How thoroughly should you check out a new property before buying it?

Buying a home is arguably one of the biggest financial decisions you will ever make, so what lengths should you go to to ensure you’re making the right property choice?

Related topics:  Property,  House Hunters,  Viewing
Property | Reporter
19th January 2024
Estate Agent 703
"In the absence of the perfect try-before-you-buy option of a short-term let, or a cheeky request to spend the night, there are many tactics a buyer can employ to determine how suitable a property is"
- Rachel Johnston - Stacks Property Search

James Greenwood, MD of Stacks Property Search, once asked a vendor if his buyer clients could spend a night in the property they were interested in buying.

There was a concern about the property’s position close to a railway line, and James felt that the best way for them to establish how disturbing the trains would be was to experience them first-hand.

He says: “This was one of the most important decisions of my client’s life. The vendors were incredibly accommodating and suggested they come for the evening and the night. My clients cooked them dinner and had a lovely evening with the vendors, and they were able to check out just how disturbing the trains were. The moral of the story is that nobody should be too embarrassed to ask!

“At the opposite end of the spectrum was the Covid trend for buying properties unseen. While we do help buyers who logistically can’t visit a property to make the best-informed decision possible, we strongly advise against this strategy unless there’s no alternative. A reliable and trusted third party should stand in as the buyer’s eyes and ears.”

Louise Ridings of Stacks Property Search adds: “The reality of course generally falls somewhere in between these two extremes.

“A short-term let can be a buyer’s dream. If you’re fortunate enough to be interested in a property that is listed on a holiday letting site such as Airbnb, we would strongly recommend a buyer book a stay. It’s the best possible version of viewing, allowing a buyer to check out all aspects of a property, its immediate surroundings, the neighbours, and the wider area.

"And equally importantly, the ‘feel’ of a property, those intangible aspects that make the difference between a house and a home.”

Clare Coode of Stacks Property Search says: “In Cornwall, we buy many second homes for clients so a short-term rental is often an option.

"On one occasion clients fell in love with an old stone cottage on the coast. It needed a lot of work and they rented the property for a week in November. They knew the property was in bad repair, but I thought that a week in the depths of winter in a damp cottage with low water pressure could easily put them off.

"They were blessed with good weather, the baths ran hot, and they loved every moment. The purchase went ahead.”

Rachel Johnston of Stacks Property Search says: “In the absence of the perfect try before you buy option of a short-term let, or a cheeky request to spend the night, there are many tactics a buyer can employ to determine how suitable a property is.

“If a buyer has specific concerns, then focus on these. For instance, local blight such as road or rail noise, or local traffic for commuting or school run purposes, or how the community feels and operates.

“Staying in the area or village will give a buyer a much better idea of the place itself than a series of viewings. Check into a pub, hotel, or Airbnb, or if none of those options are possible, hire a campervan and park it as close to the property as possible.

"Visit the property at different times of the day and week; do the cycle/walk / drive to school/work/train station at the appropriate time of day; eat in the pub, knock on the neighbours’ doors and initiate a chat, have a coffee at the café, shop at the local store, go to a church service, take the children to the park, turn up as a ‘guest’ to societies that you’re interested in – whether that’s horticultural, literary, or historical; take the dogs for a walk, talk to as many locals as you come across.

“You can also get a good feel for an area by checking out the local social media sites and looking at notice boards.

“At the very least, make sure you visit the property at different times of the day/week, video your viewing so you can remind yourself at leisure of the things you can’t remember, and aim to see the property in shocking weather!

“Embarrassment should never be a hurdle to gaining as much insight as possible. Generally speaking, people love to chat, are welcoming and will go out of their way to be helpful and accommodating. Take a deep breath…..and ask!”

More like this
Latest from Financial Reporter
Latest from Protection Reporter
to our newsletter

Join a community of over 20,000 landlords and property specialists and keep up-to-date with industry news and upcoming events via our newsletter.