and ‘like-to-have’ things. Tick them off as you go. If you’re not sure, ask the agent. As you see more places, you may want to write a list of questions to take with you for each viewing. Again, identify the list to the home, so you don’t get them mixed up.
Most of all, take an open mind and some imagination. You may be impressed or appalled by what the current owner has done with the property, but none of that is your concern. Can you mentally empty the rooms and fill them with your things? If so, you can make a true judgement of whether the house will suit you.
Feedback and Second Viewings
All sellers, and their estate agents, like to have feedback from a viewing, even if it isn’t complementary! If you really didn’t like somewhere, the temptation is to ignore those messages from the agent asking your opinion. But don’t succumb. It’s not just that it’s polite and courteous to share your thoughts. It can also help you work out what’s good for you, and will give the agent a better understanding of your needs. Sometimes you might dislike something in a home which the agent can reassure you about, and you may reconsider a home you’d previously rejected after finding out a little extra information. More often the process of working out and explaining why one home didn’t do it for you, will help you understand more about what you really want. It will certainly help the agent to pick out homes that are more suitable. Giving feedback – even negative feedback – is always a good idea.
If you are taken with somewhere, though, add it to a shortlist for second viewings. Now is the time to do some proper research. Go and see the house – from the outside at least – at different times of day. Does the garden really catch the evening sun? Is there anywhere to park when everyone comes home from work? If you are going to live there, these things will matter, so it’s better to know before you buy!
For a second viewing, you should prepare a list of questions. You’ll want to know the council tax and utility bills. Test out the walking times to the shops and to town. Ask to see guarantees for works done. Look over the neighbourhood and think about whether you’d feel safe and secure. Don’t be afraid to ask about cracks in the plasterwork, stains on the ceiling. Ask about the neighbours – if the owner knows them by name and knows a bit about them, that speaks volumes. If not, the silence might tell you all you need.
At your first viewing you need to look past the décor to imagine if the house could become your home. On second look, though, you should be planning on the changes you would want to make, to decide whether it is worth the time and effort it will take. If there’s lots to do, that might well be reflected in the lower price you are willing to pay, even if the cosmetic details you want to change are not things that would lower the asking price.
In general terms, it’s worth visiting a place three times before you can be sure it will work for you, but if on second viewing your enthusiasm is confirmed or strengthened, then don’t hesitate. It’s better to make an offer, even a low one, early on, to make sure that your serious interest in the property goes on record. At least, then, you can be sure that the agent will tell you if someone else is interested or puts in a bid. You might even get the house for less than you expected.