Comment: Where property viewings are concerned, first impressions count

Agents offer neutral ground on property viewings

Agents offer neutral ground on property viewings - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Cliché dictates that you never get a second chance to make a first impression and never has this been more true than in the selling of a house.

Turns out no amount of freshly brewed coffee or fragrant bread-baking will be enough to cancel out certain deal-breaking clangers that have been known to put potential buyers right off making an offer.

According to Harrison Murray and Nottingham Estate Agency, the biggest property turn-offs include coloured bathroom suites, transport noise and excessive amounts of cats (concerns relate to allergy-stricken kids, or the fear that the kitties may return when the owner moves, apparently).

Those old classics of clutter and cleanliness are obviously also on the list. When you’re trying to picture yourself living somewhere new, lounging in a tidemarked bath or struggling to open a bedroom door because of the junk mountain within tend not to be the things property dreams are made of.

Pushy sellers showing buyers around also makes the list. Not surprisingly, Harrison Murray and Nottingham recommend you employ an agent (such as, well, them) to take care of that. “Always take the advice from your agents and don’t be tempted to take on the role yourself as it can make viewers feel uncomfortable and in some cases, intimidated,” they urge.

While they’re clearly completely and utterly biased, I believe they have a point. Personally, I’ve always hated being shown round properties by the owners. Agents are on neutral ground – if you hate everything about the place, it’s easy to say so and exit sharpish.

When the owners are doing the viewing, it’s impossible not to go through the motions, politely making positive noises about something – anything – you can think of (“I hear peach bathroom suites are making a comeback!”) After all, making an abrupt exit as soon as you see the back-to-back style disasters and half dozen cats would be rude, so you find yourself twittering fake compliments and asking how old the cats are out of sheer desperation instead.

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Should you love the house, that’s a whole other story. Owners can answer all the questions agents sometimes struggle with on a first viewing – “what are the neighbours like?” for example. I’d always choose to view with an agent in the first instance, assuming that option was available.

Of course, the presence of an industry professional isn’t always enough to prevent a viewing turning bad. Drawing on my own long list of house-viewing horror stories, the rental property with the tenants still in bed is the most difficult to forget. I couldn’t comment on the cat factor or the state of the bathroom as we didn’t hang around long enough to find out. Even the most efficient of agents couldn’t have anticipated that one...