Whether you’re buying your first home or your fifth, you’ll probably attend your fair share of open houses. It’s easy to fall in love with a bright, clean, beautifully staged house during the walkthrough, but you want to go into each new home and truly analyze it for flaws and make sure it matches what you need at this stage in your life.
Buying a home can’t be a snap decision and you need to carefully plan out everything before you sign that contract. Take advantage of an open house appointment to imagine how the home will work for you and ask lots of questions so you can make an informed decision.
Before You Show Up…
Before you even head out to an open house, be prepared! Take with you a tape measure, camera and notebook or checklist so you can keep track of the things you like and don’t like about each property. The tape measure will also come in handy to make sure your existing furniture will fit, rather than guessing and hoping.
What to Look for
Start with the big picture. Do you like the neighborhood? Is the neighborhood developed or can you expect construction in the future? Is it close to work, and are there nearby amenities? Next, look at the overall condition of the home, including the lawn, exterior and roof, looking for any signs of maintenance problems like peeling paint, cracks or missing tiles or shingles on the roof.
Don’t be distracted by the furnishings of the home, as they won’t be staying. Look at the bones of the house, the spaciousness and its features. You should be on the lookout for signs of water damage. Recent caulking on the tub or shower is a sign of water damage or mold, but don’t stop there; look under the bathroom vanity, under the kitchen sink and around the water heater.
Next, check the windows in the house, opening each one, and test the light fixtures. Do the windows open? Are there cracks around the windows? Does the home have enough natural light?
If the home has a garage, don’t be afraid to look around, even if it isn’t the most charming or eye-catching area. This is where you can look at the bones of the home, including the foundation and heating, electrical and plumbing systems.
Questions to Ask About the Home
- How old is the water heater?
- What updates have been done recently?
- When were the electrical and plumbing systems last updated?
- Have there been any recent repairs?
- When was the home built?
- How long as the house been listed? The longer it’s stayed on the market, the more likely the home is overpriced.
- Has the house been in escrow? If it has and didn’t sell, you’ll want to find out why. It could have been an issue with the appraisal, the home inspection or something else.
Above all else, don’t get overwhelmed or let yourself fall in love with a home that just isn’t going to work for you. Go into an open house prepared, with a list of the features you want and those you can’t live with, to find the real home of your dreams.