Checklist: property viewings
Have your eye on a house or flat that is within your budget? Brilliant! But what do you need to look out for when you go to view it? And have you thought about a renovation budget?
Nearly 70% of the housing stock in Flanders is 40 years old or older. In Wallonia that number is almost 80% and in Brussels it’s as high as 93%. Unless the property has been thoroughly renovated, you will, as a buyer, need to have a renovation budget.
Estimating the costs of renovation is a difficult task. Occasionally, you hear about prices of between 750 and 1,500 euros per square metre, but this is obviously a broad range. Restoring a villa built in 1850 to its original state will require a different budget to one needed to freshen up a flat built in 1990. And it depends, moreover, on your taste: do you want a tailormade kitchen or are you happy with a standard kitchen? Will you be undertaking the work yourself, or hiring a contractor?
One golden tip is to inspect the property with a contractor, architect, renovation coach or construction expert – for example, when you go for a second visit. It might cost you a bit of money (50–100 euros/hour) but doing it could save you a lot of surprises later. They spot defects that you might not notice. If a rebuild or renovation is required, the expert can assess the feasibility of it on the spot and will perhaps even give you a rough estimate of the costs. This will give you something to go on if you really want to buy the house.
You can also get a good idea of the work that needs to be done on the house without expert guidance. You can do it by examining several things during your first visit. To help you, we have put together a handy checklist.
Things to take with me when I go house hunting:
Spirit level and/or small level
1. Structural aspects
- Does the house have a saddle roof? If so, check that the ridge is straight and whether there is any sagging. This may indicate that the jack rafters and collar beams may be warped.
- Are the roof tiles neatly placed and are there any visible cracks in them?
- Does the water drain off a flat roof or run into the guttering without a problem? Or does the water collect in pools?
- Can you see water running off the roof and down the exterior walls? This could indicate problems with the connection between the eaves and the gutters.
Try to visit the property when it is raining. Then you will see immediately whether the water is draining away properly, and you can check inside to see if the roof is watertight.
Attic or crawl space under the roof
- Is everything watertight?
- Do you see water spots on the attic floor?
- Do you feel a draught in the attic?
- How well insulated is the roof?
- Does the material insulating the underside of the roof contain asbestos?
- Do you see woodworm in the roof truss? Look for the typical signs: the presence of sawdust, small holes or beetles.
- Are there (large) cracks? They might be an indication of stability issues.
- Do the facades appear to be perfectly vertical? The weight of the roof can, over time, cause building facades to lean forwards. This can occur in older or poorly built houses.
- Assess the pointing: are bits of mortar missing? This might indicate underlying moisture issues, as can efflorescence of salt, and any green discolouration.
- Are there moisture issues indoors? Do you notice discolouration, peeling paint or wallpaper or warped skirting boards? Moisture problems can have a real impact on your living comfort (for instance, odour nuisance, more energy required to heat the home) and health (mainly respiratory).
- Don’t be misled by pleasant scents. Be extra critical if the vendor uses a scented candle or air fresheners.
- Bring a moisture meter with you. It is a small investment (about 30 euros), but it may well save you future discussions and tens of thousands of euros.
- Check the state of the walls behind the cupboards. Pay extra attention where false walls or other items are covering up walls.
- Look for evidence of previous repair work. This could include a slightly different tint to brickwork, pointing or plaster work.
- Winter is the best time of year to detect moisture problems.
- Is the floor sagging? This is mainly seen in older houses, without it being very noticeable or visible at first glance. Doors that stick, table legs with coasters underneath them and cracked tiling can all be signs that a floor is sagging.
- What kind of condition is the flooring in (for example, cracked or loose tiles, loose grouting, fungoid growth under the linoleum)? What sort of maintenance will be required?
- You can check if the floor is level with a spirit level or by letting a small ball roll across the floor. If the ball rolls in a particular direction without you having to give it much encouragement, there is a good chance that the floor is sagging.
- Look, if necessary, under carpets, linoleum or other floor coverings.
- To check that tiles are laid properly, let a golf ball skitter across the floor. Tiles with poor adhesion make a different sound to tiles that are properly glued down.
Joinery and glazing
- Do the doors and windows close properly?
- Are there any cracked windows or windows showing condensation between the sheets of glass?
- Which type of glass has been used? Single, double or low-emissivity glass?
