Open houses give you a great first impression of a property and you’ll know almost immediately if it’s one you want to pursue.
But that first visit can be much more than a “once over lightly” impression. How do you make sure you’re getting as much information from it as possible? Use the time to perform a thorough first property inspection. Later on, you’ll want to engage professionals to inspect the building’s structure and health, but it’s a good idea to use your initial tour of the home to see some things for yourself.
- The Structure
At any given open house, chances are the current owners will have presented the property in the best possible light. They will have cleaned, perhaps added a new coat of paint, or had the home staged. Whilst these things will help you to appreciate what the home could look like for you, at this stage, it’s more important to focus on the dwelling’s structure. Look for:
- Damage from pests. Recent termite damage in wooden structures is a huge red flag. Have a look for bores through wooden frames, or dirt tubes in the foundation or exterior walls that hint to borer infestation.
- Poor construction. Windows and doors that jar, or cracks in the walls around them are both signs of poor construction.
- Wet spots on walls or ceilings. Condensation within the home can lead to mould build-up, timber decay, leaks, corrosion, or even loss of structural integrity.
- Cracks in the foundation. Some small cracks in a home’s foundation can be harmless, but large cracks either running down the foundation or across could mean a home is shifting, which can cause significant structural damage over time. If you see anything, mention it to your professional building inspector.
- The Location
You may be attracted to the area, but take a look at the property’s exact location for things that may bother you over the long-term, hurt re-sale value, or cause issues. Things to consider are:
- Is it on a busy main road? Houses on main roads can attract lower prices than those on quieter, private and less congested roads. You’ll also have to get used to the noise of heavy traffic.
- Is it next to a retail or commercial space. This can create high levels of traffic and additional noise, depending on the type of business and its operating hours. Also be mindful of properties next to land that may be zoned as retail or commercial. Talk to your Realtor® about what zoning around the property means for potential development.
- Is the property near railway lines? A home close to public transport is always convenient, but a home that shares a
border with a train line, for example can cause a lot of excess noise, potentially hurt re-sale value.
- Are there power lines over the land/property? Sometimes found on larger parcels of land, power lines have been known to drop property prices.
- The Surroundings
Take note of the neighbouring properties on each adjoining border for any clues you might not be comfortable long term.
- Are the neighbours’ yards neat and tidy? It might not directly impact on the property, but what about when it comes time to sell the property? Would untidy yards next to yours reflect poorly on the area?
- Do they have pets? It might not be an issue, particularly if you have pets of your own. Is a neighbour’s dog barking non-stop during the inspection? Is there evidence of pet damage to shared fences or common areas?
- Do you have a comfortable level of privacy? Take a look at different angles around the home, particularly on smaller blocks or apartments. Are you too close to neighbours? Can you hear them through the walls? Are certain windows placed directly opposite a neighbour’s window? Is the property fenced off from neighbours?
- Is the property on a flood plain? Depending on the city and climate, the potential of flooding on the property will vary. Houses within the same street can be impacted differently by flood waters. If you have concerns talk to your Realtor, property inspector or local expert.
It’s important to remember that none of these things always have to be immediate deal breakers on a property. It’s about arming yourself with as much information as possible so you can make an informed decision and end up with a property you are happy with. Once you have made your first visit and if you decide you wish to proceed in making an offer, seek good legal, building and financial advice from the experts.