Viewing a house can be one of the most stressful and time-consuming parts of the moving experience, especially for first time buyers who have no experience and no idea of what to expect.
Your ideal house
Before you have even chosen your first house to view, it may be worth spending time creating an image of your perfect house. Make a list of the various features you want this perfect house to have. These features should cover the obvious criteria such as the rough size of the house and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms but also criteria relating to the environment in which your house will be located. For example do you prefer the close knit community of a small village or the buzz of a town?
The size of your ideal house may be mainly dictated by budget (flats are generally cheaper than houses, semi-detached usually cheaper than detached) but watch out - some bungalows can be surprisingly expensive. The number of rooms requires careful thought: do you really need a separate dining room or would you be happy eating in the kitchen if it is a decent size?
Similarly, do you really need a spare guest bedroom if you are unlikely to have overnight guests very often or could you put a sofa bed in the lounge?
Some other specific things to think about whilst compiling this list include the age of the property: do you want an older property full of character and period features which you may have to pay extra for or do you want a newer house with less character but which may be better value and easier to maintain?
Remember also to take into account the garden and other external features when compiling your list. For example, do you need a drive? If so, how many cars will it need to fit? Are you a keen gardener or are you happier with a small patch of grass and a big patio?
The criteria relating to the environment should take into account the personal importance to you of being near shops, schools or a railway station and the need for nearby neighbours. Whilst the country cottage in the middle of nowhere may be an attractive thought on a beautiful summer's day, it can feel isolated in the middle of winter.
After compiling this list, you will find it easier to narrow down the amount of houses you consider to be worth viewing. The list will also enable you to check and rate any properties you do decide to view, against it.
Such a methodical approach can be an invaluable way of distancing your emotions from the various houses you view and thus enable you to make a more informed, practical choice, which will prove a more successful buy in the long run.
Do not view too many properties on the one day. It takes time to view a house properly and viewing too many will make you tired and irritable and make the whole process much more stressful. It may also make you over-look a potentially great house, simply because it happens to be the last one you arranged to view on a particular day by which time you are feeling worn out, fatigued and needlessly negative.
It is similarly important always to allow more than enough time to view each property. Do not let the owners of the house rush you through the process. If there is a room you would like to re-visit then simply ask. It is also important not to be afraid of asking direct questions.
Buying a house is a huge investment and you will regret not asking something if it turns out to be a problem later. Having said this, it is imperative to be friendly towards the owners because if you do decide to make an offer, the whole process will be made easier if there is a good relationship between owner and buyer.
On that note, make sure you maintain a good relationship with your estate agent. Always appear keen and flexible when it comes to viewing properties. Being kind to the estate agent can often lead to such kindness being returned, often in the form of them informing you first when something new comes on the market.
It may seem irrelevant but never view a house on an empty stomach. This will only make you feel grouchy and give you a more negative mindset before you have even entered the property.
Make sure you take a pen and notebook with you when viewing so you can be reminded which house is which. After you have seen several, it can be difficult to remember which one had the grotty kitchen and which one had the garden to die for.
Another helpful idea is to take a friend or colleague (i.e. someone who is not going to be making the move with you) to view the house with you. It is obviously logical to view properties with your spouse or housemate but getting a second opinion from someone who is not emotionally involved can be invaluable.
Also, think about the importance of viewing the house at different times of the day. Your first visit should be during the day so that you can see if there are any external structural issues which need to be addressed. Daylight will also enable you to explore the garden and surrounding environment adequately.
However, if you are interested in making an offer for a specific property, arrange with the owners to view the house again at a different time, for example rush hour, especially if you feel traffic noise may be an issue.
You should also try to spend some time generally exploring the local area in order to see if it will suit the needs that you set out in your ideal house list.
How to avoid potential difficulties
Many people find the most difficult aspect of viewing a house is imagining yourself living in a place filled with another person's possessions (all of which may be the complete opposite to your taste) or on the other hand, when the property is completely empty. However, there are several techniques which can help to avoid such problems.
The key to viewing any property is to ignore the saying that first impressions count. Your first impressions of a house from the outside can be entirely altered by what you may find inside. Likewise, when you are inside the house, if your main objection is the hideous patterned, stained and worn carpet, then make sure you do not give up hope until you have seen what is underneath. There may be a gorgeous wooden floor lying under the facade of grotesque carpet just waiting to be restored.
It is always worth remembering that behind any nasty cosmetic appearances can lie maintained, sound structures. For example, a kitchen can be renovated simply by changing the existing worktop. This does not require any structural change and so will not prove too costly. The same applies to features in the bathroom.
If you find the rooms in the property to be so cluttered that it is difficult to gain an accurate idea of the size of the rooms, simply look at the ceiling: this will show you the exact size of the floor but free of clutter!
Of course you may encounter the opposite problem whilst viewing. What should you do if the house you view seems to have jumped straight out of an ideal homes catalogue? The furnishings are perfect and just to your taste and you instantly fall in love with it.
Such a situation can ultimately prove as damaging as a house which does not appear to be to your taste. Make sure you distance yourself from your emotions by sticking to the criteria established in your ideal house list.
If you find yourself just thinking fondly about the furniture you saw and loved then you are in dangerous territory. The likelihood is that once the property has been sold, the furniture will be removed. Make sure your love of a house is based upon its structural features and not its furnishings.
A final difficulty can be the issue of viewing an empty property. It is generally much harder to sell an empty property than a furnished one because viewers often leave with negative impressions. However, this does not have to be the case.
Empty rooms can allow your imagination a free rein in deciding how you personally can create your own living space, without having to remove the reference points of other people's furniture. Make sure you remember though, that empty spaces often look bigger than they really are, so do not let this mislead you.
Hopefully these hints and ideas will make the whole process a lot more pleasant and ultimately reduce the time spent viewing, allowing you to spend that extra time on the million and one other things that you have to do when moving.