Advice on Getting the Most from
an Open House or Home Showing
You’ve made an appointment to see a house or a few, but what should you look for during a home showing? This 10-item home viewing checklist can help you get what you need from a walkthrough.
1TURN ON THE RADAR
In many ways, a home tour begins before you ever reach a house for sale. As you drive through the neighborhood, carefully note the whole area. Is there a bar or restaurant nearby that might be noisy at night? How close is the nearest convenience store or supermarket? How far is it to public transportation? Are there noisy roads or train tracks nearby? Is the neighborhood underneath an airport flight path? Is the house in an area that might be prone to drainage issues, flooding, or wildfires?
2 MAKE A CURB CHECK
Before ever stepping out of the car, take a long minute or two to consider the place’s curb appeal. What are the sidewalks and entrances like? Will the home need to be painted soon or does it have permanent siding or a brick façade? Do the roof and windows appear to be in good shape? Will the plantings require lots of maintenance, or is there a steep slope that will be difficult to mow in summer or drive up in winter? Is the driveway shared with another property, or do neighbors park in front of the house for sale? If there are fences, have they been built and positioned properly? Would any necessary changes be easy and affordable?
3 GET ORIENTED
Which way does the house face? An outdoor gathering area on the east or north side is shadier on summer evenings than those on the south or west. East-facing windows allow in morning light while west ones draw in afternoon sunshine.
4 KEEP A RECORD
As you prepare to go inside, grab your smart phone or a camera and a tape measure. (To ensure your attention is undivided, turn off the sound on your phone). Use your phone to take a picture of the listing sheet. If you like what you’re seeing, ask whether you can take pictures of areas that matter the most to you, such as the kitchen, the family room, the master bedroom and bath, the front façade, and the backyard. Later, you can use these pictures to compare the location to the other homes you visit, while the listing sheet (or a photo of the house number) gives you a simple way to keep up with where you were.
5 FOCUS ON WHAT COUNTS
Once in the house, don’t put too much stock in the decorating. Paint and wallpaper are relatively inexpensive to change, but major construction requirements can be deal breakers. Is the layout what you had in mind? Are the rooms large enough for your needs? Is the lighting adequate? Is there enough closet space? Is there a musty odor, watermarks, flaking plaster, or signs of mold on the ceiling above the shower or along the baseboards beside the tub? Do you see any cracks in the walls?
6 FIGURE FIT
If you find the home appealing, use the tape measure to be certain your furniture will fit its rooms. Pieces that look right in one space can appear surprisingly out of place in another.
Bring a Marble!
Determining whether a home’s floors are level takes one simple tool: a marble. Placed on the floor, does it roll? (To avoid creating a hazard, pick up that marble before you go.)
7 RENOVATION REQUIRED?
Do you like the kitchen and bathroom or bathrooms? Are the cabinets and countertops attractive and in good condition? Will those shiny floors drive you crazy when Fido moves in? These necessary rooms are the most expensive ones to renovate, so if you are not budgeting for a renovation, choose candidates that won’t require major changes to these areas.
8 TEST SYSTEMS
Run the taps to check the water pressure. Ask whether the pipes are insulated. How old is the furnace and water heater? Don’t be afraid to switch on and off the lights to make sure they are in working order and take note of the number of electrical outlets. Are there extension cords everywhere? Where will you plug in your hair dryer and other small appliances?
9 SHHHH — ARE YOU LISTENING?
Is the home quiet enough? Can you hear people in the other room or outside? If music is playing, ask if it can be turned off so you can really listen — for traffic, plumbing, someone in the next room.
10 GO OVER AND ABOVE
If possible, peek in the attic. How easy is it to access? Is there much storage space? Could it be converted into extra rooms? Is there insulation? Any sign of squirrels or other intruders?
The Home Tour Follow-up
As you complete your walkthrough, consider your emotions, but put more weight in the facts and practical considerations, suggests Sheila Moody, a real estate marketing consultant. “Can you envision yourself living in the home? If you love what you see, how long will you want to live there? Will the home still meet your needs five or 10 years down the road? Are other homes in the area comparably priced? Is there something about this home that makes it worth more (such as a stunning view) or less (such as a busy street location)?”
If you are truly interested in the property, ask to see the disclosure document and arrange another viewing for a different time of day, Moody says. If possible, take somebody with you who might notice things you don’t.
And do your due diligence: Compare the property’s tax records to the listing details. If there are discrepancies in the square footage, or numbers of bedrooms or bathrooms, ask why. Finally, before you make an offer, physically or digitally visit the town hall, city hall, or county register of records to find out how the property you are purchasing and all the contiguous properties are zoned.