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How buyers can get the most out of an open house inspection

How buyers can get the most out of an open house inspection

We’re all aware that buying a house is one of the biggest financial and emotional decisions you will ever make, however you might only have 5-minutes inside it before you need to decide whether you’re interested or not.

Open house inspections are usually the first time you step foot inside a potential new house, but it shouldn’t be your first house-hunting step. A little preparation will help you get the most out of your brief time at an open house.

Come prepared

Know your budget - How much the banks will lend you, and how much you can actually afford may be two different things. It’s important to know early on what your budget is. This will help you to immediately know whether a house is worth visiting. It will also help you to be able to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ once you see it in person, based on how much work is required. If a house is at the top of your budget, but it desperately needs a new kitchen, you’re going to need to let it pass. Get your head around rates for the area and research Building and Contents Insurance. NRMA offers bundles for homeowners to make sure your home and everything in it is safe.

Work out your non-negotiables - There will be some things that you absolutely need to have in your new house. Perhaps you need off-street parking or a place without stairs. Or the location could be the most important thing and you want to be in the catchment area for particular schools. People you look at a house, decide what your list of non-negotiables are, and make sure the prospective house fulfils those requirements.

Study the listing, but take the images with a grain of salt

You want to know what a house is like before you see it in person. Make sure when you’re in the property you see the features that the listing mentions (eg clawfoot tub, internal storage, updated kitchen appliances), and don’t miss anything significant. Lately, every property listing seems to have beautiful photos. With clever photography, even the dingiest cottage can look bright and expansive, so don’t be fooled. Often a floor plan will give a more accurate reflection of the size of the space.

Ask questions

A listing won’t tell you everything there is to know about a property. Luckily, real estate agents will be on-site to answer any questions, and so come prepared. Some suggested questions are:

  • Why is the owner selling?
  • How long has it been on the market?
  • Any issues with the building or the land? Is there a building inspection report?
  • Is there a rental appraisal?
  • Have there been any renovations?

Take your own photos or video

You might think that you’ll remember every detail of the homes that you see, but it never hurts to take some extra photos. You can capture angles that aren’t in the listing, and see the less photogenic areas of the house. You can also take a video. This is particularly useful for showing the place to family or friends as it helps them to understand the flow and layout of the house. Just be careful to be respectful of other house hunters who might not appreciate being filmed!

Use your nose and ears, as well as your eyes

Does the house smell damp or perhaps like stale tobacco? Some smells are easy to remove from a house, but others might be a sign of dampness and other problems. Listen out for traffic or construction noise. You may be close to a busy road, trainline or industrial area, which could be difficult to live near. 

Come again a rainy day

Take any opportunity to visit your potential home on another day and another time. See how it feels when the shade is in a different position. More importantly, if possible, plan your visit when it’s raining. Leaks may just reveal a costly problem to fix.

Do your research

Be prepared to look at many, many properties. Dozens. This is how you get an idea of what you really want, and what is available out there. By following certain properties on real estate apps you can also see what houses sell for at auction, which will give you a good idea of what you can expect to get for your money.

It is crazy to think that the first time you walk inside your new home it might be for only 5 minutes and you’re one of dozens of potential buyers that walk through the door that day. It’s a huge decision to make, and looking at homes is both exciting and overwhelming - but following these tips will make it a little less daunting. Happy house hunting!

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