Check, check and check again

Buying a property is arguably the biggest financial decision you will ever make, so it’s important to get it right.

However, the average buyer will probably only spend about 20 to 30 minutes at a viewing and only visit two or three times before putting in an offer and moving in.

Although first impressions count, and many people have a gut feel within minutes of stepping over the threshold, it’s still a good idea to go in armed with a checklist to make sure you are ruled by your head and not just by your heart when it comes to making a decision.

Here are a few top tips to help keep you on the right track.

Be prepared

First things first. Being legally prepared is perhaps the single most important thing you can do even before you start your search. Get your mortgage agreed in principle (if you need one) and ensure all necessary paperwork is up to date. This will give you a huge advantage over other prospective buyers. If you have a property to sell, ensure it’s sold subject to contract before you go looking. You don’t want to find your dream home and not be able to put in an offer as your current property hasn’t yet sold.

Ask a friend

If you can, don’t go alone. Take someone with you who you trust, who will cast their own critical eye over the place and give you an honest, and if necessary, ruthless opinion. If you really love it, it can be very tempting to ignore those nagging doubts and sign on the dotted line straight away. Having a person with you who is independent and detached from the situation enables a more balanced perspective to be taken. Potential issues are more likely to be spotted and flagged up and this allows you to make a more objective decision. Make use of the agent who shows you around the property as well. Don’t be afraid to ask awkward questions – they have to give honest answers!

Seeing is believing

View the property at least twice if you can. It’s all about heart vs head. The first time you visit you will probably be looking for the positives. The second viewing should be about nitpicking your way through each room as well as outside. Check the grouting, pointing, cracks in the walls both inside and out, signs of damp, loose bricks, missing or loose tiles, holes in the roof, signs of damp and dodgy wiring. Even if you are unsure, get a surveyor or other specialist to go in and check before you get too keen and put an offer in.


If it’s an older house updating the central heating system, plumbing and electrics may be required. The same is true of an outdated bathroom and/or kitchen and so when looking round, don’t be afraid to test things out. Open drawers and cupboards, check the switches and light pulls and turn on the taps. Check all the windows and the doors to see if they need replacing or repairing. Any upgrade will cost so being forewarned is to be forearmed.


Not all damp is a major problem but it’s essential to check for signs while you look round and certainly before you place an offer. If there are rooms affected, look for causes – it could be a build-up of condensation due to lack of ventilation or it could be something more serious such as a leak from the roof, tap, or pipe or even worse, rising damp. If damp is present, get a specialist in to check. You can make an offer based on the cost of any works which need to be done if necessary.

Fit for the future

Whatever stage of life you are at, it’s important to think about how your property will fit in and what you want and need from it. Is it just for a few years or will it be your forever home? Will it need to be big enough for any children you may have, do you need it to be near a good school or work? If it isn’t currently big enough, can you extend it and if you do will it be financially worth your while? Is the garden or outside space big enough? If you have a car or will end up getting one, is there parking on street or do you have a garage? Or do you need an electric charge point? All these questions need to be answered!

Location, location, location

It’s true, location really does matter. You can change most things about a property but not the location. If it’s not in the right area, will it work for you? Think about how you get to work or how your kids will get to school. Is it near a lively pub or club? If so, will you be happy with any potential noise? Is there a queue of traffic outside twice a day every day during the rush hour? If it’s in a rural or semi rural location, is there any building work planned nearby either in the immediate or long term future? Compromises will need to be made in any house search but no matter how wonderful the property is, the location it’s in will trump everything else about it, so think about the realities of living there. If necessary write a list of pros and cons.

Last year we helped 1,441 people move into their dream home. Call or pop into one of our branches today and see how we can do the same for you.