One of the first of 10 things we look out for when viewing a property to buy is the ceiling height. We just do…because we love high ceilings with all their interior decor potential. It’s so easy to fall in love with a new property and get carried away with our brilliant ideas and dreams. But reality has to kick in before contracts are exchanged and in this post we list the critical top 10 things on our check list as we consider whether to make an offer.
Some of the points on our check list are deal breakers because we can’t see how they can be corrected in a way that makes sense both financially and aesthetically. Others are easier to work around or alter – it’s just a case of adding up cost estimates and then deciding whether it’s all worth it.
Will the change we plan to make add more value to the property than the amount it would cost to make the change? How easy will it be to resell the home with the changes we propose, will they appeal to a broad enough section of the population, and so on?
Now let’s remove our rose tintet glasses and put our dream home under the microscope – here are 10 boxes that have to be ticked when we sign that contract:
1. The Front Door
Does the door look safe? Are there any gaps between the floor and the door? Is it solid, any damage and does it look nice? For security reasons it’s important to have a good front door and it’s the first thing we’ve changed each time we’ve moved to another property.
We’ve gone for specially made front doors to our apartments which is not cheap, but the value each door made to our lives (and hopefully the appearnce of our property) is immesurable. It’s great to have a nice looking front (remember first impressions matter) and and the peace knowing we have a good, solid front door brings is also worth the money.
What kind of locks and safety measures, ie chains or special features does the front door have? If the door is ok to use, are there two locks and if not how much would it cost to add a serious, good safety lock and or a chain? Does it need a safety bar, and how about fire protection?
Doors, nowadays, have several features such as teh “London” bar or dials visible only on the inside. Those dials, evidently, are for added safety when we’re at home since it’s not possible to lock then from the outside. And fire strips which expand under a fire which prevents smoke and fire from the hall on the other side to creep into the apartment.
2. The Walls
Are the walls supporting the structure or are they dividing walls which can be moved? It’s usually obvious if it’s a supporting wall – a quick knock on the wall will soon tell: if it’s a loud-ish, echoing sound it’s just devider which can be knocked thorough and open up a space.
If its a solid, dead sound it’s most likely a wall that supports the floor above and can’t be moved – it can however often be opened up with a substitute iron beam, but it means major work and possibly planning permission.
However, are there opportunities to alter the layout of the flat/apartment or house? If it’s possible to create an extra bedroom by erecting or moving a wall, it’s adds enormous value to the property.
3. The Boiler – key among 10 things we look out for when viewing a property
We Scandis do not like much gas boilers – in some countries they’re fixed to wall in the kitchen. Heaters are powered by the gas and the flame in the boiler….it’s a recipe for misery, if not disaster, as far as we’re concerned. The third thing we establish when viewing a property is whether it is heated by a boiler, or electricity.
If a property has a boiler we rip it out and replace it with heaters that are plugged into the mains – water may need to be supplied from a tank to be installed, depending on the age and state of the building. Anything, to us, is better than gas and an open flame and the possiblities of carbon monoxide poisoning.
It really is the most important of the 10 things we look out for when viewing a property – it’s non-negotiable: if it’s not possible or permitted for whatever reason (possibly by the landlord) then we’re not buying. Twice we’ve had to refurbish the heating system, but gas boilers may soon be fazed out in Great Britain, at last.
4. Heaters & Radiators
What do the heaters look like? Are they open, spewing out as much dust as they are generating heat, or are they closed in?
Radiators that spew out heat from inside the case, soiling the wall, will get replaced with plain heaters running on oil or water and plugged into the mains. They are much better looking – flat and flush with the walls and don’t detract from the interior design.
5. The Centrepiece
Where is the spot in the living room that is to become the focal point – where is the eye drawn to and where are we going to spend most of our time? In Great Britain it’s often where the fireplace is – or was, as it has often been bricked up and covered. It’s where the wall protrudes or where there is enough space to create a hygge ‘corner’.
