Use all your senses to spot check a property
Did you know it’s possible to use almost all your senses to get a good feel for a property you are viewing? Buyers tend to rely heavily on what they see – and there’s nothing wrong with that – but we explain how other senses can help you make informed choices and ask the right questions.
Although it will have been the agent’s photographs that attracted you to the property, nothing beats seeing a house or flat in the flesh. The key to a successful viewing is to see past anything that will move out with the property’s current owner and concentrate on the ‘bones’ of the property instead.
There are a number of occurrences that could spell trouble and it pays to know where to look. Check window frames and corners of rooms for black mould, especially in kitchens, bathrooms and spaces where wet washing is dried. Flaking paint and water-stained wallpaper can also be a sign of excess moisture in the walls and even damp.
Limescale should also be on your watch list. A chalky build up around taps and showerheads is a good indication of hard water, which can also fur up boilers, pipes and appliances. And don’t forget to see if door and window frames are wonky – anything sloping may suggest subsidence.
When it comes to the exterior, moss on the bricks around downpipes, plants growing in gutters and missing roof tiles suggest water could penetrate the property.
Trawl the internet and you’ll find article after article suggesting the aroma of freshly baked bread and ground coffee will entice buyers but be aware if there’s an assault on your nostrils as soon as you step inside a property. Air fresheners and scented candles may be deployed to cover up all manner of nasty whiffs, although it’s only natural to want to mask pungent cooking or pets.
If the owner hasn’t artificially scented the air, you should easily be able to smell damp as it has a distinct earthy, fusty aroma. Another smell that lingers is rotten eggs. While this commonly suggests there is a blocked drain or a poorly flushing loo, a sulphur-like eggy smell can also be the sign of a gas leak.
Although it might not feel a natural action, touching elements of a property will give you real-time feedback. If you’re viewing in the colder months, place your hands on the inside of any external walls. If they’re very cold, it could suggest the property is of concrete construction. The subsequent disparity between a freezing wall and warm, internal air could increase the chances of condensation and, therefore, mould.
If the problem is severe, walls can even feel wet to the touch. Walls can also feel wet if they have been freshly painted – a sign that the owner has quickly covered up something they don’t want potential buyers to see.
Winter is also a good time to check the health of the central heating. If the system is on when you visit, carefully feel the radiators to identify if there are any cold spots and to establish if all the radiators are actually working.
If it’s breezy outside and there’s a rattling sound, it could be sash windows that are not sitting properly in their frames. Old windows can also emit a whistling sound in windy weather, indicating the seal or putty holding the glass in is damaged or missing.
Scratching and scurry sounds are different red flags. It is possible for rodents to live in wall cavities and lofts, making their home in insulation, gnawing through cables and contaminating areas.
Another sound to listen for in walls and lofts is running water. While it’s normal to hear the whooshing of water when people bathe or flush the loo, a constant trickle or drip from within the walls may be attributed to a leak. While not a running sound, water that bubbles or pops from the central heating boiler is another concern.
While the above are more traditional tests, modern day life demands modern day checks. It’s worth making and receiving a mobile phone call within the property to check the reception.
Essential viewing kit list
- Pre-written list of questions to ask the owner or agent: draw up a list of questions to take with you – this will prevent you from forgetting to ask anything critical.
- Spirit level to check window sills and hard-surface floors: subsidence can cause floors to sink and window sills to slope, so a spirit level can help you determine if surfaces are flat.
- Pen and paper/notes app to jot down questions: you’ll probably have more questions to ask as you move from room-to-room – don’t rely on your memory to remember them all.
- Fully charged mobile phone: as well as to check the reception and to take notes, it can be helpful to take your own photos and videos but you must ask the homeowner’s permission first.
If you would like any advice on viewing a property, please don’t hesitate to contact our team.
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