Stay safe this winter
As the nights draw and it gets darker earlier, winter is a time when it's more important than ever for tenants to be careful when viewing homes – especially if the viewings take place after dark.
While the chances of something happening are very low, it's still best to be aware of the potential risks and red flags and prepare for these.
Below, we set out some of the top tips to ensure your viewing experience is a happy and safe one this autumn.
Don't go alone
Even if you plan to rent the home on your own, it's still a good idea to take a friend, partner, or family member for the viewing. Not only will they be able to give you their honest opinion on the home, but their presence will also reassure you.
Do your research
Before viewing, you should research the letting agent or landlord to ensure they are who they say they are. It can be reassuring if you can put a face to the name and know exactly who you will be dealing with.
There is a good chance the letting agent will be arranging the viewing for you – in which case their credentials are easier to find – but if you're doing the viewing directly through the landlord, make sure to take some steps to ensure they're legitimate.
View in the day
If you're a bit nervous about viewing a property at night, especially if it's not on a particularly well-lit street, you should try and view the home during the day if you can. Although the nights draw in earlier once winter arrives, it still doesn't tend to get dark until around 4-5 pm, giving plenty of time for viewings in daylight hours.
It might not always be possible to facilitate viewings in the daytime, especially during the week, but you could try and arrange a viewing for the weekend or during your lunch hour. There is the added advantage of homes being easier to view during the daytime, as you can view the whole of the property in more detail, including the outside and garden.
Avoid questionable listings
If a rental home sounds too good to be true or has few or no images on the advert, this should ring some alarm bells. While the portals are generally very good at weeding out fake or dodgy listings, this isn't always the case.
It's also best, in general, to use large, well-known property search websites (Rightmove, Zoopla, OnTheMarket, etc.) or reputable letting agents' websites to search for property rather than other sources. If the person you're arranging the viewing with refuses to speak to you by phone and would rather do everything by text or WhatsApp, you might want to think twice.
Equally, it's probably best to avoid if they are demanding money upfront or a fee to reserve the property before viewing.
Err on the side of caution if a property listing doesn't seem genuine enough.
Tell someone where you're going
If you have no choice but to go to a viewing alone, ensure you've told someone about it to have that safety net in place.
If a viewing doesn't feel quite right from the start, or you don't feel comfortable entering the property, take the safety-first approach, turn around, and look elsewhere instead.
If you feel any red flags are leading up to or during the viewing process, take the safety-first approach. It might be nothing, but your gut instinct will usually see you right.
Most viewings this winter will pass by without a hitch, and the letting agent or landlord will be a delightful host or hostess. But it's important not to get complacent and to err on caution if anything feels remiss.
Following the tips above will help to keep you safe as you attempt to find your next home.