Five Things to Think About at an Open House

House hunting can be overwhelming. Here is some advice to keep you focused.

Credit: Murrieta Patch
Credit: Murrieta Patch

The snoop in me once loved to visit open houses, and I’d often drag my husband off the course of our Sunday plans to peek at properties and dream. That all changed when I started looking at real estate to buy. As soon as reality set in, with my own money potentially involved, the pleasure of open houses turned to the pain of anxiety.

I’ve always been a bit wary of home staging, the tricky home-selling maneuver of emptying a residence of all traces of the occupant and filling it up with fantasy furniture. Realtors will say it’s done to give potential buyers objectivity and protect the owners, but I suspect it has mostly to do with deflecting attention away from any of the building’s blemishes. Whenever I enter an open house, I immediately try to imagine how it would look without all of the realtor’s trappings.

Here are six other tips to keep in mind when touring an open house:

1) Look for even a hint of water damage. Check under the sink, in the basement if there is one, and under the vanity in the bathroom. Note any telltale signs like recent caulking around the tub.

2) Signs of light. Check the windows, all of them, as well as every light fixture in the house. Do the windows open? Are there cracks around them? Do all the lights work? Ask about any empty fixtures.

3) Talk is cheap. The host is biased, but see if you can get a neighbor or two to open up. They may have biases of their own, of course. But three sources are better than one.

4) Kitchen confidential: How’s the carpentry? I’m not suggesting that you rifle through the owner’s silverware, but check the function of cabinets and drawers.

5) Get into the garage “Though it's never the most charming part of a property, the garage is an important place to look,” says Olivia Ongpin, a San Francisco-based realtor with Vanguard Properties. “It's where you can investigate the bones of the house: plumbing, electrical, heating, gas, water, and foundation.”

Have other tips? Let us hear them in the comments or a blog post.


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