Buying a new property is much more than just a straightforward transaction. In order to find the right home for you and your family there are lots of things you need to bear in mind before you part with your hard-earned cash, and the viewing stage is vitally important. 

If you’re not sure what to look for when buying a house, our handy guide will help highlight areas of concern – and could end up saving you both time and money. So, if you’re ready to get started, we’ll begin with point number one:

Look up before you go in

Giving the roof a quick once over from street level is something that many people forget when viewing a property. Obviously, you’re not going to be able to get up close and personal, but you will be able to spot if any tiles are missing – or worse!

You’ll also be able to see if the roof looks relatively new or not by comparing it to surrounding properties. Newer roofs, when properly laid, are not only a good sign when it comes to avoiding expensive repairs, they can also reduce the cost of your insurance, too. 

Keep an eye out for tell-tale cracks

While a survey will show up major problems, it is possible to get clues yourself without the need to shell out for surveyors before you need to. Look out for big cracks in the walls and ceilings, especially around areas that will come under stress or are likely to move away from the main section of the property. 

Check around bay windows, close to any extensions if they are present, and end-of-terrace walls if applicable. Small cracks, often referred to as hairline, are normal, but larger, more pronounced gaps can be a sign of trouble, so be sure to take note of any you may see.

Paying for a surveyor may seem like an expense you can do without, but they really can be worth their weight in gold – especially in older properties. For more information, take a look at our homebuyers’ guide to surveys. 

Any signs of damp?

Damp is to be avoided whenever possible, as removing it and repairing the damage done can prove to be an extremely costly affair. Use multiple senses when checking for damp; don’t just rely on your eyes, keep your nose open, too. Sometimes, the smell will often give up the presence of damp before you see it. Ignore it at your peril.

Visual clues can be obvious, but it pays to look closely at a room, both top and bottom. Ceilings and skirting boards are often where damp will first show itself, so pay close attention to these areas, especially on external-facing walls.

Don’t be fooled by a lick of paint

Although a freshly decorated property will always be more attractive than a dull and dusty old room, it’s important not to be swayed by it. Paint can often hide a multitude of sins, so it may be worth questioning why a room has been recently decorated. 

Both damp and structural issues can be hidden for a while by a canny bit of brushwork, so it’s worth bearing in mind when viewing. Although you may prefer not to don the overalls yourself, a bit of decorating is far more appealing than dealing with larger problems that may be lurking behind the fresh coat of paint.

Check the plumbing

Any pipework you can find should be inspected for leaks and signs of water damage. Take a look inside the kitchen cupboards underneath the sink and run your hands over the pipes to ensure all is well. Older bathrooms, too, may have some exposed pipes you can take a look at, so give them more than just a cursory glance.Make enquiries about the age of the boiler, whether it has been regularly serviced, and if it is still under warranty. Newer boilers tend to have fewer moving parts, so manufacturers have extended their warranties in many instances and it’s now not unusual to find boilers with guarantees of up to seven years. Therefore, it’s always good to know where you stand when it comes to this essential appliance.

Check the outside drainage and any other external pipework or taps as well. Make sure everything is in good working order and that water doesn’t ‘pool’ in the centre of the patio, if there is one. Give the guttering a look as well.

Inspect the electrics

With more and more of us using increasing numbers of gadgets, electrical faults are, unfortunately, becoming increasingly prevalent. Old wiring can be dangerous and cost a pretty penny to replace, so take a look at power points and any wiring that you can find while you are looking around.

Fuse boards can also be a good indicator of an electrical systems age. Does it look out of date to you? If it appears to be from another age, the chances are good that the wiring is as well.

Is the property an energy money pit?

Heating costs are increasing all the time, so it’s well worth asking about the insulation already present in the home. A properly insulated property can have a dramatic effect on energy bills and how comfortable you’ll feel whilst living there. Take a look in the attic to see if insulation has been laid and check water pipes for lagging, all will help reduce your monthly outgoings.

Double glazing will also help prevent heat escaping during the winter months. Take a look at the windows to see how modern they are and whether or not they are going to need replacing in the near future.

Sufficient storage?

We’ve all got stuff we’d rather keep out of sight, yet many people forget to stop and consider the storage options of a property during a viewing. Make certain that there’s enough cupboard space for your needs as it’s often impossible to add more at a later date. Newer homes tend to have less than older properties, so be extra careful when looking around a recently built property.

Listen up

Many older homes have poor quality soundproofing, especially terraced homes. Some crafty sellers will have a television or radio on while your viewing in order to mask the next door neighbours’ noise. Ask them politely if they’d mind turning the sound down while you take a look around. 

North, East, South or West?

Checking to see which way the property faces is important to remember, especially if you are viewing in the winter when everything seems a little murky. South facing homes enjoy far more light than north facing ones, and they can be a lot warmer, too.

A light, bright room is far more appealing than a dark and dismal one, so be sure to whip out your smartphone’s compass when viewing. Remember, too, that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east, making west, south-westerly, and south-facing rear gardens more favourable.

Once you’re done with the home, check out the area

It’s important to get a feel for what’s around the home as well as what’s in it. If you’re new to the area, take a little time to explore and look out for any potentially problematic stuff. Is there a pub nearby that could bring people to your street late at night? What are the schools like locally? Do you have easy access to public transport? What is access by road like? Does the house back onto train tracks? Are there any shops within walking distance? 

All of these things, and many more, should be considered before you take things to the next level.

Are you looking to move?

If you are thinking of buying a house in and around East London and West Essex, we’re here to help. Give our expert team a call or pop into one of our offices to explore the fabulous homes we have for sale.

Wanstead office – 020 8989 2091 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Buckhurst Hill office - 020 8504 5403 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

what to look for when buying a house