- Wooden windows and doors require more maintenance than PVC or aluminium joinery.
- Is the exterior joinery made of wood? Use a pointy object like a screwdriver to check if the woodwork is in good condition.
- Does the house have single glazing? Then there is a very good chance you will be required to change them.
- What is the EPC rating of the house?
- What are the energy expert’s recommendations?
- What is the acoustic insulation situation? How much sound can you hear from outside? How much do you hear when someone is speaking in the room next to you, above or below you, or if they walk around?
- What are the current owners’ monthly energy bills?
Technology and systems
- How old is the heating system and what condition is it in?
- Are there inspection hatches for, among other things, wastewater?
- Does the property have its own rainwater collection tank? It could save you quite a bit of money on your water bill if it does.
- Does the plumbing still contain lead (lead that gets into drinking water, even in small amounts, can be damaging to your health if you consume it). Do you see insulation that contains asbestos?
- Do all the taps have good water pressure and drainage? Do the toilets function as they should?
- Is there sufficient, natural or forced ventilation in the property? Make a point of checking the places where a lot of water vapour regularly occurs (the kitchen and bathroom).
- How old is the electrical wiring and which defects have been mentioned on the inspection certificate?
- What is the condition of the kitchen and bathroom units? Are all the doors, hinges and drawers still in good condition? Are the furniture and fittings ergonomically appropriate for you?
- Which appliances will remain and which ones will go (dishwasher, fridge, cooker, fireplace)?
- Is there an alarm system?
- Are the locks burglar-proof?
- Are the ceilings, walls and doors fire-resistant. Fire-resistant doors have a label or certification on the inside edge. For walls and ceilings, you can ask if they are made of fire-resistant materials.
- Are there sufficient escape routes in the event of fire?
2. Location and surroundings
- Which direction do the house and garden face? Does the property get sufficient sunlight? Are there any high buildings nearby that could cast a shadow on the house? Ideally, the living spaces will be south facing.
- What about privacy? Is the property overlooked?
- How far away are shops, your workplace, schools, public transport, a doctor, the local hospital and other amenities?
- Is there air pollution? Are there any industrial activities in the neighbourhood?
- What is the situation with respect to noise or light pollution?
- Are there any construction projects or demolitions planned in the neighbourhood?
- Which motorways are nearby?
- Can you park easily, and is parking free or paid?
- Is the property located in a flood-prone area?
- Look the street name up on the internet (for example, with Google News) and in online newspaper archives. Was the street ever flooded, has it ever been associated with issues like speeding traffic or vandalism? You’ll often get to know quite a bit this way.
- Speak with a few of the neighbours or area residents. They can tell you about the positives and negatives of the neighbourhood.
- Don’t just visit the property on a peaceful Sunday morning, be sure to also see it during weekday rush hour.
3. Check the paperwork too
- EPC certificate:
- Urban planning permissions:
- Heating system service certificate:
- If applicable: heating oil tank inspection certificate:
- Electrical system compliance certificate:
- Is there currently a tenancy agreement on the property?
- Soil certificate:
- If applicable: a post-intervention file:
- Is the vendor the actual owner or do they only have the right of usufruct?
- In the case of co-ownership: the reports by the administrator, the internal regulations and the rules of co-ownership.
- How long has the current owner lived there?
- Why is the property being sold?
- How long has it been on the market?
- Are there still guarantees on the built-in appliances, the boiler, any work performed on the house etc.?
- Will your furniture fit in the house? Will your bed, wardrobe etc., fit neatly in the bedroom?
- Can you have the curtains, flooring or other items included in the sale price (i.e., free of charge)?
- How high are the municipal and other taxes?
- Are there any easements that you have to consider? Examples of this include rainwater from the neighbouring house being drained via your roof, or a road on your land that the neighbours can use to reach their garage.
- Can you have additions put on the house or are there any restrictions?
- For apartments: are you permitted to, for example, renovate the windows yourself? Can you do this on your own, or do you have to do it jointly with the neighbours? Are there any future, shared costs planned (for example, the installation of a new lift)?
5. Your feeling
The last question is perhaps the most important: what kind of feeling do you get from the property? Does it make you happy? Do you experience a sense of well-being in it? Listen to your heart, too!
Do you dream of owning your own home?
And do you want to get an idea of the total cost of your project? We’d like to help you make your dream a reality.