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Home insurance - guides

What to look for when viewing the outside of a house

Your 'outside the house' viewing checklist

Illustration of a house with a for sale sign outside

Buying a new house is a massive commitment, not least one of the biggest purchases you’re likely to make. So you’ll want to make sure that you get it right and that the house you’re buying really is your dream home.

We know that house viewing is an exciting time – but sometimes, it’s easy to get wrapped up in imagining it as your next home, and forget to look at the details.

With a bit of preparation before you view a property, you’ll be easily able to spot signs of potential problems that may cause trouble further down the line.

The top 5 things to look out for outside a property

As a new homebuyer, it’s important to look out for signs of potential problems or things that will need repairing once you’ve moved in. Most people are unaware that their home insurance won’t cover things like a leaking roof – so you should look out for tell-tale signs.

Roof tiles

Tell-tale signs:

  1. Cracked, slipped or missing roof tiles
  2. Damp patches on the ceiling directly below the roof

What does this mean?

If there’s a gap in a tiled roof, that means water can get in and cause damage to the property. Most people aren’t aware that you can’t claim for water damage on your home insurance as a result of missing or broken roof tiles, so it’s important to fix this as soon as possible.

Illustration of house with flat-roofed garage

Flat roofs

Tell-tale signs:

  1. Pooling water on the flat roof surface
  2. Cracks in the asphalt or loose joins at the edges
  3. Plants or weeds growing

What does this mean?

A flat roof is usually found on an extension or garage. Normally, they are cheaper to construct and so water is more likely to get in. If water is pooling on top of the flat roof, this could lead to leaks, water damage – or in extreme cases, the flat roof collapsing.

Gutters and drains

Tell-tale signs:

  1. Plant life growing in the gutters
  2. When it rains, water overflows from the gutters
  3. Split guttering or drains
  4. Damp stains on the outside and interior walls

What does this mean?

If the drains or guttering are blocked by fallen leaves, or simply need some TLC, when it rains, water will build up and cause them to overflow, often down the side of the house. This can lead to damp inside the house, damage plasterwork and cause interior woodwork or timbers to rot. It’s a quick job for a homeowner to fix – just make sure drain problems in the past have left no lasting damage.

Illustration of a gutter and drainpipe

Illustration of a retaining wall

Retaining walls

Tell-tale signs:

  1. Cracks in the wall
  2. Crumbly brick or stonework
  3. Leaning or uneven walls

What does this mean?

A retaining wall is sometimes not built as sturdily as some of the other exterior walls of a property. Make sure when you view a new property that you look for some of these tell-tale signs. Steer clear of buying a home which shows signs of damage to retaining walls, as it could be extremely expensive to put right.


Tell-tale signs:

  1. A wonky or leaning chimney stack
  2. Signs of damp in the roof space underneath the chimney
  3. Problems with the brickwork or mortar around the breast

What does this mean?

If a chimney breast isn’t whisking smoke away properly, then this can cause serious problems inside the home. It could cause damp, soot and ash to come back down the flue into your rooms, roof tiles to be dislodged and problems with your heating system.

Illustration of a chimney

Remember to look at our house viewing ‘inside’ checklist too. Please be aware that these checklists are for your guidance only; always consider having your own independent survey carried out to uncover any hidden issues with the house you're buying.