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11/02/2020 | Buy a property

Buying an apartment: checklist before the visit

Buying an apartment: checklist before the visit

Going on the first visit to the apartment you want to buy? How to go about it? What to see, what to check, and what to ask about to assess general condition of the building and the apartment, amount of the taxes and levies related to co-ownership, and the future bills? Here are some reminders of what you need to know before deciding to buy an apartment.

A young man drafting a checklist before visiting an apartment.

The visit is the time for personal fulfilment, checking the details, and asking questions that will help you  buy with no stress involved, and to avoid any unpleasant surprises after finalising the transaction. Apart from the checklist, you also need a tool that is probably already in your pocket: a smartphone to take photos, and even to take notes. A tape measure will also become handy if you wish to measure some rooms.

Apartment you are visiting: regular co-ownership or ownership per floor?

Your future apartment may have a legal status of co-ownership (the entire building has several owners) or ownership may refer to a floor (PPE). PPE is a special form of co-ownership where you are the exclusive owner of your part and have the right to use common parts. In both cases, the building is manager by a professional manager or a member of the community holding that function. Find out about your exact rights and responsibilities. Ask about regulations governing the relations among owners and determining private and common zones. You can also ask about the report from the last general meetings of the co-owners. Was there a voting regarding maintenance works on the building or the entire co-owned property? If so, what was it? Who will pay the share attributable to the apartment: the seller or the buyer? Will you be able to handle the expenses, if necessary? Do not hesitate to ask the real estate agent about all the necessary information.

Viewing the apartment step by step

After arrival, view the surroundings

The value of a property also depends on its surroundings. What do the surroundings look like? Are there any parking places in the building or on the property where your friends could park? Is there a street or road  in front or near the building with traffic that could cause a nuisance? Where are the available means of public transport, parks, schools, or stores? If you visit the property during the day, come back at peak hours, so that you have a better image about the noise and traffic. Also, find out about the plans for land management in the area. Are there any new buildings planned? Are there any investments in the area? Think that you may also wish to sell the apartment one day. Depending on the surroundings, your apartment will gain or lose value.

Find the time to check the condition of the façade 

How old is the building? Check the condition of the façades, plasterwork, windows, and balconies. Has the building been refurbished recently? When? Should any works on the facades been envisaged? If so, when?

While entering common areas

What is your first impression? Are they well maintained? Are they spacious or narrow? What materials have been used in the entrance zone and other common areas? For example, marble floor is a good mark of the building status. Is the access to the building secured? Is there a digital lock? Is there an intercom? Are they operational? Is there a place for bicycles or prams? What about the garbage? Is the garbage area in good condition? If the apartment you are interested in has an allocated garage, cellar, or a parking place underground, remember to visit it at the beginning or end of your visit. Are they large enough, easily accessible, and safe?

When entering the apartment

– What you principally buy is the square metres of the area, so you must obtain information about the area of the entire building and particular rooms. Obtain information about such items as:

– Which walls are the load bearing walls? This is of major importance if you are planning to remove any partition walls to obtain larger rooms.

– Check the condition of the floors and ceilings. What does the paint on the walls look like? Can one see any traces of mould?

– What is the orientation of the apartment; in particular, how are the living rooms and bedrooms oriented? Are they interconnected? The best orientation is the east/west one.

– Obtain information about windows and other openings. Is this insulated glass? What is the condition of the seals? This affects both thermal and acoustic insulation.

– Ask about the heating system and hot water system. Are they individual or central for the building? How old are they? Find out more about the building insulation and the ventilation system in the apartment. Ask about the annual cost of energy and review any bills, if available.

– Find out also the condition of the water and sewer systems. Check the taps and valves.

Find out about mandatory inspection reports

Before selling an apartment, the owner is obligated to conduct mandatory inspections (electricity and CECB – canton building energy performance certificate, which is mandatory in some cantons), as well as recommended inspections for presence of asbestos (if the building was constructed before 1991), PCB, or lead, and related to gas systems. If you don’t have the reports at hand, it is the right time to ask for them and ask fundamental questions, particularly regarding electrical system. Pay attention to this because redoing the electrical system or adapting it to the standards is expensive. This particularly refers to older buildings.

Walk about the rooms

Take your time, check everything carefully. The kitchen, bathrooms, toilets, bedrooms, living rooms, etc. What furniture will remain, particularly in the kitchen? Do the rooms have enough light? If your visit falls on a cloudy day, try to schedule your next visit on a sunny day. Will your furniture fit through the doors? Check how many closets and wardrobes there are. Do the drawers open easily? Do the doors open and close easily? What is the view outside the windows? It may be wonderful now, but what about in five years?

Find out about the exact fees

Do not hesitate to ask about the amount of taxes, levies, and costs related to co-ownership, as allocated to the apartment,  which may be considerable if there is a concierge in the building, a pool, garden, or other recreational facilities. What is the exact amount of the fees: fee payable to the building manager, concierge, gardener, as well as fees related to cleaning or electrical maintenance in common areas, garage, and elevator maintenance? If there is central heating and hot water is generated for common use, what is your share in the cost?

Thinking of rebuilding works?

Ask the real estate agent what can be done. What do the regulations on co-ownership permit? What are the first steps to be taken? If necessary, come with an expert who will estimate the cost of works.

Take someone to accompany you. Take your time, visit the apartment again!

Pay attention to details, particularly in the case of old buildings. Let someone accompany you. It would be best to take your real estate agent with you. Two heads are better than one. Gather as much information as possible. Take notes and photos. You can certainly ask to see the apartment again, and perhaps again.

Use our partner agent network to buy with confidence

Lookmove cooperates with diligent real estate specialists who are well aware with the specificity of their areas. We choose them for their ability to offer top quality services to the buyers. They know the area, all the services available, and trends in their territories, so that they are able to advise their customers in the best way.

Our partner agents  are at your disposal to help you find and buy an apartment that suits you perfectly. They are just a few clicks away!


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