What Buyers Should Look For When Attending An Open House

Posted on: August 11, 2017

Visitors of open houses often meander and gaze at the name brand furnishings while enjoying complimentary hors d’oeuvres. Yet for the serious homebuyer, an open house is a chance to check for any red flags or potential issues (while still enjoying plenty of hors d’oeuvres). Here are some key items to check for when you attend your next open house:

The Neighborhood

As the first thing you’ll pass on your way home and last thing you’ll pass on your way out, notice the aesthetics of the neighborhood that you may call home one day. Is the grass kempt? How do nearby houses appear? Are kids in the street – is there a family-friendly vibe? Or do people seem to keep to themselves as you drive toward the open house? These small things you might not notice on your way to the open house can turn out to be the best or worst aspects of your home buying experience.


The beautiful views from Seattle encourage floor-to-ceiling windows and other open spaces to let light in. But, consider privacy when first taken by the beauty such windows can offer. If you look out your bedroom window, what do you see? The neighbor’s bedroom – or bathroom, even?  Be aware of the trade offs between privacy and natural light and mountain or city views. That being said, fences often make good neighbors.

Exterior Walk-about

Now is the time to check the paint, gutters, roof, and any holes in the siding where critters may call home. Is the paint cracking? What condition are the gutters in – do they seem to have been kept up throughout the years? What material is the roof, does it seem like it may need replacing in the next couple of years? If so, bring these concerns to the attention of the agent and you may be able to negotiate a better deal.

The Foundation

Hairline cracks are usually of no concern in houses. They usually only indicate that the house is settling nicely into the foundation of the ground. Large gaps, however, prove to be much more concerning (and costly to repair). Some signs to watch for include: cracks in walls, floors, and door openings; windows that stick when you try to open or close them; leaning chimneys and especially sagging front porches. If you’re unfortunate enough to be stuck with most of the above listed issues, you may be responsible for $40,000 in foundation repairs.

Follow your nose

Upon arrival, do you smell freshly baked cookies or see a number of scented candles or potpourri dotting the open house? This often isn’t a courtesy to prospective buyers, but rather an attempt to cover up certain smells that may be engrained in the house and have proven too hard for the current homeowners to eradicate – such as a musty odor from water damage or mold. Make sure your brand new home smells the way a truly clean home should, and trust your nose.

Even with a solid understanding of what to be on the lookout for at an open house, it can be hard and nerve-racking to trust your instinct on what seems to be worrisome or not. If you need help clarifying the open house process, or are in need of a Realtor to help you navigate the confusing practice of open houses, please contact us – we would love to help you through your home buying experience.

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