Affordable houses for first-time buyers are in high demand but the supply is notoriously low. So if you find one that matches your needs and budget, it’s important to move quickly — but not so fast that you forget to ask the important questions.
No question is too small or insignificant when viewing a house. After all, a house is one of the biggest financial investments most people will make in their lives, and you should have a clear picture of what you’re getting into before making the commitment.
Working out which are the most necessary questions to ask can be intimidating, but this house viewing checklist will help you approach the house viewing with a clear, rational mind instead of getting swept up in the excitement of a new home.
Before you’re ready for the house viewing, you should do a deep dive into the neighbourhood and property trends in the area. Not only will this give you a great idea of the community you’re moving into, but it’ll also help you make a market-related offer on your dream home.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself, a search engine, or your real estate agent before the house viewing:
Everyone has a checklist for their perfect home, but it’s important to get a comprehensive idea of what you want and can afford before viewing the house. Some items on your list might be negotiable in exchange for a good price or great neighbourhood — make sure you know what they are so you can set realistic expectations.
Some new homeowners wish to carry out extensive renovations to turn their house into a dream home, while others prefer to find a place that’s move-in ready. Both options are equally valid, but it’s important that you’re honest with yourself about how much time, money, and energy you’re willing to put into a ‘fixer-upper’.
Depending on your lifestyle and family requirements, it may be important to be near a school, grocery stores, public transport route, or a hospital.
If your house is much cheaper, follow up on this with the real estate agent during the viewing — it may require major renovations or repairs. If it’s more expensive, you might be able to use this information to negotiate a lower offer.
Do burglars, car thieves and vandals enjoy the freedom of your neighbourhood or is there a robust local watch group in place? Crime figures will affect your insurance premiums as well as your wellbeing.
Being close to certain locations, such as a power plant or salvage yard, can also lower your home’s value in the long run. If there’s been an influx of residents selling in the neighbourhood, it’s best to understand why before putting down an offer.
If it’s been on the market for a while and hasn’t sold, this puts you in a great position to negotiate a lower offer.
On the day of the viewing, pay attention to the local area as well as the home. Make note of the businesses and homes along your route.
Things like boarded-up businesses, homes in disrepair, or poorly maintained community facilities can give you deeper insight into the neighbourhood and whether your purchase will turn out to be a good investment.
Once you’ve arrived at the house viewing, go through each room with a fine-toothed comb. Carrying out repairs or renovations isn’t a deal breaker for all homeowners, but it’s important to have a good idea of how much additional budget might be required to ensure the house meets your needs.
Remember to take pictures throughout the house, especially of things that will need repairs. Real estate agents are skilled at getting great angles that can hide damages or make rooms seem larger, so having your own photos will be a reminder of what you did and didn’t like in each property. This is particularly important if you’re viewing multiple homes.
Some real estate agents will ask you not to take photos in personal areas, like bedrooms that are still furnished, so double check before you start snapping pictures.
While each property will require a unique approach, here are some of the general questions you should always ask a real estate agent:
Along with the questions above, these are some of the key things you should pay careful attention to:
Peeling paint, cracked roof tiles or an overgrown garden may indicate you’ll need to put extra money towards renovations or repairs in the near future, but they can also point to general neglect that may go deeper than cosmetic problems.
Don’t feel embarrassed to turn on the taps or the shower. Low water pressure can be a complex issue to fix, especially if it turns out the pipes are corroded. If you like strong water pressure and aren’t prepared to pay for a potentially pricey plumbing solution, this might be a deal breaker.
Like water pressure, plumbing issues can be costly and labour-intensive to repair. Pay attention to whether there is a musty smell, walls and floors feel unusually cold, and whether there are water droplets or visible mould on the walls. While you should pay extra attention to the kitchen and bathrooms, you should apply the same process in every room. Dampness issues can be caused by porous walls or penetrate from a neighbouring property.
Check that all doors and windows open and close properly because repairing or replacing these can be costly. If you’re willing to put in an offer, you may even be able to negotiate that the owner repairs all doors and windows as a condition of your offer. If they aren’t and you still love the house, make sure to budget for these repairs.
Renovations and recent paint jobs may simply point to the owner being determined to sell quickly (which is usually good news for a buyer), but paint jobs can also be a cover for mould or cracks. If you spot any recent work, ask the real estate agent to clarify what drove the decision.
Unallocated street parking isn’t always a big deal, but if you have kids or older relatives, carry equipment for work, or have a disability, knowing you have a dedicated parking spot can bring you peace of mind. If street parking is the only option, consider whether you would feel comfortable walking alone at night through the neighbourhood.
If you get wrapped up in the moment and forget to ask some important questions or check for damages, don’t be shy to ask the real estate agent—or even ask to view the house again. Minor upgrades are usually a given for homes that have been lived in, so it’s important to get a solid understanding of what are simply cosmetic fixes and what are major flaws.
You probably won’t want to drag a friend or family member along to every house viewing with you, but it is also a great idea to get a second opinion. Once you’ve seen a couple of houses and have a short list, ask someone you trust to go have another look with you. You never know what they might spot that you missed the first time around.
If it’s possible, arrange any subsequent viewings for a different time of the day so you can get an idea of how the lighting changes throughout the day. A room might have seemed sunlit the first time you viewed it, but it may turn out that the room only gets sunlight for an hour or two each day.
Here are some of the questions that might come to mind only after you've viewed the property:
Buying a home — especially if it’s your first time — can be a highly emotional process, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed.
Following this checklist will help you keep your mind clear and approach the house viewing rationally. Remember, every flaw or repair needed is an opportunity to negotiate the price lower, so don’t become discouraged if none of the homes you look at is completely perfect.
Looking for more information about buying a home, moving, or selling? Read the resources on our dedicated content hub to make sure you have all the information you need, every step of the way.