One of the first of 10 things we look out for when viewing a property to buy is the ceiling height. 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 brilliant ideas and dreams. But reality kicks in before contracts are exchanged. In this post we list the critical top 10 things as we consider whether to make an offer.
Some of the points on our check list are deal breakers. That means we can’t see how they can be corrected in a way that makes sense both financially and aesthetically. Other points are easier to work around or alter. Either way it’s just a case of adding up cost estimates and then working out ROI, whether it’s worth it.
Will the changes add more value to the property than the costs involved? How easy will it be to resell the home with the changes we propose? And will they appeal to a broad enough section of the population?
So let’s remove our rose tinted glasses and put our dream home under the microscope. Here are 10 boxes that have to be ticked before 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. The first thing we’ve changed each time we’ve moved to another property, is the front door.
We’ve opted for specially made front doors to our apartments. They are not cheap, but the value each door made to our lives and appearance of our property is immeasurable. It’s great to have a nice looking front. Remember first impressions matter, and the peace of knowing we have a good, solid front door is also worth the money.
What kind of locks and safety measures, ie chains or special features does the front door have? 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? You can get special foam liners between the door and frame to protect from smoke inhalation, should a fire break out in the communal area.
Doors, nowadays, have several features such as the “London” bar or dials visible only on the inside. Those dials are for added safety when we’re at home since it’s not possible to lock then from the outside.
2. The Walls
Are the walls supporting the structure or are they only 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 a room divider. You can knock thorough dividing walls without special builders or planning permission. Although if you rent do check with the landlord.
If its a solid, dead sound it’s most likely a wall that supports the floor above and can’t or mustn’t be moved. This type of wall can however often be opened up with a substitute iron beam, but it means major work by specialist builders and possibly planning permission.
However, we ask ourselves if there are opportunities to alter the layout of the flat/apartment or house. Is it possible to create an extra bedroom by erecting or moving a wall? If the answer is yes, it 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 gas boilers much. In some countries they’re fixed to wall in the kitchen. Heaters are powered by the gas and the flame in the boiler. As far as we are concerned, that is a recipe for misery, endless bills when they go out and potential danger. That is the thing we establish when viewing a property – gas boiler vs. electricity.
If a property has a boiler we rip it out and replace it with heaters that are plugged into the mains. That means we may have to supply water from a tank to be installed, but there are many more discreet water sources. Those depend on the sate and age of the building. Anything is better than gas, an open flame and the possibilities of carbon monoxide poisoning.
It really is the absolutely the most important of the 10 things we look out for when viewing a property. It is non-negotiable. Should it not be possible or permitted to switch to electricity then we’re not buying. We’ve had to refurbish the heating system twice. However, the good news is Great Britain looks set to faze out gas boilers.
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 floor 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 operation 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 is 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
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 evening 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
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.