Once you have found a property you feel you like, make sure you learn as much as possible about it. Even if it seems perfect at first glance, try to think about it from all angles. And write everything down - the best house-hunters take notes on each property they view which they can compare later.
Make at least two visits. View the house in the daylight and at night. Come at rush hour, as you could get a nasty surprise - is the road used as a short-cut by motorists?
- Check what fixtures and fittings will be left by the previous owner
- Consider the layout of the house - are there any unusual shaped rooms that it would be difficult to fit furniture or appliances into? Are there are enough power points?
- Don't be put off by the seller's choice of decor - try to imagine the house with your own furniture and style
State of Repair
- Insulation: is the roof well-insulated? Go into the loft and turn off the light - you shouldn't be able to see any patches of day-light. Is there wall-cavity insulation?
- Central Heating: is the central heating system efficient? How old is it? Is it gas or electricity-powered? Ask to see a winter heating bill as this can help give an idea about the quality of insulation
- Plumbing: Are the pipes and the boiler lagged? How old is the piping? Lead piping will need replacing
- Plug sockets: How old are they? If they are the old-fashioned, round-pin type, re-wiring will probably be required
Structural Problems - Inside
- Subsidence: look for cracks in ceilings and walls, doors that stick or don't hang correctly
- Damp: You can smell damp, so use your nose. Mould, walls which are damp to the touch, flaking paintwork or wallpaper which is peeling off are also signs of damp. Be wary of new paint or wallpaper which could be hiding problems underneath
- Condensation problems: rotting window frames can be a sign of this. If they are very soft to the touch this means they are rotten. Make sure the bathrooms and kitchen are well ventilated
- Woodworm: indicates by holes in woodwork
Structural Problems - Outside
- Subsidence: look for big cracks in the walls, a bent chimney stack, or an uneven roofline
- Damp: examine for missing roof tiles, and check the brickwork and mortar as cracks can let in damp
- Root damage to foundations: if there are any big trees nearby this could cause problems
NB: Inspecting the property yourself does NOT avoid the need for a professional survey