Be prepared: Some people visit five open houses in a day. Know what will help you remember the places best. You can bring a clipboard, notepad, or camera to help you. Many agents hand out spec sheets, so you can bring a folder to keep the papers organized.
Figure out personal preferences: Go through the pros and cons. Decide what you can’t live without and what you can deal with in buying a home. Try not to argue about it during the open house.
Keep your opinions to yourself: You don’t want to give away how you’re feeling about the house right away. “If you say the search is over right away, then that negates your ability to negotiate,” said Lenny Harris, realtor at Jack Conway & Company.
Look up: You want to check out the roof as you walk in. Take note of the age of shingles, especially if any are curling or have a lot of space in between. If you notice that the gutters haven’t been cleaned out or the yard is a mess, then that might be a good sign that the owners haven’t taken good preventative care for the house, Harris said.
Ask as many questions as possible: How old is that water boiler? Is there anything unique about the house and town? What updates have you done since the last owners? When was the electricity last updated? Harris said that buyers have paid extra on homeowners insurance because the house used fuses instead of circuit breakers.
Look to the bones of the house: Don’t be distracted by what the owners have inside the house. Remember that those furnishings don’t stay with the house. “Anybody can invest money into staging a house,” Harris said. “Don’t buy the sizzle; buy the meat.” Look to the big ticket items, like location, windows, and age of the house.
Pay attention as you walk: With the older houses in the area, you’re bound to find some interesting characteristics. Note if there’s a slant as you walk. Does that matter a lot to you? “Don’t be totally put off by that,” Harris said. “Some people look at that as charm, and the rest of the home may make up for that.”
Look for signs of water damage: Note any signs of mold on the walls or if the rooms are not properly ventilated. What does the tub look like? Has it been caulked recently?
Explore the neighborhood:Don’t just look at the particular house. Take a walk. More often than not, the neighbors tend to be at the house, too. Ask them about crime rates, schools, what you get for your taxes, and anything else that matters to you.
Are you looking to buy a house this season? If you’re not really sure where to start or what to look out for while attending open houses, then read on in the captions for professional advice.
Originally published in April 2012.