Open Houses: Your Chance to Ask Eye-Opening Questions

March 17th, 2020

Whether you’re a first-time home buyer or you’re seasoned in the buying process, there are important questions everyone should ask before closing a deal. Touring open houses is a great opportunity to view listings that you’re interested in so you can gain a better understanding of the property and uncover potential discrepancies. 

Here’s a list of important things to ask and look for during an open house. 

What is the listing price? Has it already been reduced?

First and foremost, it’s important to understand whether the house you’re touring is in your price range. It’s common for people to attend open houses for fun and to get inspiration, however, if you’re seriously interested in buying, be realistic about the houses you’re touring. 

By touring houses that are in your price range, you’ll have a better understanding of the amenities you can afford with your budget and avoid disappointment. Inquiring about whether or not the price has been reduced helps you gauge how much negotiating power you might have.

How long has the house been on the market? Have there been any offers yet?

Asking this question can help you understand how fast you should move with an offer. If you’re eager about visiting this open house, it seems popular and it’s fresh on the market, you might want to have an offer and your mortgage pre-approval prepared. 

If the house has been on the market for a long time, this could indicate potential issues, or the sellers asking price is too high. Given this information, you can assume there is more room for negotiation. Additionally, it’s important to ask if there are any current offers on the table or if other offers have fallen through since the house has been on the market. 

Why is the seller moving?

Asking why the seller of a home is moving can prove to be a very insightful question. Sometimes it’s an obvious answer like relocating for a job or a growing family. However, other times asking this question can lead to important information about the home. 

For example, maybe the street it’s located on is very noisy. Or perhaps the seller can’t afford to make necessary repairs to the home, such as invest in a new roof or heating system. High-maintenance properties, social or economic changes in the neighbourhood, or new bylaws are other red flags buyers should be aware of before they make an offer.

Has the home passed inspection?

This question is important to ask so you can get a better understanding of the condition of the home. Have a watchful eye while touring the property. The home can be beautifully staged, look clean and smell great, however there’s always a chance for significant problems under the surface. 

If you learn the home has not been professionally inspected and you’re interested in making an offer, ensure this is done long before closing. A home inspection can unearth major problems, protecting you from costly, unexpected repairs. Check out our blog post on finding a good home inspector in Fredericton for more information! 

When was the roof, plumbing and electrical last updated?

During a home inspection, the inspector will examine the integrity of these aspects of the home. However, asking this question at the open house can provide either immediate reassurance or hesitation about the property’s condition. If updates need to be made, perhaps a lower asking price can be negotiated. 

Is the house in a flood zone?

In New Brunswick, most people are aware of the potential for significant flooding in certain areas during spring. If you’re touring a waterfront property, it’s important to consider possible flood risks. 

Ask about previous flood history at any home within close proximity of water. This could end save you from buying a home that’s located in a danger zone. You should also consider the inconveniences that come with living near a danger zone, such as road closures. 

Is there a history of mold or asbestos in the house?

When touring older homes, keep in mind that there could be risk for mold and/or asbestos. Mold could be a sign of leaky plumbing or improper ventilation, which can potentially lead to much bigger water damage issues. 

Also, while the presence of asbestos in homes is not necessarily dangerous, it can become hazardous if asbestos materials are damaged and its fibres are released. If you’re considering renovating or repairing a home with asbestos, it must be removed by a professional, so factor that into your budget and negotiations. 

Which appliances are included in the sale of the home?

Since appliances are typically in place during an open house, people often forget they might not be included with the sale of the home. Depending on the condition of the sellers’ appliances and what their new living situation is, it is not uncommon for people to take appliances with them. 

If the seller(s) plan to take the appliances with them, you could be inconveniently left without kitchen necessities and a laundry machine! You may be able to negotiate a lower price if appliances are not included in the price of the home.

What is the average utility bill? 

The monthly utility bill will largely depend on the age of the home, how it’s insulated and the efficiency of the appliances and fixtures. If the home you’re touring was built decades ago, make sure you’re aware of the condition of its insulation (a home inspector can help with this). 

Older homes with less insulation will require more heating in the winter and cooling in the summer, which are extra costs to keep in mind. If the house is newer, you can assume that it’s better insulated and more energy efficient, so you can most likely expect a lower utility bill. 

What is the neighbourhood like?

When you tour a home, tour the neighbourhood too. That way, you can familiarize yourself with the area. Depending on what’s important to you, you might want to know whether the house is near schools, parks and grocery/shopping centers. Living in a young family-oriented suburb versus a quieter retirement area are other things you’ll want to consider upon touring. 

 

During open houses, realtors should be an open book, acting honestly and giving you all the information you need. Online photos of listings can be deceiving. There is much more to a house than meets the eye. Attending an open house is a great opportunity to analyze its strengths and weaknesses with your own eyes and make informed decisions. 

By asking the above questions during an open house, you’ll get a better handle on the condition of the home and decide whether or not it’s a good fit for you and your family. The questions you ask at an open house can help land your dream home—or help you avoid making a costly mistake. 

 

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