Noisy sex and pork chops: How to avoid house viewing blunders

It's fraught with faux pas so here are some tips on house viewing etiquette and what not to do. Sharon Dale reports

First impressions count when it comes to buying and selling a home and viewings are a crunch point.

Get them wrong and they can scupper a sale or sully negotiations. The National Association of Estate Agents surveyed its members recently and discovered some serious faux pas, including would-be buyers who lit up a cigarette while looking round a house, others who refused to take their shoes off and some who brought their pets along.

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The research also revealed that a number of NAEA Propertymark members recalled conducting viewings only to find the homeowner asleep in bed.

We asked some top Yorkshire agents for recollections of viewing blunders and for some sage advice.

Amanda May, manager of Dale Eddison in Skipton, says: “We always ask vendors to go out when we’re doing viewings otherwise it gets too busy and deflected. One vendor did go out and took her dogs with her but then decided to come back early, possibly to get a look at the viewers.

“Not only did she walk in with the dogs but the dogs were then sick all over the kitchen. Needless to say the would-be buyers weren’t impressed. Other no-no’s for vendors include leaving your dirty washing on the floor, including underpants and knickers – people often do, leaving the house untidy with pots to be washed and cooking fish the night before as the smell of a house is so important.

“What vendors should do is cut the grass, tidy away pet baskets and bowls, make sure the house is warm and go out and leave your agent to conduct a viewing. As for would-be buyers, I’d say do a drive-by before booking a viewing or you risk wasting everyone’s time if you don’t like the look of it.”

Andrew Beadnall, of Beadnall Copley, says: “The worst thing we have seen a seller do is tell a viewer the moment they walked in that there was a planning application in for 70 houses in the field opposite. They added: ‘It would be a shame if they got approval as I bought the house for the view.’ We’ve also heard sellers say: ‘I’ll take an offer. I’m desperate to sell’.

“As for would-be buyers, on one occasion a viewer opened the French doors into the conservatory and one door fell off. The viewer then asked if that ‘would come off the price’. We always recommend that people prepare or even stage their home for viewings. I will often say to sellers that they should have their house looking as though they were having a visit from their mother-in-law. A top tip for viewers is that you’ll never find the 10/10 house as it has not been built yet. If it scores seven or more then buy it.”

Philip Procter, Regional Director of Humberts Yorkshire, says: “Most of our owners like to conduct their own viewings and they are often best suited to the job as they are best-placed to answer some of the questions that come up.

“The key is to get the right kind of person to do the viewing. We once had a wonderful lady owner who wanted to conduct her own viewings and she was perfect as she was very engaging but she told us that under no circumstances were we to allow her husband to show people round or it would be disastrous. That was borne out by events. As for buyer etiquette, Philip suggests that the first thing those viewing a property should do is make sure they know where are going.

“We give people very precise directions but some buyers ignore this and put the postcode into their Satnav thinking it will get them there. It doesn’t always and then they arrive for a viewing late and in a grump, which isn’t a good start.”

Richard Welton, of Quick and Clarke, says: “One seller was cooking pork chops when I did a viewing and the stench of fried fat was overpowering. I also spotted a vibrator on a bedside table once and had to steer the potential buyers away from it.

“I have also witnessed some very rude people who have criticised houses openly in front of the owner. My top tip to a seller is never try to ‘over-sell’ your property. I do not think Yorkshire people like the hard sell and it makes the potential buyer uncomfortable and can look desperate.

“My top tip for the buyer is to go with an open mind. Push yourself to talk openly with the seller to find out why they have loved their home.”

Simon Blyth, of Simon Blyth, says: “I did a viewing when the homeowners were away and realised that there was a couple upstairs. We could hear a lot of action and it took quite a while to attract their attention. The lesson there is make sure all family members know there might be a viewing when you are away.

“There’s also the question of safety. I’ve had people slip on flags and on one viewing, where I showed two women round a house, the little boy who was with them wandered off and stepped into a six feet deep pond. Luckily, I had kept an eye on him and managed to pull him out.

“My advice to both seller and viewer is ‘be cheerful’. There’s no point making your home look good if the experience is poor. Be pleasant at all times.”