Open Houses – A Step-by-Step Guide to Viewing a Home and What Questions to Ask
Tuesday Nov 12th, 2019
Visiting open houses is like going on a series of dates with prospective homes where you discover what features compliment your style and make you comfortable. Your questions such as: can I see myself living here long term, or, will we be able to build a family in this home can be answered. If you are comfortable with the home and it checks off most of your wish list, taking the next step in making an offer will be natural.
Open houses can help you assess and narrow down the features you need and want in a home. You will also learn what is available in your price range and area. Anyone can visit an open house, whether they are serious about buying a home or not. In fact, most people visiting open houses will not make an offer on that home, so relax and learn. You may want to visit homes at the top and the bottom of your price range for a comparison.
So, what is on your wish list so far? The list below will higlight some options. Bring the list with you to the open house to check off the needs that are satisfied by the viewed house.
What are your needs? (Click here for printable list)
Note: Get a pre-approved mortgage and have a deposit ready in your bank account in case you want to make an offer quickly.
Do your research
Before going to an open house, you should know what the other homes in the neighbourhood are going for. This will help to know whether it is listed high or low for the area which could represent problems or opportunities. The owners may want to sell quickly and have discounted the home for a quick sale, or the home may be overpriced for the area.
And, are most of the homes owned or rented?
In order to benefit from the experience, you must be prepared to ask questions, take lots of notes, and wear comfortable shoes. Collect and organize the open house information by stapling your notes, flyers and hand-outs together. This will help avoid confusion during the assessment process.
Here is a Step by Step Guide to Open House Viewing and Suggested Questions
Click here for a free printable checklist - you will be given access after leaving your contact information
Outside - Before entering the home
- Check out the properties of the neighbours – do they have messy yards or are they manicured? This could indicate the personality of the neighbours.
- What is the traffic and noise level – busy, slow, quiet, loud, are there children playing?
- In which direction is the house facing giving the home morning or afternoon sun?
- Walk around the outside of the property
- Check the gutters; is debris sticking out? Water backing up could cause attic damage.
- Examine the foundation and windows for cracks and signs of leaks as well as pest infestation
- Siding - Check for peeling, cracks and splits
- Look at the roof; are shingles faded or missing?
- How old is the roof?
- Has the roof been replaced?
- What is the life expectancy of the roof?
- Are there street lights near the home?
- Is the lawn and landscaping maintained? Care of exterior could indicate the level of care of the interior.
- Trees - are there any that need to be removed or cared for? Any roots coming up from the ground?
- Is the deck, patio, and porch in good repair? What are the dimensions?
- Which items are included in the sale? ex: pool, hot tub, shed
- Is it above or in-ground?
- What system is used to clean the pool; salt water, chlorine?
- What is the age and condition?
- Have they had any problems?
- Check for cracks
- What system is used to maintain the pool; bromine, chlorine?
- When was it installed and condition?
- What is the condition of the cover?
- Have they had any problems?
Driveway & Road
- How many cars can fit?
- What is the surface?
- Will it need to be replaced?
- Are there any cracks? When was it last paved?
- Where will the snow be put?
- Snowplow priority; where is this location on the snow plow list? ex: main artery, secondary, rural collector, residential through streets, residential or cul-de-sac. If it is on a court, it may be last on the list. Can you wait to leave for work until the snow plow goes by?
- How many cars will fit?
- Check the roof and foundation
- Are there plumbing hookups?
- Electrical outlets?
- Is the garage large enough for your vehicles?
- Does the garage door come with a remote?
- Will the yard size be adequate for your growing family?
- Will you have enough room for a play area, hot tub or garden?
- where are the property lines?
- Look at the finishes and renovations done to the home specifically look at caulking, baseboards and trim – were they done with care? If the finishing touches are not done with care this could indicate that the hidden work is the same.
- Look beyond room decorations and paint colour; see the space and its potential.
- Do you like the floor plan?
- Ex: Does the family room location interfere with the sleep of someone working nights?
- Will your possessions fit?
- Is it open concept?
- Do you like the floors?
- Are they even?
- What is the condition?
- How many bedrooms?
- Are the floors carpeted?
- What is under the carpeting?
- What is the condition of the floors? Are they even?
- Have there been any modifications to the bedrooms? Ex: remove or add wall, skylight or extra window?
- Do the rooms get natural light?
- Do the walls need painting?
- What are the dimensions?
- Will your furniture fit within the space?
- How large is the closet?
- Is there cable in the room?
- Are there smoke detectors? And do the smoke detectors work?
- Is there a master bedroom ensuite?
- Are the sinks and faucets stain-free? This speaks to the care of the homeowner.
- Do the sinks and tubs have mold or mildew?
