View an Open House With Open Eyes
You’ve found a gorgeous home, in the right neighbourhood, at the right price, and it’s finally time to tour the open house. You are already picturing it as your own, and as you flit from room to room, you are mentally decorating and arranging your furniture.
Slow down and take a deep breath! Did you notice the high-water line on the basement walls? What about the missing shingles? Is the furnace supposed to sound like that?
It’s easy to fall in love with a home's appearance, blind to problems that may make it unsuitable. While aesthetics are an important consideration, it’s necessary to look beyond window-dressing.
A qualified home inspector should be hired before purchasing a house, but there are areas that you can examine yourself while viewing the house. This will help shorten your list of potential homes and reduce the likelihood that a home inspector will reject it as unsafe or unsuitable.
Bring along a camera to help you keep the facts straight. Photograph that one cozy breakfast nook that you fell in love with. Take another photo to remind you of that open house with the worrisome foundation cracks.
Here are some more considerations and common problem areas to look for when touring an open house:
First appearances do count. Is the home dirty and cluttered? Are the lawns uncut? Are the walls chipped and in need of paint? If the owner hasn't bothered to keep the house looking clean and attractive, what problems could be lurking below the surface?
Water can do a lot of damage to a home. It rots wood, undermines foundations, and leads to mold and mildew. Re-shingling a house or repairing a cracked foundation to stop water leaks can be extremely expensive.
It takes an expert eye to find most water leaks (which is why we recommend you have a house inspected before you buy). But if you spot stains, bulges and other signs of water damage on ceilings or walls, make special note that there could be a problem.
Appliances and fixtures
Test the lights, faucets, toilets, furnace, air conditioning, and all major appliances that are to be included with the house. Make sure everything is working as it should.
Floors should be smooth, even and solid. Soft springy sections, excessive squeaking and unevenness are all indications that expensive repairs may be needed.
Doors and windows
Check that doors and windows fit snugly and operate smoothly. Look for flaked paint and loose caulking. Check for drafts.
Walk around the yard looking for areas where water might collect. Soggy areas near the foundation indicate poor drainage.
Grout and caulking
If the grout and caulking around bathroom and kitchen tiles are loose and crumbling, there is a good chance water is finding its way into the wall or under the floor.
Look for deep cracks in the foundation, or loose mortar and bricks.
If you are not planning to replace all of your furniture (and not many people aren’t), make sure it will fit into the rooms of the new house. Be sure to bring a measuring tape. Rooms can be deceptive when it comes to size.
Make sure your new house has enough storage space for all your belongings. And that means more than just your clothes. Think of all the things that need to find a home – tools, gardening equipment, old toys, sports equipment, and all those wedding presents that are still in their original boxes. Check the size of the closets, the attic, the basement and the garage. Rule of thumb: there's never enough storage space.
You should take a long, hard look at a house before you put in an offer, to protect yourself from disappointment down the road. But nothing can replace the expert opinion of a qualified home inspector. Inspectors can spot problems that the average person would never find, and they can usually advise you on how much it will cost to make the repairs.
A home inspection can help you determine whether or not you are going to make a purchase offer on a house, and if you decide to go ahead, just how much that offer is going to be.