How to view a property before you make an offer (Updated 07 Feb 2023)
After reading this article you will know:
- Why you should never view a property at night
- What to do to get a sense of the neighbourhood
- Why you always park on the opposite side of the road when you first arrive at the property
- How to inspect the outside of the property
- What to look out for when viewing the inside of the property
- Why you must view the property twice
- Why you must take a third walk-through if you like the house
Remember the last time you bought a car? You took it for a test drive, right? Think about how you did research and examined your last cell phone before you bought it. Well buying a property is no different. In fact, the property is probably the most expensive item you will ever buy in your life. You want to be 100% sure of what you are buying. This article focuses on how to view a property correctly before you decide to make an offer on that property.
You don’t want to view a property at night
…or when it is about to get dark. You end up missing a lot of things and you don’t get an accurate view of the property. Very often the real estate agent would make an appointment with you to view the property in the evening. This is not because the real estate agent is hiding something from you. This may be the only time the agent has access to the property. Many sellers are not too keen for the real estate agent to take buyers through the property when they are at work during the day.
Be noticeably clear that you would prefer to view the property during the day. There are so many things like the roof, the state of the walls, dampness, and cracks in walls, to name a few, that you will miss if you view at a time when there is not much light.
If sellers are set on not having buyers view while they are not at the property, then ask to view the property on a Saturday or a Sunday. This is even better. This way you get a feel for the neighbourhood when neighbours and other residents are all at home. You will feel the vibe of the neighbourhood better and you’ll know immediately whether the suburb is for you or not.
Get a sense of the neighbourhood or the area
Try to arrive in the neighbourhood at least fifteen minutes before your scheduled appointment with the real estate agent. This way you get to drive around the neighbourhood and get a feel for the area. It is particularly important that you are not just happy with the home, but also feel comfortable with the neighbourhood and that it is the type of area where you can see yourself living for the foreseeable future.
Make notes of everything
You want to be equipped with a notebook, a pen, and a camera on your phone so that you can make notes of everything. You’ll be viewing many properties, and you will not always remember everything that you’ve seen or everything that may be wrong with a place. When you review your notes after the viewing, it will help remind you of specifics in the property. The photos will also help you remember what you’ve seen.
You should be cognizant of the fact that unless you are buying in a new development, you are buying a second-hand item and that everything will not always be 100% perfect. That is fine. You are also not expecting everything to be perfect. You just want clarity on the state of the property, so that if you do decide to buy the property, it can assist you in making an offer.
When you first arrive at the property…
Viewing of the property starts the moment you get out of your car before you have even set foot inside the property. When you arrive, park across the road, on the opposite side of the property. This way when you get out of your car you can get a full view of the house, the fence or boundary wall, the curb, and very importantly, the state of the roof. A problematic roof can be very costly to fix. If anything catches your eye, take note of it. Don’t feel rushed by the agent. Take your time to examine thoroughly before you go inside.
Inspecting the outside of the property
Tips on inspecting the outside:
When you enter the property, regardless of the way that the real estate agent is leading you, you start on the outside before you go inside. Walk around the property because there are a couple of items that need inspection before you view the house on the inside…
- Look out for trees that may be too close to the walls. The roots of a tree that is too close to a property can cause the walls to crack.
- On the topic of cracks, when you make your way around the property, look out for any cracks. There are many different types of cracks and you may not always know the severity of a crack. So, take photos or make notes.
- Look up the state of the gutters and the roof trusses. The gutters collect rainwater, and the roof trusses are the timber frame of the roof. Very often in homes that are not very well maintained, the gutters may rust or are leaking, and the trusses may have rotted. This is not ideal. Especially if it is an old property. Remember, whatever is wrong with the property becomes your problem after you’ve bought it.
- Also, look out for rising dampness. This is when unwanted moisture rises up in the walls. You might recognize it by peeling paint, bubbles in the wall, or a white powdery texture. When you touch it, it is moist, and it comes off easily. Damp is normally found in older homes as builders’ earlier years did either not waterproof the walls or the building was not very regulated back in the day so builders may have taken shortcuts.
- If you have kids you want to be sure that there is enough play area and depending on how much you enjoy gardening, go for a garden that you will be able to manage. Even small gardens can be very expensive to keep up with.
Viewing the inside of the property
Tips on viewing inside…
Once you’ve walked right around the property, you enter the property through the front door. This is so that you can get a feel for the flow of the property. From the living area/s, you walk to the kitchen and from the kitchen, you walk to the outside entertainment area/patio. This is still part of examining the flow of the property. When you are entertaining you want to be able to carry food and drinks from the kitchen, through the lounge, to the entertainment/patio area.
