So you’ve found a few properties that look like they fit the bill, but it’s not time to sign the tenancy agreement just yet:
It may seem obvious, but it is very important to visit the property and view it in person where possible. The place may look fantastic online, and photos can be helpful in getting a general idea of what the property looks like, but they often don’t tell the whole story and can also be very flattering to the property when taken properly.
Photos can also be dated and there may have been many tenants living in the property between the date the photo was taken and today.
So what should you look for when visiting a potential new home?
We have put together a quick and easy checklist to follow during your visit. This should help you avoid moving into a place you are not happy with, and will hopefully make your stay in your new accommodation stress-free. We understand there is always going to be some compromise when choosing a property. You may need to sacrifice a bit of space for the location you are after, for example, but it is important that you are aware of all these factors.
1. Everyone who is planning to move in should see the place
Your future flatmates may be busy and it may be hard to find a convenient time for everyone to view at the same time. But it is very important that everyone who is looking to move into the property has a chance to see it properly. This way everyone has the chance to look at the place thoroughly and will avoid any disagreements that could occur if a flatmate does not view the place and dislikes their room, for example.
A video call could be a solution if one person really cannot make the viewing, but this is still far from ideal, as it is very hard to get a feel for a place without being there. If you are moving to an individual room, this doesn’t apply, but it can be useful to bring someone along to your viewing so that there is another pair of eyes to help you decide if this is the right place for you.
2. Explore the local area
The area where the accommodation is located is probably one of the key factors as to why you are planning a viewing. But even though it may be a perfect location in terms of getting to uni, does it offer you all the local amenities, nightlife, convenience, and comfort you are looking for? Or perhaps you are putting these above your trip to uni.
Explore the local area before you view the house and finding our where some of the local shops are and how far the nearest public transport is. These may not be deciding factors, but it can be a shock to move in somewhere and to realise too late that the nearest supermarket is a real hassle to get to.
3. Check the outside condition of the building and the garden
If you are renting out the entire house; it is a good idea to have a proper look at the outside of the property. What is the condition of the roof like? Make sure you can’t see any obvious issues from the outside of the building. Also, if there is outside space, either private or communal, make sure it’s in good condition as well.
And don’t forget to ask the landlord if you will be responsible for any upkeep of these areas. You can often learn quite a bit from the exterior of a property. And how well it’s maintained can tell you a lot about the quality of the interior too.
4. Check all the doors and the windows
Another one that seems obvious, but can actually be quite easy to forget, especially with a letting agent whizzing you around the property. Check if the windows are secure and easy to open and close. Make sure things are not damp or showing signs of rot and that windows can all be closed and locked where necessary. Do the front and back doors look secure and do they have a deadlock?
5. Are the Kitchen Appliances in working order?
You may not have the opportunity to put a load on and wait a couple of hours to see if the washing machine works properly. But it is worth asking whoever is showing you around, how old all of the appliances are. Check if the fridge is in use and is working correctly too. If there are current tenants living in the property it would be worth just checking with them that all the appliances are working fine.
6. Do you have space in the kitchen for everyone to keep their things?
Remember it can be easy to overlook the space requirements when a place is empty. Think about how many of you will be sharing the kitchen space - even if that is just you. Do you have at least a shelf or two where you will be able to put your stuff, and is the fridge/freezer an adequate size? If you are a fan of frozen foods - freezer space in particular is something that runs out quickly.
7. Check the sockets and light switches
You definitely don’t want to see any cracks or exposed wires and it can be easy to forget to check that lights work if you are viewing the property in the middle of the day. So don’t forget to test them as you are walking around the property.
8. Check for mould or stained patches on the walls and ceilings
Check the walls and ceiling for any obvious stains. In particular in the rooms below any of the bathrooms as well as on the bathroom walls and tiles themselves. If you notice stains below the bathroom, this can be a sign that there is an issue with the plumbing. This issue may have been fixed, but you will want to check this with whoever is showing you around. You wouldn’t want to move in and only then have to deal with a leak in the bathroom and have your shower out of commission for a week, for example.
9. Decide if your bedroom is what you were expecting
Depending on your personality, you may have different views on the importance of your bedroom. Maybe the bedroom is your most valued place in the house or maybe you prefer to spend more time in the communal areas. Either way, you should pay extra attention to your room when viewing. No matter what, you will be spending a good amount of time in here.
Even if you prefer to study at the library, you will likely spend a significant time working from home as well, so you want to make sure you feel comfortable there. Do the windows shut properly and does the radiator work? Is there enough space for all of your things and do the curtains/blinds close properly and actually block out sunlight?
Ultimately, it may not tick all the boxes, but you want to be sure you can be comfortable and happy in the room for the length of the contract. Broken blinds or little cupboard space may not seem like important issues at the time of viewing, but they may start to annoy you once you have moved in for real, so just take the time to envisage yourself actually living there.
10. Every floor should have a smoke alarm
Quite a simple one really. But just double check this as you travel around the house/flat. There should be one on each floor and they should all be working. Easy to fix, but you want to be sure things like this are being sorted for you.
11. Do you get phone signal?
Very easy to forget to check, and something that can really affect your time at the house. WiFi can, of course, resolve this for the most part, but it is good to know whether you have a traditional mobile reception in the house and in your room specifically. Sometime you will need to make a traditional call and ideally you don’t want to have to travel into the garden each and every time.
12. Does the water get hot and is the water pressure reliable?
Quickly check that the water does get hot in a timely manner and that the water pressure is good. Showers can be a far from enjoyable experience if the water pressure is not up to scratch. Don’t feel strange about asking to turn the shower on - it also gives you a chance to check that the shower head is fully functional and actually sprays the water in the right direction.
13. Are the toilets working properly?
A quick flush of the toilets will ensure there are no nasty surprises when you move in. Is the toilet hard to flush? Does it make an unbelievably loud noise when filling up? Does it take multiple attempts to actually get it to work? All things that are worth knowing.
14. Check for signs of insects or rodents
Might not be the easiest thing to spot initially, but keep an eye out for traps or droppings that may indicate some unwanted guests.
15. Ask the current tenants if they had any issues with the property
This is not an exhaustive list, of course - ultimately it is important that you take your time and make sure you have a close look. Use your common sense when viewing a property - if something looks off or damaged or not what you would expect, make a note of this. As we mentioned before, some smaller things may not be deal breakers, in fact, if you notice them during the viewing, the owner may have the chance to fix them before any potential move in date.
If you step back and think about whether you really want to spend the next 6-12 months living at this property and you are still unsure, it may be worth continuing your search. But if you have gone through the checklist and are happy, you may have just found your next home!
We would love to hear about your top tips for viewing a property and any experiences you have had when it comes to house-hunting. Let us know in the comments below!