- Has the bathroom been renovated and when? Tub insert maybe?
- Is there enough cabinet space?
- Linen closet?
- Are the fans working?
- Flush the toilet and see if it works properly.
- How is the water pressure in the sinks and shower?
- How is the hot water?
- Does the drainage work well?
- Turn the water on and check for knocking or delays.
- Have they had any leaks while they owned the home?
- Was the kitchen renovated, when and what was done?
- Does it have an eat-in kitchen and/or a formal dining room?
- Will your furniture fit in the eat-in or dining area?
- Is the sink and faucet stain-free?
- Where are the electrical outlets in the kitchen?
- Do the appliances come with the home sale?
- What is the brand name of the appliances?
- Condition and age of appliances?
- Have any of the appliances been repaired?
- Are the appliances still under warranty and when do they expire?
- Does the garbage disposal work?
- Is there a formal livingroom?
- Is it carpeted? What is below the carpet?
- Has the carpet or floor been replaced and when?
- Have the windows been replaced and when?
- What company was used?
- Cost of replacement will tell you the quality of the windows.
- On the main floor?
- Does the washer and dryer come with the house?
- What is the condition of both?
- Are they still covered on warranty?
- Any issues?
- Are there any signs of damage?
- What flooring is on the stairs?
- Are the railings in good repair? Safe?
- Is there Air Conditioning?
- Has it been replaced and when?
- What is used for heating? Electrical, gas, propane?
- Has the furnace been replaced and when?
- When was it last cleaned/checked?
- Is there a water softener?
- When was it installed and what is the condition?
- Is it still under warranty?
- Water heater
- Is it owned or rented?
- Has it been replaced and when?
- Condition of water heater?
- Wood or gas
- When was it installed and the condition?
- When was the chimney last cleaned?
- Basement - is it finished?
- Do the doors open and close easily? Are they in good condition?
- Do the locks work? Good condition?
- Are there any storm doors?
- Is the door weatherproof?
- Does the doorbell work?
- Is there a security system?
- Home Additions - Did you obtain permits for the add-ons and have them expected?
Research and General questions
- How long is the commute to work?
- Closest public transportation
- Where is the closest grocery store?
- Where is the hospital?
- Why is the house for sale? (Neighbours, noise, traffic)
- What is the estimated closing date? This may explain why they are moving.
- How long have the owners lived here? This will give you an idea of what renovations have been made by the seller.
- What items are included in the home purchase?
- Has there been a price fluctuation? This will help you decide whether to make an offer and how much.
- How long has it been on the market? If it has been a while, why?
- Are there any offers on the table? This will help you decide if you should be quick and what to include in your offer. ex: closed and not dependent on financing or date.
- Are there any property disclosures? – Structural details ex: age of roof, condition of heating system etc.; insect, mold. The listing agent must share this information.
- Are there any recent inspection reports on the property?
- Is there anything we should know about the electrical, heating, air conditioning, security, plumbing, insulation, water, or sewage systems? Regardless of the answer, you should request a home inspection to double check.
- Do you have an estimate on utilities? If unknown check with the utility company.
- Specifics about surroundings: airport, loud businesses. Any businesses cause a stink?
- How are the neighbours?
- How is the neighbourhood, schools, parks, and public amenities?
- Are there children in the area and what are their ages?
- What schools are designated for this area and school boards?
- Is the neighbourhood pet friendly? Can you leave your pet outside a nearby store or restaurant?
- Available public transportation or highway availability
- For condos – what are the HOA (Home Owner Association) fees and what the association’s reserves are? Are there any upcoming assessments?
- If the home is currently being rented, what is it being rented for?
- What cable and internet services are used in the home? And, are they affordable?
Open House Etiquette
Remember this is someone’s home. Be respectful.
Remove your shoes if requested. You could bring indoor shoes or slippers just in case.
Be polite with the listing agent, their first impression of you may influence how they present your offer to the seller especially if there are several offers on the table. Keep your comments to yourself, until you have left the home.
Do not divulge your intentions, this may affect their accepting or refusing an offer.
Don’t share too much of yourself to the selling agent, this may affect your bargaining power as well.
Pay attention to other visitors, they may have information or noticed something you did not.
Avoid bringing children since your attention will be divided and you may miss important aspects of the house.
If a door is closed, ask if you can enter to view the area before going in. Since the home is still lived in there may be a sleeping child.
You may need to sign a guest book; this is to show the seller that their home was viewed and may give the selling agent more leads in the future.
Remember the selling agent is representing the seller. Any information received should be checked with your agent.
If several people have arrived to view the home, you may need to wait your turn so the agent can be attentive to your questions. This could also be a matter of security.
Good Luck and happy hunting.