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14 Questions to Ask at an Open House

Open houses are a valuable tool for homebuyers. You can view a property in a low-pressure environment, and you can usually take as much time as you need. One of the biggest perks is talking to the listing agent and going through your questions to ask at an open house. You can find out about the sellers and their motivations for moving, and get vital information about the property that might not be on the listing.

14 Questions To Ask When Looking at a House

Whether you’re buying a house out of state or moving one neighborhood over, asking questions is critical at an open house, so come prepared. Research the home, the neighborhood, and know the listing details. This will help you form specific questions.

Be confident when talking to the seller’s agent, but don’t give too much information about your homebuying goals, finances, and house-hunting experience thus far. Those details are for your real estate agent to know and use in future negotiations.

Here are the questions you’ll want to ask while you’re at an open house:

1. Why is the house for sale?

It could be a new job opportunity, moving closer to friends or family, or making a profit. In some cases, the seller could be unhappy with the home.

Knowing the reasons why the homeowner is selling can give you a lot of information. It can point you toward potential pitfalls of the home and provide you with guidance when submitting your offer. If you know there’s a job opportunity looming, the seller could be pressed for time — and submitting a quick offer could help you get the home.

2. How long has the house been on the market?

Knowing how long a home has been on the market is critical when you’re considering an offer. A home that’s been on the market a long time could signify something wrong with the home or that the seller is unwilling to negotiate.

You can also expect to have more negotiating power if the house has been on the market longer than usual. Sellers are typically more receptive to a lower offer or willing to pay your closing costs if they’re having a hard time selling the home.

3. How many offers has the seller received?

It’s good to find out if the seller has had offers in the past, if they were rejected or fell through, and why that happened. This can give you an idea of how picky a seller is and how open to negotiations they are.

You also want to know if there are current offers on the table. If you know you’re bidding against other buyers, you’ll be able to put your best offer forward. If you’re not bidding against other buyers, a lower offer might be better received.

4. Are there any structural issues with the home?

Sellers are required to disclose any structural or code issues they know exist on the property, so be sure to request an official seller’s disclosure from the listing agent. This disclosure will point you toward more specific questions you want to cover.

5. Has the seller made any DIY renovations?

Ask the agent about any renovations that were done to the home, especially ones done by the homeowner. These are more likely to have issues down the road. Plus, they could create a code violation if they didn’t get the proper permits.

Ideally, any large renovations would have been done by a licensed professional. To be safe, you’ll always want to get a professional home inspection before closing on the home. They’ll let you know about existing issues and what needs to be repaired.

6. When was the home last updated?

You’ll want to get an idea of when the home’s major systems and features were updated — including the roof, siding, electrical system, heating and air conditioning, water heater, and more. This will give you a good grasp of what repairs and replacements you’ll be due for soon.

Your home inspection will help, too. Inspectors include notes about how old significant features are and what lifespan they have left.

7. What’s included with the home sale?

Sellers aren’t required to include anything that’s not attached to the home, so things like refrigerators, stoves, and dishwashers won’t always come with the property.

Ask about what the seller is including in the sale and what they’d be willing to include for the right price. Is it move-in ready, or will you need to buy appliances, blinds, curtains, and furniture? This will help you plan your move-in costs.

8. Is there an HOA?

Always ask if the home is attached to an HOA (homeowner’s association). HOAs are common in suburban neighborhoods, and they come with rules, regulations, and fees for residents who live there.

If the home does have an HOA, ask for its name so you can read up on the organization’s policies. Also, ask what the monthly or annual dues are and any amenities those dues pay for.

9. What’s the neighborhood like?

Loving the home is just one part of the equation. You also want to love the community it’s located in. Ask the agent about the surrounding neighborhood — its amenities, the people who live there, and what businesses and services are in the area. 

Also, ask about the neighbors and, if you have children or pets, ask about local playgrounds, trails, and dog parks.