For us it’s where there’s space for the large ‘above the fireplace’ mirror, even if there is no fireplace. But placing a large, chunky shelf under the mirror is as good as. Then we can work the sofa, chairs and coffee table around that spot and create a cosy place to relax or entertain friends.
This ought to be last on our list of 10 things we look out for when viewing a property. But while it is not a structurally important point, aesthetics matter to our quality of life – some might say as much as practicalities.
6. The Floor
Is the property carpeted or does it have floorboards or tiles….? In the last 25 years there has been a huge shift from carpets to floorboards. Floorboards are so much more practical and chic..and Scandinavian! We much prefer boards and check what rooms need floorboards and how it would look.
If boards are already in place, do they need replacing – how do they fit with our furniture. Should they need replacing there will be considerable financial adjustments, and so would it be worth it? There is another consideration to be made vis-a-vis flooring: subsidence and the condition of the beams holding the boards. If they have moved, the floor is likely uneven….
Does the floor stand the rolling pen test? Place a round pen on the florr in different directions and see if it moves. If it does, the floor is tilting slightly, which may not bother some people, but will make it more challenging when placing the dining table or a book case on the floor. The book case won’t be properly aligned with the wall and if the tilt is particularly bad – which is sometimes the case with beams holding the floorboards having sunken for one reason or another – it can cause problems when placing a glass on the table.
It looks awkward when the wine isn’t level….in that case the levelling of the floor will be required. This can be done in different ways, by raising the beams which is a major operatio and requires permission from the landlords, or by covering the existing floorboards with a substance before covering that with new boards or carpet.
The floor level should perhaps be higher up on the list of 10 things we look out for when viewing a property because fixing it is costly, but it’s so easily overlooked…a good builder can fix small curves in the flooring with compound – check here for compounds and fillers FYI.
7. Bath or Shower – key question of the 10 things we look out for when viewing a property
We prefer shower, some prefer a bath. This is very much a lifestyle choice – some like to soak in hot water after a long day at the office, others find they are too busy and want a quick shower before getting on with the rest of their eveing or day.
At DU we are shower people for the latter reason – but also for the reason that a shower takes up less floor space, making more space for accessories and for moving around. How much does it cost to change from shower to bath? A new refurb can cost anything from around £2,000 and up – read our bathroom refurb post here.
8. Bathroom Floor also among 10 things we look out for when viewing a property
Is the floor white? So many super smart luxe bathrooms have white floors…but not for long. Our first bathroom refurb involved a white tiled bathroom floor, and never again! White tiles have to be wiped and kept clean at all times, even the slightest spec of dust shows up. White tiles – however Scandinavian they look – are just too high maintenance.
Keep the floor dark – and clean. Large dark non-slip tiles with marble effect (or genuine marble tiles) also cover up chips in the corners which helps make the floor look new for longer.
Storage space will be high up on many people’s list of priorities – particularly the British love their in-built cupboards and closets. But at DU we prefer empty space where we can improvise and create the storage needed.
We prefer free-standing, not least because it looks fresher, but also because it is more flexible. It allows us to not be “boxed in” by cupboard space that may not even be needed and often encourage us to keep stuff for the sake of it. A property without in-built cupboards is what we look for that will allow us to put shelves where we like and hang our clothes where it suits.
An in-built closet often takes up enormous, unnecessary space and is in a position that reduces the number of options for bed placement.
The last of the 10 things we look out for when viewing a property is the window space – what do the windows look like (no led trellis please) and would they look good with our curtains. The windows are key of course, not least as they let the light in – but they and the curtains can make or break a room.
Our curtains follow us from home to home – invest in good, well-made curtains that will last 25+ years and you’ll save a small fortune – and we check out the fixture: is it a proper rail or is there space for one above the window? Is it high up and wide enough for the curtains we have?
Read also our funny post about how we landed a pair of nearly £200 a pair glitzy curtain tie backs for just £16 here.