House hunting is a unique experience. Unlike other purchases, it’s not something you can simply return if it’s not what you expected. After you get the keys, the house is officially yours, through and through.
That’s why it’s important to do your due diligence before closing. This might seem complicated and time-consuming, but it’ll all be worth it when you close on the best possible deal.
Going to open houses, for example, can be abundantly helpful during the homebuying journey. It’ll give you a much better look at a house compared to aimlessly scrolling through listing pictures. Here are some tips for open houses and what you can expect.
What is an open house?
An open house is a scheduled time in which potential buyers can view the home and any outdoor property. This can take place in-person or virtually.
- It gives sellers the opportunity to attract buyers, and hopefully secure a sale.
- For buyers, it’s a chance to initially inspect the home, keeping an eye out for both red flags and things you may like.
What to Expect
- Open houses are generally posted on websites like Zillow and Trulia. Real estate websites and apps can help you find homes and give you the details regarding that property, including open house information.
- Additionally, listing agents will often put a sign on the front lawn or around the neighborhood. Anyone can stop in and check out the house.
- Open houses tend to be scheduled on weekend afternoons. If you’re unable to make it, the listing agent may offer a private showing by appointment.
- Sellers are not present during an open house. Instead, their real estate agent will manage the event. They can walk you through the house and answer any questions you may have. Or you can choose to tour it alone and save your questions for the end.
- They may hand out a booklet, which will provide more information on the house, like square footage, heating and cooling details, lot lines, taxes, etc. Some may even serve hors d’oeuvres and drinks, adding to the overall experience.
- Many agents will ask for your phone number and email address. This allows them to keep records and follow up with open house goers.
The Benefits of Attending
- The more open houses you attend, the more experience you’ll have to evaluate a house and what condition it’s in. This is your chance to strategically evaluate and make an informed decision.
- They will also help to narrow your preferences and get a better feel for the market. You’ll have a clearer idea of whether the property is priced fairly, which will be useful when determining your initial offer.
- Additionally, you will have an opportunity to leave a lasting impression on the listing agent and ask as many questions as your heart desires.
During the Tour
Now is the time to peak behind every crevasse and ultimately find all the hidden gems and flaws. Here’s what to look out for during the tour.
- Open every closet door and evaluate storage space.
- Listen for excessive traffic and noisy neighbors.
- Consider the maintenance involved, inside and in the yard. An acre property may sound great at first, but do you really want to be mowing all that land? If not, can you afford landscapers?
- What shape are the utilities in? Check the oil burner, hot water tank, air conditioning, etc.
- Look for indications of neglect. Are the sellers keeping up with maintenance and repairs?
- Smell for mold, especially in the bathrooms, basement, and garage. This indicates a moisture issue.
- Check the windows, exterior doors, and wood decks for rot. Replacing them can be very expensive.
- Look for traps in the yard, under the decking, and in the basement and garage. This tells you that there is a rat or mouse problem.
- If the house is carpeted, lift it slightly to see if there are hardwoods underneath.
- Check the foundation for cracks.
- Look for stained baseboards and floors, especially in the basement. This tells you there may be a flood problem.
- Finally, take a peek at anything that looks like it’s covered up for a reason.
Questions to Ask the Listing Agent
- Why are the sellers moving?
- Are they the original owners? If not, how many previous owners are there?
- Are there any offers on the house?
- Is there flexibility in the price?
- When were the utilities replaced? The roof and siding?
- Are there any issues that would come up during an inspection, like water damage, structural problems, electrical issues, etc.?
- What repairs and renovations were done recently?