A house is a huge investment – quite possibly the biggest you will make in your life – so it is only natural to deliberate carefully before zeroing in on the one you want to purchase. Start by determining what you want from a house – are you looking for a cosy apartment for two, or a large house for a family with kids and pets? Do you need parking? What sort of a location are you after? Do you want a garden? Once you’ve jotted down all the features you are looking for in a house, you can browse through available options. Look through real estate ads in the newspaper, browse through real estate websites, and hire an agent. Once you select a few properties that are of interest to you, you can book viewings with the agent.

Viewings are crucial, in order to make up your mind about which house to purchase. Before heading out, you need to make sure you are well-equipped – a camera, a note pad and pen, and measuring tape are essential items that you need to carry to each viewing. The camera will help you take pictures of all the major features you like in a house, you can jot down notes about the pros and cons of each property in your note pad, and the measuring tape can be used to find out whether the space is large enough to hold your furniture (measure your furniture before the viewing).

The key to a successful house viewing is to ask all the right questions of the vendor and agent, and investigate all the right issues – only then can you get the most out of the viewing. Find out all you can about the local area, including the sort of reputation it has, and the crime rates. Once you reach the house, see if you can speak to some people living in the same location or street – ask them about the area, and about the house you are considering in particular. Make sure you view the house during the day, so you can observe it in natural light; however, it is also a good idea to visit the property at different times of the day, to get a clearer picture – e.g. the street might transform into a frenzied mass of traffic during rush hour, or what appears to be a safe neighbourhood during the day might morph into something entirely different at night.

During the viewing, ask the vendor pertinent questions. Inquire about how long the property has been up for sale on the market (this could help you determine whether there are any problems with the property), ask the vendor why they are selling, and if they are looking for a quick sale. Inquire about what the neighbours are like, if the vendors have enjoyed living here, the expenses involved in running the property (utility, service charges and ground rent bills), and which fittings and fixtures will be included with the house.

Meanwhile, observe all the features of the house carefully. Determine whether you like the layout, try to ignore the current decor and think of how you will fit the place up, imagine yourself living there, and think of how you will use each room in the property. Check behind furniture and curtains for signs of dampness, and keep an eye out for potential problems (cracks in the walls, dysfunctional sewerage system, etc). In addition, ask for a demonstration of the plumbing and heating, and inquire about when the last electrical and gas checks were carried out.

Do not be hesitant to ask questions, or worry about appearing too nosey –it’s a huge investment, so it’s only understandable that you would want to check it out from all angles. In addition, it is also important to realize that you should never buy on the same day you view the property. Keep your options open, and deliberate over the pros and cons of each property you saw, before you decide on the one you want. You can also get a second opinion by taking family or friends along on a second viewing.

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