The Questions Potential Homebuyers Should Ask During An Open House

When you're shopping for a new home, you'll go to quite a few open houses. While you're touring a house, make note of these important features.

Photo by angelune des lauriers.

Over at Forbes, Trulia lists a handful of important things to consider and questions to ask while you're taking a look at a potential home. Most of us know to check for major issues like foundation cracks or water damage. Here are some other key questions to ask, though:

How old is the roof?

"You really need to look beyond the new kitchen and bathroom and consider the bones of the home," says Adam Waggoner of Generator Real Estate in Denver, CO. One of the biggest "bones" of a house? The roof. The typical life span of a roof is up to about 20 years, but the average cost to replace one runs into the five-figure range. According to Pro Roofing Brisbane, an average roof replacement costs between $100 and $130 per square metre.

Have insurance claims been made on the house?

Jensen also recommends asking if insurance claims have been filed on the house, and for what — the answers may offer insight into any past issues that might not be immediately obvious at an open house. If the house is located near a pond, lake, or stream, he says, it's important to ask whether flood insurance is required, because that can affect buyer financing or create difficulties than can delay closing.

How old is the wiring?

If you're considering an older home, don't ignore the possibility of outdated electrical systems and wiring. Older systems may still be functional but can pose a safety risk, can be difficult to insulate, and are sometimes hard to insure.

These issues can easily be overlooked, and while they might come up later if you get more serious about the house, it's better to know upfront and while you have a chance to actually look at any potential issues. For more on Trulia's list, head to their post at Forbes below.

7 Things Buyers Should Never Overlook At Open Houses [Forbes]


    Turn all the lights off - see how much natural light you get.

      So True!! Great suggestion. Turn off any music and be quiet for a second-listen for neighborhood and/or neighbor noise too...

    Real estate agents won't know the answer to any of those questions. (Except maybe question 5)

    You'll get "I'll ask the vendor" as the response to all of those questions. And no follow up.

      Not at my Open House you would't...sorry if you experienced that sort of response. Very unprofessional and just plain rude IMO.

    The realtor is unlikely to know exact details for most of those. Chances are they'll just bluff it off and state no knowledge of any issues regardless of age.

    In any case, such things can easily be addressed by the building inspection ... and make the sale conditional on a satisfactory report.

    Other issues that the realtor should know, and would affect the desirability of any property include: "why are the current owners selling?" and "are they in dispute with any of the neighbours?"

      and make the sale conditional on a satisfactory report.

      Implying the buyers have any real power in the current market... If you put forward an offer conditional to building inspection, you'd get laughed out of the real estate office. Especially if you're putting in an offer before auction.

        Not quite. We have bought two houses with this conditional.

        If buying on private treaty, there's a two day cooling off period (in my state at least - from time of signing the contract. That's enough time to get the building inspection and back out if it flags anything major.

        Auction is a different animal and, yes, it's caveat emptor on the day.

          There's a cooling off period, yes, but that doesn't give you right to a building inspection during that time. The vendor could just ignore your request for 2 days, or only allow them in after the cooling off period.

            Of course there's no legislated "right" to demand access for a property inspector during the cooling-off period.

            However, if a vendor refused this request, it would be an immediate red flag to walk away from the sale.

            As stated above, we (twice) made signing the contract conditional on 1) getting our inspection done during the cooling off period and 2) it being satisfactory. On both occasions, the agents/vendors had no problems ... neither did the houses ... and the sales proceeded.

            Anything else risks getting burned. Either through paying for extra unnecessary per-sale inspections or undiscovered issues until post-sale.

            Last edited 01/06/16 4:09 pm

    In agreement with the other comments on here, a real estate agent wouldn't know those things and will often talk their way around any concerns without really giving any answers. A thorough inspection is very valuable to this process to identify any trouble areas! When I bought my first home, I went and introduced myself to the neighbors before we even made an offer to get a feel for the neighborhood and people offered up great information about the house, the sellers, the area, etc so it was very helpful!

    Aren't most of these what a building inspection is for?

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