You’ve found a place you can afford, accepts whatever you need accepting (pets, smokers, children etc) and you like the look of, time to go and see it! What should you bear in mind when looking around?
- It’s a good idea to take someone with you even if you’ll be living there alone, as it’s good to get a second opinion, Tom often asks questions I wouldn’t think of and vice versa. Definitely don’t go alone if you’re meeting someone from the paper etc (i.e. not a reputable letting agent) as you do not know that this person is genuine so meeting them alone in a strange house is not a sensible idea.
- Don't be afraid to take your camera or to ask to take photos on your phone, if you are viewing a lot of places it helps to compare them if you have some pictures (real ones not the agent ones that sometimes make rooms appear larger or miss out not so nice parts).
Pictures from our viewing, trying to capture the size and shape of the rooms
- Ask for measurements or take a tape measure with you, also measure your larger furniture (if you’ll be taking it with you) before you go on any viewings and take those measurements with you. If you are really set on taking a certain piece of big furniture (for example our sofa is quite huge so if we moved now we’d need a good size living room) see if there is a place it would fit.
Me measuring the bedroom at our second viewing
- If you find somewhere you like, ask when the next viewing is before making any snap decisions. For example we often view places quite late in the evening so are likely to be the last viewing they have that day – giving us the opportunity to go away and think it over and call first thing if we want to take it.
- If they have another viewing straight after you or have someone else interested you might have to think a little quicker, if you really love the place and are sure you want it then it’s your decision to go for it if you want to. I’d recommend at least going away and thinking about it for a little while though, even if it’s just an hour!
- Walk around the local area after or before the viewing, to see what’s near to the property like shops, bus stops etc. It also helps to get a feel for the area and how safe it is and what the neighbourhood is like. You could use this as your time to think it over, just an hour wandering around to make up your mind.
- Don’t feel rushed on the viewing, I have experienced this in some places where you get a 2 minute walk through of the property then you feel like the agent or landlord is waiting for you to get out! It might be that they have another viewing booked or just don’t allow enough time, but make sure you have a good look around and ask any questions. Book a second viewing if needs be.
- Some agents might ask for an ‘administration fee’ or some other name for a non refundable deposit which stops them showing anyone else the property and pretty much just holds it until you sign the contract. I paid this on my first rental and have never done it again. It’s better to have the deposit ready and be able to confidently say ‘I’ll take it, cancel your other viewings’. I have been asked for this fee again and said no, I’d rather just get the deposit paid and the contract signed rather than pay them £200 to not show it to anyone else when I’ve already said I’ll have it! You do hear stories as well about unscrupulous agents taking this payment then still showing the property. Really if you have said you want the property, you have the deposit ready and are ready to sign the contract then there is no reason to pay this
- Ask questions, it seems like loads of questions to ask when you’re there but it’s better to know everything before deciding on taking a place rather than moving in and finding something you really need isn't there, think about things like:
- Look at the heating and cooling systems and energy efficiency, where is the boiler? Is it pretty new? Are the radiators new or do they look old? When were they last replaced and serviced? Does it have night storage heating (I hate night storage heating)? Is there air con? Are the windows double glazed or single? Are there any draughts around the doors or windows? You don’t want to move into a nice affordable place just to find it costs a fortune to heat or cool!
- Think about amenities and services - can you change utility provider (this should be a yes by law in the UK)? Who is the current provider? Is there a phone line and internet? If so where are the plugs for them? Is there cable/satellite/freeview? If not could you get it installed if you wanted to.
- Think about questions other than the physical aspects of the property, like when would they want the rent (monthly usually) and how do they want you to pay (usually direct debit)? How often do they do inspections? What is their policy on repairs (timeframe, amount etc)?
Next in the series will be signing on the dotted line, some tips on signing the contract. I also am working on finishing the bedroom up so I can show you some after photos, and we might be finally getting our damp solution fitted next week!
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