What to Expect When You're Inspecting: A Guide to Visiting an Open House
With all the different houses you are researching, visiting and comparing, it’s easy to lose track of what you saw, what you liked, and what you didn’t like.
So Many Open Houses, So Many Decisions. What Do You Really Need To Ask When You’re Visiting An Open House?
Open houses vary, but there are some common etiquette rules to follow. First things first; Pick up a copy of the property information. You want to remember the details when you leave. Don't forget to sign in; leave your name only if you prefer not to include your contact information. Be sure to greet the listing agent. Let the agent know you have questions, but don't keep them from being able to interact with other visitors. Discuss, don't dominate.
Expect to answer a few questions about yourself, such as "How long have you been looking?" A good listing agent will be trying to determine who's a serious buyer and who's there for the free mints.
Based on what the market is telling us, all buyers and sellers should focus on a few key areas of the home:
- The Kitchen
- The Living Room
- The Bedrooms
- The Bathroom(s)
- Curb Appeal (The yard)
These areas tend to have high traffic, high visibility and high return. They’re also one of the most expensive areas to upgrade. Ask when the last renovations took place and the age of the appliances. For reference, Thenest.com reports the average lifespan of common kitchen appliances:
- Refrigerators - 11 years
- Gas ranges - 16 years
- Electric ranges - 14 years
- Range hoods - 14 years
- Ovens - 14 years
- Dishwashers - 9 years
The Living Room
The living room is another key room to check out and make sure the way you spend your time in this area of the house fits and works for you. The quality and age of the carpeting is an important area to check. Founder of BuyingNYC.com Brad Malow says, “If you're able to pull back a portion [of the carpet) and actually take a look, do so. The last thing you want to find out, postclosing, is that you're dealing with subflooring that has major issues."
The bedrooms will vary from house to house, but if you’re planning to bring furniture with you or have your eye on the perfect bedroom set, double check measurement to ensure it fits. If you plan on repurposing a spare bedroom as a home office, rec room, or other purpose, note the location and remodeling possibilities. Can you remove or add a wall? Add a skylight or extra window? These are good questions to ask right away.
Inspecting the Roof
A big ticket item to absolutely check, double check, and triple check before leaving the property is the roof. Not only is this a high expense, but the domino effect of a leaky roof can be even more costly. Depending on the style, different roofing materials have varying lifespans:
- Asphalt shingles - 15 to 20 years
- Metal roofs - 20 to 40 years
- Wood shingle and shake roofs - 20 to 30 years
- Tile and slate roofs - 50 or more years
Further Questions to Ask
There is so much to think about when viewing all the options out there, so be sure to write down your questions.
Areas to pay attention TO:
- Items that will be expensive to replace, such as appliances, electrical, heating, and air-conditioning systems, plumbing, and water heaters
- The listing agent will know the history of the house. Ask if the listing price has dropped or increased, and the reasons for any change in price
If you really are interested in making an offer, ask if there have been any offers. If the home has been on the market for a while understanding whether there has been an offer in the past may also be helpful to know. Maybe the owner should have taken an offer right out of the gate and are now kicking themselves that they didn’t do so. Who knows, their motivation to sell quickly may also have changed.
If you think you found THE place, conduct a neighborhood check. Ask about the timeline for sellers, any renovations and/or additions, foundation history, radon levels, mold remediations (if ever present), flood zone and permits if work has been done on the house.
Use the opportunity of an open house to learn what you can while you are visiting. Who knows - you may get more information that you ever expected.