When searching for a home to rent, the average person spends a few minutes walking round a property, perhaps visits twice, then commits to a whole year of rent, running into tens of thousands of pounds. Too many renters miss the obvious and wish they had taken more time or been more strategic on viewings. The reason you don’t, is because you feel pressured for time or you don’t know what to check. Only after discovering faults, can you wish you’d checked that, with hindsight. What we are providing below is exactly that – the wisdom of hindsight.
Most viewings offer up poor conditions to make a decision: time is usually too short (you’d take longer in the supermarket, yet you’re about to commit to paying thousands of pounds over a year). Letting Agents often talk throughout to highlight the ‘lifestyle’ qualities of the property, to detract from any negatives of the house or flat.
How to Conduct Yourself on Viewings
Viewings are a Science not an Art form. If all you do is look at the wallpaper and see if there is enough room for your mountain bike in the hallway, you could end up with a property entirely unsuited to you and your belongings. Here’s how to get the best from viewings:
1. Enter the Letting Agents work and mobile phone numbers into your mobile phone when you register with them. List them under the name of the Letting Agent, then write the Agents name afterwards. It’s so much easier to find them in your phone book this way.
2. Note down property addresses in the notes function on your mobile phone, or put a piece of paper in your wallet/ purse. Otherwise you’ll just forget.
3. Arrive on time – Agents have busy schedules, respect the appointment slot. If you will be late, call or text the agent on their mobile phone. If you keep turning up late to viewings, they simply won’t invite you on any.
4. Try to be flexible with viewing times as many properties contain a current tenant who won’t want their quiet enjoyment of the property disturbed. This means you may have to fit in viewings while they are at work. Be prepared to have some time off if you can’t get flexibility in your working hours.
5. Appreciate that tenants often don’t look after a property or keep it tidy and clean. Look past the mess (and bathroom smells!) and imagine what the property would look like as a blank canvas. If you think walls need repainting or aren’t happy about some of the furniture, make notes so you can demand changes as a condition of you making an offer.
6. Take your time. If you like the property, spend as much time there as you can, sit on the sofa, dining chairs and beds to see if it ‘feels right.’ This is something few renters will do. It’s perfectly ok to sit on chairs if you ask permission first. You need to imagine what the property is like to live in, not view. Also, when you sit, rather than stand, you get a very different perspective of rooms and space.
7. If the property feels right, go through your checklist (provided on the next page). No need to waste your time if you don’t like the property, just move on.
8. Always thank the tenants when you leave. Often a tenant can be a friend or relative of the owner and report back on your ‘worthiness’ as a future tenant.
9. When you have left the property give the letting agent an indication of what you are thinking, then follow up with full thoughts later on. If you hate it, just state why and be specific – too dark, small garden, weird layout… rather than saying “it’s not me.” With landlords, there’s no need to explain (unless you feel generous), just tell them Yes or No.
10. On the way to and from viewings agents can be more ‘open’ and off-guard. Ask them lots of details about each property, the street and area and always ask what they know about the landlord, aswell as if the property is managed by a company (perhaps by the Letting Agency) or if the landlord takes all the responsibility for issues.
Keep them talking before and after you go in (they may give you very useful information they can’t talk about on the phone) then tell them to keep quiet once they have given a description of each room, so you can have time to collect your own thoughts.
Special tip: when you walk around a property, stop. Close your eyes. What is the first word that you see or hear, or the first feeling you sense? This is your true ‘unconscious’ response to the property… your brain has just cut out all the advertising, marketing and emotion and told you what it thinks!
11. Repeat viewings. Never agree to rent a property after one viewing. If you really like it, go back the next day, or the same day. If competition is intense, place an offer and if it is accepted, go back for a second viewing before you sign anything or agree to pay for credit checks and so on. Just make sure you spend more than 10minutes summing up where thousands of pounds of your money is about to go.
Many viewers tell me they feel embarrassed going for multiple viewings of the same property, taking friends and family back for a second opinion and asking lots of questions. You know what? Landlords and Agents love these people. They want to let the property after all – and the more open you are the comfortable they will be that you’d be a good tenant. Forget what the world thinks – satisfy yourself.
12. It’s a good idea to keep a notebook with you on viewings or create a note page on your smartphone/ iPhone/ iPad as remembering details is hard work. Most properties won’t have floorplans drawn up by the agent so take your own tape measure and measure up for furniture you want to move in, making a note of room sizes to take home with you.