No matter what buyers think about a house, open houses are almost always fun. But they’re more than just delicious appetizers and a casual social environment. They’re also a powerful tool for buyers, offering insight and aiding in the decision-making process.
But what are those open houses not telling you?
While an open house won’t reveal everything about a property, that doesn’t mean the info you need isn’t out there. Here are four open-house secrets to look for — and how to discover them.
1. Structural challenges
The house might look fantastic, but a trained eye can identify potential structural challenges that could cost you big in the long run.
Tip: Look for cracks in the ceilings and walls, and note any sloping floors as you walk through the property. Check that doors all open and close as they should. If you decide to make an offer, don’t waive an inspection, even if the property is newly constructed. Foundation issues can be costly.
2. Cosmetic blemishes
At an open house, properties are (usually) carefully presented. Thanks to professional staging and artfully arranged rugs covering scuffs and stains on floors, there’s likely something you’re not seeing.
Tip: Ask your agent for an additional viewing of the home after the open house has closed. Without people around, you’ll be free to check for flaws that might’ve been concealed or hidden during the showing.
3. The neighbors and neighborhood
What looks great by day might not be so nice at night. Open houses are scheduled optimally, and what you see during an early morning showing might not reflect what a neighborhood is like when everyone is home from work at night.
Tip: Drive through the area after dark to see what the community is like once the sun goes down.
4. History of home insurance claims
You could be setting yourself up for big trouble if you walk into a property with a boatload of previous insurance claims — something you’ll never learn from visiting an open house. If the roof is new or there’s evidence of recent construction (that wasn’t a renovation, addition, or remodel), it might be a good idea to do some sleuthing before you commit.
Tip: Ask your real estate agent to request a CLUE (comprehensive loss underwriting exchange) report from the sellers for any home you want to submit an offer on. These reports give you five years of insurance claim history without a seller having to divulge any personal information.