Buying a home is undeniably the largest purchase most of us will make in our lifetime and attending open houses can give you a great chance to look at a variety of homes, at your own pace, often times without the worry of being dragged around by a Realtor.
While open houses are a great source of information about the property, neighborhood and local markets, there are a few things that you should be aware of. The following are 10 things to look for at an open house:
According to CNN’s money blog, “A full 94% of sellers do some “staging,” such as repainting or bringing in new furniture, says Coldwell Banker.”
Carl San Miguel, a San Jose realtor says that “You can be so wowed by staging that you overlook important things,” Carl San Miguel suggest that in order to focus on what matters, you should lift rugs to look at floors, ask the agent to turn off music so you can listen for nearby noise, and beware of any smells masked by candles.
Staging has no doubt become more common throughout the housing slump as real estate agents and sellers do their best to make homes more tempting to buyers. Barb Schwarz, CEO of StagedHomes.com says that roughly 25% of homes for sale are staged. Schwarz says that there is no reason why that number will not go up as more real estate agents recommend this service to home sellers.
When you first arrive at an open house, take notice of the neighborhood and surrounding houses. Does the landscaping look like it is regularly maintained? Do the neighbors seem nice? Does the home offer you sufficient privacy? There’s a good chance that the home you are looking at has been “staged” with the curb appeal enhanced, but don’t be conscious of the surrounding homes. Don’t be blinded by the beauty of a rose amidst a bunch of thorns.
Look past the wall colors and 1970s furniture, be aware of the general state of repair of the inside of the house. Does the ceiling have cracks or signs of water leaks? If the flooring is wood, is there an excessive amount of noise when you walk? Use your nose as well as your eyes… are there odors from mold or signs of humidity? Does the home seem to be well ventilated and insulated? Another thing to check is the water pressure. Turn on a faucet (or two), is the water pressure to your liking?
Again, look past the color, you can always have a fresh coat of paint applied relatively inexpensively. What you want to be on the lookout for are signs of decay or lack of maintenance. Is the brick, block or siding in good condition? Do the screens on patios look to be in need of repair or replacement? Does the roof appear to be in good condition?
Do the appliances stay with the house? If so, are they to your liking? Are the window treatments included? If you are moving from the city or an apartment out to the suburbs, will you have a lawn that you will have to mow? If so, will the seller consider including the mower with the house?
Room to Grow
Even if you have no immediate plans to expand the property, is there sufficient room to add another room or even a detached garage or shop? Is there any potential for future expansion of the home?
Have Your Own Agent
If you have started your search for a new home on your own, consider getting your own buyer’s agent. If you attend an open house and fall in love with the home, you are going to want the expertise of a professional to help you through the buying process. If you do not have your own agent, the seller’s agent will be more than happy to act as your agent… but who’s interest do you thing they will look after?
Just for You
If after attending an open house you feel that “this is the one”, ask your agent to contact the seller’s agent to schedule a private showing of the home. With open houses there are usually other prospective buyers coming and going, and often times you cannot spend the time alone that you might need to really get a “feel” of your possible new home.
If after your search and private showing, you find a house that will fit your needs, have your agent write an offer contingent on a home inspection and then hire a reputable home inspector. Once the inspection is complete, you will know what if any issues the home has and use these to either determine that this is not the house for you after all, or as a bargaining chip.
Keep Your Emotions under Control
If at any time, either during an open house or at your private showing, you decide right there on the spot that this is the house for you, keep it to yourself. If you let the seller or their agent know that you have just fallen in love with the house, you have lost all of your bargaining power. Wait until you get in the car on the way home to be excited about your new home.