Guide to Viewing Properties

This article provides a comprehensive interior and exterior checklist for homebuyers when viewing properties including the AskChristee phone app

Prior to viewing properties you should have developed a financial strategy and hired an Agent and Loan Officer Click here to run AskChristee ‘Buyer PreQual’ Module. Download the AskChristee mobile app and review financial options while viewing desirable properties.

The value of real estate is based on three attributes – location, location, location. Prior to viewing individual properties, you should prioritize locations that fit within your budget and lifestyle. Your real estate agent can be a valuable resource in helping to find the right location. 

Additionally, you should think about what house features are an absolute, such as the number of baths. You should also identify those features that would be nice but not absolutely required, for example, updated appliances.

Discuss with your agent current market conditions. Is it a ‘buyers’ or ‘sellers’ market? Understanding the market conditions can help you develop the proper sense of urgency in making a home buying decision.

Keep in mind, buying a home can be a very emotional and stressful experience. It is for this reason we have suggested you have a financial strategy and other details taken care of prior to looking at homes.

This article will discuss:

I. Inspecting the Interior

II. Inspecting the Exterior

III. Checklist for Visual Inspection

IV. Cosmetic Features

V. Neighborhood Features

I. Inspecting the Interior

When viewing a property, we suggest you view the interior in two stages.  Stage one; explore the interior floor plan to see how it fits your needs.

In the second stage, we suggest you go thru the house very thoroughly – open windows, flush toilets, open cupboards, and do as much exploring as you can while being polite and respecting someone’s home. Be sure to note the age of hot water heater and HVAC system. Look for obvious defects in the property such as signs of water penetration. You may find it useful to bring a measuring tape along with you.

More than likely, you have previewed pictures of the property. Now, you need to confirm those pictures by verifying the following features of the property:

  • Architectural Design – Does it fit with your needs and how does it blend in with adjacent properties?
  • Bedrooms – Make sure each ‘bedroom’ has a closet.
  • Bathrooms – Will the fixtures need updating?
  • Flooring – Check the age and condition of flooring – hardwood, tile, vinyl, composite or carpeting.
  • Closet and storage space – Is there an attic or basement for seasonal storage?
  • Number of floors – Inspect the condition and size of stairs
  • Floor Plan – Does the flow accommodate your family’s needs?
  • Appliances – Will they require updating? Is the stove electrical or gas (private or public)?
  • Electrical – What is the houses service? How old is the service? Could there be aluminum wiring? Does the electrical panel allow for expansion?
  • Plumbing – Public or private water (well)? Public or private sewage (septic tank)? How old are the water lines? Are the supply lines copper, PVC, or galvanize (old)?
  • HVAC – Is the heating oil, gas, propane, or electrical? Are there maintenance stickers on the air handler? One zone or two-zone heat? Approximate age of unit?
  • Windows – How old are they? Are they replacement windows? How are the views, double pane or single pane glass?
  • Basement or crawl space – What mechanical equipment is located in the basement? Any signs of water infiltration? In unfinished areas, do you see insulation? Is there a sump pump? Is there a grinder pump?
  • Decks or porches – Check the railings. Are the deck boards treated lumber, cedar, synthetic, or composite material? If you are energetic, check out the deck footers.
  • Garage – Is it finished or insulated? How many bays are there?

Don’t forget to identify those items that will require additional time and/or money. Does the kitchen or baths require updating? Will you want to remove walls to allow for more of a more open floor plan?  You should seek guidance from an expert to determine the viability and cost of removing interior walls.

II. Inspecting the Exterior

As you walk the grounds of the property, we suggest you take note of several items such as:

  • Site – Are there any external influences that could adversely affect your enjoyment?
  • Proximity to Neighbors. Too close or too remote?
  • Neighbors – How do the neighbors maintain their house or yard – remember these people could be your neighbors.
  • Drainage – Does there appear to be proper drainage from the foundation – reverse drainage could cause water problems in the basement or damage to the foundation. Does there appear to be any low spots in the yard?
  • Windows – What is the condition?  Are the window exteriors wood, vinyl, or aluminum?
  • Air Conditioning Unit – Does it look old? Can you read the year made tag to approximate the age?
  • Roof – Is the roof showing signs of deterioration? What is the roofing material? Asphalt, composite, synthetic, wood shakes, or metal?
  • Gutters – Check condition and drainage.
  • Siding- Is it vinyl, aluminum, wood, or brick? Will maintenance be an issue?
  • Landscaping- Will the property require a lot of landscape maintenance – money?
  • Trees – Are there trees near the sewer line?
  • Pictures – Can you rely on online photos or should you take additional photos or videos?
  • Noise levels inside and outside the home.

Consult with your agent while at the property. Generally, Real Estate Agents are not construction experts, however, they may be able to aid you in getting answers from the listing agent (seller) or other professionals.

If you have interest in the property, you should exam the property very carefully. Thus, avoiding the expense of a home inspection on properties that have obvious issues.

You may wish to revisit the property with a friend or relative that is familiar with construction, plumbing, HVAC, and potential cost to repair or renovate. Most contracts are subject to a satisfactory home inspection. Too often, buyers enter into a contract subject to a home inspection on properties that have obvious defects. As a result of the inspection report, the contract becomes null and void. The cost of the home inspection is not refundable.

III. Checklist of Items for Inspection

1. Plumbing – leaking or old water supply lines

2. HVAC – age of unit

3. Hot Water – size and age of unit

4. Roof – signs of aging

5. Gutters – missing or broken

6. Skylights – possible leaks

7. Siding – missing or broken

8. Foundation Walls – cracks or signs of water penetration

9. Decks – support beams / decks boards broken or deteriorating

10. Electrical Service Box – amount of service

11. Insulation – missing insulation between heated and non-heated areas

12. Windows & Doors – proper operation

13. Appliances – proper operation and age

14. Garbage disposal – proper operation

15. Sump pits – broken pit and operation of pump.

For a understanding of the home inspection process, see our Home Inspection Guide.

IV. Cosmetic Features

You should ignore furnishings, wall colors, and other cosmetic features while viewing the property. Unfortunately, sometimes this will include ignoring the lifestyle of the current owner. Your potential offer will evaluate items such as kitchen cabinets and appliance to price.

V. Explore the Neighborhood

If you are unfamiliar with the neighborhood, do your research on schools, crime rates, and any other issue that may be of concern to you. Some things to consider:

1. Proximity to schools, shopping, parks, entertainment

2. Commute to work, school, or place of worship

3. Neighborhood attributes – HOA or Condo, Community facilities

4. Quality of schools- Your real estate agent will not be able to give an opinion. You can easily research school ratings online.

5. Crime rates or other negative features- Your agent will not be able to fully discuss this with you. We strongly encourage you to do your own research.