Neighborhood events are another thing to consider. Are neighborhood get-togethers common? Are the streets busy at night? Are there parties on the weekends? Knowing the average age of residents can help you understand what types of activities you may see in the area. These are all excellent questions to keep in mind.

10. What’s the seller’s timeline?

Getting a feel for the seller’s timeline is always wise. Sellers who are ready to move quickly, or have already moved, are typically more open to negotiations. Sellers who are in no rush to sell tend to wait it out for the perfect offer.

11. What utilities does the home have, and what do they cost?

This is an essential question if you want an energy-efficient home.

Find out if the home uses natural gas, solar energy, electricity, or a combination. Ask about the heating and cooling systems and for an estimate of all monthly utility costs. This will be a big help in your budgeting.

12. When were the home’s major utilities last updated?

You should also know when utilities were last updated, like HVAC units, water heaters, and plumbing systems. Knowing this can help you anticipate repairs and what they may cost.

13. What amenities and locations are within walking distance?

Ask the agent if there are any parks, pools, walking trails, or other neighborhood amenities within walking distance. Get details and recommendations on nearby businesses that are important to you, like coffee shops, bars, restaurants, recreation centers, gyms, or hiking trails.

These will give you an idea of what your day-to-day life will look like in this neighborhood.

14. Can I see myself living here?

This is one you ask yourself while touring the home. Can you see yourself and your loved ones in the home? Would your furniture and decor match the aesthetics of the property? Do you get good phone reception in the house?

Think about updates you’d want to make if you bought the house. Decide if those projects are worth the time and if you have the budget for them.

Open House Questions By Room

More questions will come up as you tour the house. You’ll want to learn more about each room you enter, especially the ones you know you’ll spend a lot of time in.

Here are a few of the questions to consider asking as you enter each room:

Questions to ask in the living spaces

Living spaces include living rooms, dens, and bedrooms.

Ask the following in these areas:

  • Have these rooms had any major renovations?
  • When was the flooring last updated?
  • When were the rooms last painted?
  • Does the owner have the paint colors and brands on hand?
  • What kind of windows are installed and how old are they?
  • Do all outlets and light features work?
  • Do you have the dimensions for these rooms available?

Questions to ask in the kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home, and you’ll spend quite a bit of time there. Be thorough with your evaluations in this space.

You should ask:

  • When was the kitchen last renovated?
  • Has the kitchen experienced any water or fire damage?
  • What appliances are included in the home’s sale?
  • How old are those appliances?
  • Are the cabinets builder-grade or updated?

Questions to ask in the bathrooms

When touring the bathrooms, make sure everything works and check for leaks on the faucets and under the sink.

Then ask:

  • Have there been any major renovations?
  • When were the bathroom appliances last updated?
  • How’s the water pressure in the bathrooms? 
  • Is there hard or soft water?
  • Are there any drainage issues?
  • Have there been any water leaks in the bathrooms?

Questions to ask in the basement

Basements are great additions to a home, but they can present unique issues. 

Ask these questions if a home you’re considering has a basement:

  • Is the basement finished?
  • Have there been any major renovations to the space?
  • Have you had any moisture or mold issues in the basement?
  • What did the seller use the basement for?
  • Does the basement have a sump pump and how old is it?

Get the Full Scoop

It’s essential to see the big picture when considering a home for purchase. The listing gives you a good idea of a home’s condition, but it only goes so far. Attend an open house, tour the home multiple times, and review questions to ask at an open house to learn as much about the property as you can.

If you’re serious about buying a house, make sure to have your mortgage pre-approval ready before you start house hunting. Your pre-approval is essential to getting your offer accepted.

Happy homebuying. 

Dan Green

Dan Green

Dan Green is a former mortgage loan officer and an industry expert. He's appeared on NPR and CNBC, and in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and dozens of local newspapers. Dan has helped millions of first-time home buyers get educated on mortgages, real estate, and personal finance. Have mortgage questions? Ask Dan in the chat.

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