12 things to look for when buying a house

1 min readLast updated January 9, 2024by Rachel Carey

Buying a house is one of the biggest – and most expensive – decisions you’ll ever make.

You must know what to look for when viewing a property so you don’t end up making a decision you’ll regret.   

We’ll reveal 12 things to look out for when viewing a house.   

1. Is there damp or mold?  

If there’s a moldy smell, flaky plaster, or watermarked walls or ceilings in the property, it may have issues with damp and mold, which can cause many problems, including structural issues. 

A home inspection should be able to pinpoint any issues with water damage and the causes.   

How do I spot this? Pay attention to the ceiling, the skirting boards, and any moldy smells. If a room has recently been repainted, the owner could be trying to cover up any damp.   

2. Is the property structurally sound?  

Any structural issues can be expensive to fix, so this can be a huge issue. While there are tell-tale signs of structural problems, a home inspection is the best way to spot risks and how much it’ll cost to fix any issues.  

How do I spot this? Look out for big cracks, particularly around extensions, walls and windows, and bulging or bowing in external walls. Missing or loose roof tiles and broken guttering are also worth keeping an eye out for.    

3. What’s the condition of the plumbing?  

Plumbing issues, whether it’s faulty radiators or old boilers, can cost you dearly.  

How do I spot this? It’s a good idea to ask about the condition of the boiler, including how old it is, and check that the pipes are insulated and the radiators work. You can also run the taps to check the water pressure.   

4. How old is the roof, and what’s the attic’s condition?  

Roofs tend to last at least 20 years, depending on the materials used, while an attic is hugely valuable in any property as it offers more storage space or even be converted to create an extra room.  

How do I spot this? While you can look at the roof’s condition, you should ask how old it is and consider a roof inspection to highlight any potential issues. It’s also worth looking into how insulated an attic is.  

5. How energy efficient is the property?  

If your property is certified by Energy Star, an energy efficiency rating program by the federal government, it should be more energy efficient than a typical property.  

How do I spot this? You can also check whether the windows are double or triple-glazed and whether there’s condensation between the window panes, which means they are faulty. You should push your finger into wooden window frames – if it easily goes in, they might be rotten.   

6. Is the wiring in good condition?  

Poor wiring is not only dangerous but also a pricey problem to fix.   

How do I spot this? Check out the fuse box and get a home inspection to confirm its condition and whether it needs replacing. It’s also worth checking if you’ll need more power points, as there can be fewer than expected in older properties.   

7. Is the house big enough for your needs?  

This depends on your circumstances. For example, are you looking for a house to start a family? Would you prefer to have more storage space or room to expand? Are the rooms big enough?  

How do I spot this? Much of this is down to personal preferences, but be wary of how some homes are staged as they sometimes use scaled-down furniture to make the rooms look bigger. If you want to keep any furnishings or fittings, it’s worth checking beforehand.   

8. Can I renovate the house?  

Some properties may have limits to the renovation work that can be done, and you may need planning permission, so it’s best to check beforehand.  

9. What’s the local area like?  

This is easy to overlook, but take the time to scope out the local area at different times.  

How do I spot this? Have a walk around the local area after your viewing. How’s public transport? Are you close to any stores? Are there any nearby noisy bars, train stations, or busy roads? Are you near any green spaces? How long’s your commute? Are the neighbors pleasant or noisy? 

Answering many of these questions can ensure you choose the right area.   

10. Are you happy with the backyard, and is it overlooked?  

If the house has a backyard, consider whether it’s big enough for your needs – or too much to handle. Also, look beyond the backyard to check whether any other properties overlook it, which means less privacy.   

How do I spot this? When looking at the backyard, consider whether it meets all your needs and if other properties overlook it, if this is a deal-breaker or if there are ways to increase privacy.  

11. Which way does the house face?  

This may be odd, but where your house faces determines how much sunlight you’ll enjoy, especially in the backyard.  

How do I spot this? Stand in the backyard and look outwards with a compass, which should tell you which way the house faces.  

12. Can you afford the property?  

This is the most crucial factor. Before you start viewings, ensure your deposit is big enough and you know how much you can borrow. 

Also, ensure you can afford your mortgage payments and handle any volatility with rates.   

Buying a house is a life-changing decision. While there is a lot to consider, it’s worth finding the right property. It’s also a good idea to talk to a financial advisor to find the best deal based on your circumstances. Get started today.

Senior Content Writer

Rachel Carey

Rachel is a Senior Content Writer at Unbiased. She has nearly a decade of experience writing and producing content across a range of different sectors.