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Househunting: What to ask and look for

Househunting: What to ask and look forSo you've set up a viewing of a property you like. How do you know the place is right for you before signing a contract?

What to look for

  • When first visiting a property, try to go with someone else. It’s safer for you and helpful to have a second opinion.
  • Check for fixtures and fittings. Is there a washing machine? Microwave? Oven? Fridge? Freezer? If you take a list with you, it will help to make sure you don't miss anything. Remember that some things might belong to the current tenants.
  • Windows and heating. Winter can get cold and you don’t want to be left shivering in bed. Check there’s full heating throughout and that there are no cracks in the window fittings that could let drafts in.
  • Security. Check the doors and windows. Are they secure? How many locks are there on the front door? Ideally, you will need at least two.
  • If you like the look of the place, go back for a second look in the evening to check that it’s an area you would feel safe walking home in at night.
  • Look at the neighbours’ gardens or community areas (corridors). Are they well cared for? If possible, ask the current tenants about noise levels.
  • Transport. What are the public transport links like? If you drive, is there free parking? If so, is it on or off-street?

Questions to ask before signing on the dotted line

  • Is the place fully furnished? If not, you will have to consider the cost of buying your own furniture.
  • Are bills included? Depending on the landlord, you may be expected to pay bills on top of the agreed rental price. Make sure you’re aware which bills you’ll have to pay each month and factor it in when comparing rents.
  • Is there internet access? In private halls, this might be included; in a house or flat, you'll probably need to sort it out yourself.
  • How much are the agency fees, if there are any? Find out exactly how much they want before signing any contracts.
  • How long is the contract for?
  • What period of notice must you give in order to move out? For most places, you need to notify the landlord or estate agent one month before moving, but this will vary.
  • When and how should the rent be paid? Usually, this will be via direct debit but your landlord may set up a different arrangement.
  • What other facilities are included in the rent? Perhaps the accommodation has access to a shared garden, a balcony or leisure facilities.
  • How much is the deposit? This could be the value of one months’ rent or more. You'll also need to find out how it will be paid, as this may be different from your regular rent.
  • Do you need references? Landlords may ask for a written reference from someone who knows you to vouch for your reliability.
  • Will the landlord do any repairs? Often if something is broken or worn, landlords will be happy to replace it in order to guarantee a new tenant. If you think the place needs a new lick of paint, say so, and ask if it can be done before you move in.
  • If you get a chance to speak to the current tenants, it can help you to get a better idea of what the property is really like to live in.

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