When you’re in the market for a new home, there are all kinds of places that you can look. With recent advances in technology, it’s possible to take an entirely digital tour of a property from your phone or tablet. While pictures and video tours can give you a good idea about what a property looks like, there’s still no substitute for going to an open house.
There’s simply something about being inside a home that you may be interested in buying that provides more information than any MLS listing photos or virtual tour can provide. However, it’s important to understand what you should be looking for when you attend these open houses. Afterall, open houses give you a great opportunity to take a long look at the inside of a home before you consider putting in an offer. Knowing what to look for in an open house is an important part of your house hunting puzzle.
Don’t go into the open house blind. Instead, spend some time researching the property. There is plenty of information that you can find about properties simply by typing the address into a Google search. When you’re compiling information about the property, don’t forget to look into how many times it has been sold over the years. If you’re considering a property that has been sold six times in the last three years, there’s probably a reason why. While none of the information that you gather has to make your decision for you, you should be armed with as much knowledge about the property as possible before you even show up for the open house.
Drive by Early
If possible, drive by the property a few days before the open house. This will give you a good opportunity to see how the sellers take care of the property when they don’t have people coming to look at it. If the yard looks shabby and uncared for, there’s a good possibility that they don’t perform other regular maintenance tasks on the home. It’s also not uncommon for sellers to wait until the last minute to repair some obvious issues with the home. If you drive by three days before the open house and there are broken shutters, a lopsided mailbox and other obvious problems, beware of the fact that the people selling the home may have neglected multiple parts of the property.
During your drive by the property, take note of the rest of the neighborhood. Do the neighbors seem to take care of their property? Are there animals roaming loose around the area? Do the properties directly adjacent to the one you’re considering have overgrown weeds and garbage piled up everywhere? Get as much visual information as you can before the day of the open house.
Are There Multiple For Sale Signs?
When you arrive at the property for the open house, see if there are multiple other properties for sale in the same neighborhood. If you’re looking for a home in a subdivision that has 20 homes and 10 of them have a for sale sign in the yard, there is clearly something going on that’s making people want to leave the area. If you have your heart set on this neighborhood or the home that you’re visiting at the open house, the presence of all of these other listed properties gives you a clear advantage in negotiations.
Notice the Smell
It’s not uncommon for real estate agents who are hosting an open house to bake cookies or muffins to create a homier feel for the people who are coming by to check out the property. While there’s a certain amount of psychological manipulation at play when trying to make a property feel like home, it also serves another purpose. Some agents bake cookies or some other treat as a way to mask odors that are present in the home. If you walk into an open house and notice freshly baked cookies in the kitchen and candles burning in every room, take note. There’s a good chance that the hosting agent is trying to mask an undesirable odor in the home.
Check the Foundation
You may assume that you can’t check the home’s foundation during an open house since you probably won’t be crawling under the crawlspace. However, there are plenty of other ways for you to determine if the property you’re considering has foundation issues. Look for significant cracks in the walls, especially near the corners where the walls meet. Also, take note of large cracks around doors or windows. While hairline cracks are a natural sign of a settling home, large cracks often indicate a serious foundational problem. If the home has a stone or brick fireplace, you can get a good idea of any issues with the foundation. If you can stick your finger all the way inside a crack in the fireplace, experts say that there is probably a major problem with the foundation. Finally, open and close the doors and windows. If they stick, the house may have foundational problems.
Consider Closet Space
It’s easy to get so caught up in the size of the rooms in the home you’re visiting that you don’t give a careful look at the closets and other storage areas. Home sellers and listing agents know how to manipulate the space available when they set up an open house. They will make sure the closets appear to be full while still seeming spacious as a way to make sure you know that all of your belongings will fit inside. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that closets are bigger than they really are. If you don’t really look at closet size, you may find yourself moving in and running out of room earlier than you thought you would. Make sure that you get exact measurements on how large or small the closets are in the property that you’re looking at.
How to Look for Water Damage
In most homes, there will be some plumbing that runs through the walls of the home. Make sure to check for any hint of discoloration around showers and tubs or in the laundry room. Also, see if the floor around the kitchen sink or dishwasher appears to be soft or spongy, as this can be a surefire sign of water damage. Just because you don’t see discoloration in the walls doesn’t mean there hasn’t been water damage. If the wall in the bathroom directly beside the shower has a fresh coat of paint but the rest of the room doesn’t, they sellers are probably trying to conceal the damage of a past leak. If there is a rug in the kitchen in front of the sink or dishwasher, they may be trying to hide where the floor has been damaged by water. It’s important that you try to outthink the seller and the hosting agent when you’re looking for these possible problems. They need to keep them hidden in order to get a better offer on the home. You need to find out the truth so you can make a more educated offer.
Consider Taking Your Agent
In virtually all 50 states, the real estate agent who is representing you as the buyer gets paid out of the sellers’ agent’s commission. This means that you can have professional representation in your real estate transaction for free. Consider taking your real estate agent with you to the open house. He or she will know even more about the tricks of the trade and may be able to help you negotiate a better price if you decide to make an offer on the property.
Open houses provide a wonderful opportunity for you to thoroughly check out a subject property before you make an offer on it. It’s important to note that open houses are not a substitute for a professional home inspection. If you decide to proceed with the purchase, you should certainly allow a home inspector to check out every aspect of the property. However, knowing what to look for at an open house can help ensure that you get the best deal possible on a home that you may spend the rest of your life making memories in.