Open houses are a great opportunity to check out a home and ask a lot of questions. Make the most of your touring by paying attention to these important factors.
The neighborhood. Take a lap or two through the neighborhood and even the wider community surrounding it before you even set foot in the house. Remember, you can fix up a house that has potential, but there’s not much you can do about the neighborhood. Look at the condition of the neighboring homes. Look at how the houses and the yards and flowerbeds are maintained. Watch for yards cluttered with junk. Listen for noises such as barking dogs or train whistles. If you like the house, visit again at varying times to check for pluses and minuses: nighttime noise, traffic, the number of children in the neighborhood and the friendliness of the neighborhood.
Signs of hidden problems. Beyond the basics, look for signs of water damage on walls and ceilings. Look for cracks that run at angles through walls and doors that stick. Hairline cracks along sheet rock seams are usually just from normal settling, but diagonal cracks can signify bigger issues. Check for musty smells. On the exterior, check for cracks and broken bricks.
Floor plan. Review photos and videos on MLS before attending the open house. With your family in mind, think about the floorplan. Where do you want the children’s bedrooms in relation to the master bedroom? Notice the flow of rooms such as kitchen to dining, and laundry room to garage. Are there “Jack and Jill bathrooms” connecting bedrooms? Be mindful of closet, storage and attic space. Take pictures or video so you can review later.
Ask questions. Talk to the agent on duty and ask key questions if you are truly interested in the property. Among the questions you might want to ask: How long has the property been on the market? Have there been price reductions and if so, how many and how much? Is there a property condition and history report available and what issues does the house have? Do they have copies of utility bills you can see? Is there a homeowners association that requires dues? What schools and parks are nearby? Is there public transit nearby? How old is the home? An older home opens up questions about what major systems may have been replaced or might need to be replaced. Older homes may also have asbestos or lead-based paint or lead pipes. Keep in mind, the listing agent works for the seller, but he/she is still required by law to disclose any known defects in the home.
Obtain comps. Your agent should supply you with prices for similar homes nearby so that you can see if the price for the home is fair and reasonable. This is especially true if the number of days on the market is high (say 100) in a market where homes are selling much more quickly. This could indicate price inequity or issues with the house of which you may not be aware.