Very often some properties get extended but without any thought to the design and layout, for instance, you might have to walk from the kitchen, down a passage, through the study, to get to the entertainment area which is right next to the bedroom.
Once you have an idea of the flow of the living areas and the kitchen, you can make your way to the bedrooms and bathrooms. You want to be sure that the main bedroom has enough privacy and that it is not too close to the outside entertainment area. This is your sacred place where you must feel comfortable to retire every evening.
If the property has a study, you want to be sure that it is not too close to the children’s bedrooms, or the TV room. This is a private space where you want to be able to work and read undisturbed.
Regardless of the size of the property, if you have kids you want to look for a home with at least two bathrooms. As much as you love your kids, you don’t want to compromise on your comfort. You work hard and you deserve the best for yourself. Kids adapt easily.
If you are not quite happy with the layout, don’t even spend too much time at the property, unless you are in the mood for a renovation and you think the property lends itself to knocking down some walls.
Viewing with a fine-tooth comb
If you like what you see, you now go back to the beginning and view the entire property for a second time. This time around you focus on any potential damage to the property. Look for damp behind curtains, cracks in the walls, and mouldy ceilings. Look for rotten wood, loose tiles or ceilings that may have dropped. Open kitchen cupboard doors to make sure they are all on their hinges. Switch on the stove and the oven. Switch on the lights. Open taps in the kitchen and in the bathrooms. Flush the toilets. Lift the toilet seats. If you’re a guy, the last thing you want is a toilet seat that does not stay up. It will drive you insane. Look for cracks in the bath, the basin, and the shower. Open the cupboards in the bedrooms. Make sure you are happy with the shelving. Very often the ceilings have dropped inside the cupboards. Look out for this. Also, look out for any dampness inside the cupboards.
If you like the property, take a third walkthrough
You have now evaluated the outside, the flow and the condition of the property. If you are happy at this point, and you like the property thus far, you take another walk-through.
This time you imagine your own furniture in the different spaces. Some people tend to fall in love with the furniture in a property when they go for a viewing, but you actually want to imagine how your furniture will fit in the different spaces. Will your corner lounge suite unit look awkward in the space or will it fit perfectly? Is the main bedroom big enough for your king-size bed without it looking cramped? Is there space for a cot if you decide to have a baby? Where will you put the piano that you’ve inherited from your great aunt? Does the kitchen have space for your washing machine, tumble drier and dishwasher? Catch my drift. This third viewing is literally moving your furniture inside the property with your mind’s eye.
If you, your spouse, and the kids really like the house, you can all go away and discuss it as a family. Don’t make up your mind until you have seen at least three properties that you like and choose the best one from the three.
The importance of a professional home inspection
Advantages of a professional home inspection
At this point, you have checked what you could. You can now make an offer, SUBJECT TO THE OUTCOME OF A PROFESSIONAL HOME INSPECTION. This is particularly important. Depending on the size of the property, a professional home inspection will cost you anything between R2500 and R10 000 and probably a bit more if it is a really big property.
This is the best investment that you can make. Even if you have done a thorough inspection yourself and you have received a defects list from the seller, there are defects that you cannot see with the untrained eye. A home inspector will get into the roof and on top of the roof. He (or she) will evaluate the type of cracks in the wall. He will look for dampness that may have been covered with paint.
The home inspector will give you a detailed report of what needs fixing and the total cost of everything. This is not to turn you away from the property. It is so that you can make an informed decision based on the state of the property that you are intending on buying.
Helps you with better bargaining power with the seller and helps you understand what the cost is that you will have to incur after you’ve bought the property. You might see, what appears to be a small problem with the roof, whilst after a home inspection has been done, the home inspection report may reveal a much more serious and costly problem.
If peace of mind is going to cost you an extra R5000 when you buy a property, it is R5000 well spent. So many home buyers have bought what they thought was their dream homes, only to find out after they’ve moved in, the property now has defects that are going to cost them hundreds of thousands of Rands to fix.
In a sales contract, it states clearly that you are buying the property ‘Voetstoots’. This means that you buy the property as is. If the seller can prove that he also didn’t know about the defect, then he is off the hook.
House hunting and home buying are fun. You just don’t want to go into it blindly. Not viewing and inspecting a house properly before you buy it, can have devastating consequences and it can turn, what is supposed to be a pleasant experience, into your biggest nightmare.
Forewarned is being forearmed. Happy house hunting.
Last updated: 4 February 2023