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Expert Legal Advice for Property Viewing

Buying a home is an exciting and significant milestone in life, but it can also be complicated. It’s one of the most important financial investments and life decisions you’ll make, so it’s essential to be aware of the legal aspects involved to protect your interests and ensure a smooth transaction. 

In Northern Ireland, purchasing a property involves various legal complexities that must be carefully navigated to ensure a hassle-free transaction. For the large part, you won’t actually engage a solicitor or take legal advice on your house purchase until after you have decided which house to buy, and had your offer accepted by the seller.

In this article, Residential Property Partner Ian Creighton, shares his top tips to consider when viewing a home, which will help you navigate potential pitfalls and make informed decisions;

Beautiful house – but what exactly are you buying?  

How a house is decorated and presented is key to that all-important first impression when viewing a property. When you narrow your search down to a few properties, it could well be the decoration of one that tips it over the edge during the viewings, but should it? Just how much of that decor are you going to be seeing on the day you open the door to your new home.

You won’t always get what you see  

What stays in the property, and what is removed by the seller, is actually covered during the legal process, well after you have carried out your initial viewing. So, if you’re getting ready to view a property, it is important to know at this stage about Fixtures and Fittings; what will be included in the sale and more importantly, what can be removed.

If you fall in love with a home and the finishings are a deal-breaker for you, such as carpets, curtains, flooring, garden sheds or anything else, don’t just assume they’ll come with the house. Sellers are entitled to remove almost anything they want from the property, including ovens, wheelie bins, light fittings, toilet roll holders, and more. 

Fixtures and Fittings

Fixtures have been traditionally regarded as those things that appear to be part of the fabric of the premises, as a result of which, it would normally require considerable effort, probably tools and possibly some skill to remove them e.g. radiators, shower units, kitchen units etc. Ordinarily all fixtures should be left on the Property and included in the sale price. 

Fittings on the other hand are, generally speaking, things that can simply be un-hooked, un-plugged, easily lifted or removed without any great effort, or without substantial tools or specialist knowledge, e.g. furniture, shelving, mirrors etc.

What will be left behind?

While it might seem logical as to what will remain at the property, buyers are often surprised when they receive the fixtures and fittings list completed by the seller. Did you know for example, the seller can remove all the carpets and blinds? They can also take the wheelie bins with them, and remove the light switches and covers.

Depending on what you agree during the legal process, you could very well open the door on the day your purchase completes to find exposed floors, bare walls with wall plugs and screws as memories of mirrors and tv brackets, and simple ceiling roses and light bulbs were there were once elaborate light fittings. 

The Four Categories of Fixture & Fittings

Before going to your first viewing of a property it is important to know about the fixtures and fittings list that will be agreed during the legal process, and very simply, that items will fall into 1 of 4 categories:

1) It will be left at the property as part of the agreed sale price

2) It will be removed

3) The seller is willing to sell the item at a cost separate to the house sale price

4) There is none of the item at the property


When viewing a property you are interested in buying, ask what is going to be left behind in each room. And don’t forget the areas outside. Are they leaving the garden shed? If a large electrical appliance is included in the sale, check if it is working and ask if it is under warranty.

Equally, if there is something at the property that you don’t want, but the seller is indicating they will leave, advise your solicitor that you want them removed from the property before you move in.

Alterations and Extensions – is the work up to scratch?

Works carried out to a property to alter it from its original construction will often require specific approvals and certificates to confirm that the work has been completed to the appropriate standard. However, it is not uncommon for alterations to have been carried out without these approvals, and they can become your problem if it is not addressed before you complete the purchase.

Your solicitor will ensure that the correct approvals were obtained and that the works passed inspection and certificates were issued. However, they can only do this for the works they are made aware of.

Some alterations will be apparent, and some will often be highlighted as a selling point, for instance, an extension or a loft conversion. Other works might be less obvious. For instance, the removal of a wall, electrical rewiring or changing the heating system.


When viewing a home, ask the seller or estate agent what renovations and alterations have been carried out and when. Make your solicitor aware of any works that were confirmed to you or that you suspect were carried out as early as possible to avoid delays in the legal process.

Fences, walls and legal boundaries

The physical boundaries of a property will usually be fairly apparent, marked out by fences, walls or hedges. However, the most important boundaries are those registered at the Land Registry. These are the legal boundaries of the property and set out the full extent of what you will actually own, regardless of how it looks on the ground.

Alarmingly, mistakes with the registration of boundaries are common. There are often cases where the seller doesn’t legally own all of the garden or driveway. This can range from just a small sliver of land to a significant portion of the property.

Your solicitor will never visit the property, but they will show you a map of the property showing the boundaries as they are registered in the Land Registry. They will ask that you are satisfied that the map accurately reflects what appears on the ground.


Take photos of the boundaries of the property, and in particular, any areas where you feel the boundary is not clearly established on the ground. Later on you can always revisit the property with the map in hand to confirm any boundaries if you are unsure, but raise any concerns at the outset to avoid delays during the legal process.

Looking for advice?

Buying a property is likely to be one of your biggest financial decisions, so it’s vital you know what to look for when viewing to find a property that suits your needs best.

When you find your perfect next home, and your offer is accepted, you will need to choose a solicitor to guide you through the legal process.

Get in Touch

Call us on 0800 840 9290 / Make an enquiry with our expert Residential Property Team and we’ll advise you on the first steps and best solutions which will suit you, your family and your future plans.

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