15 Feb What to look for at an open house
There’s an old saying that you should never judge a book by its cover, and this is true for houses – after all, who would buy one having never seen more than the front door? Open inspections are opportunities to go in-depth, and here’s how to take advantage.
Really use your senses
Smell, peer, listen and feel as much as you can. Your nose might pick up a mouldy or musty scent that may mean damp. You might spy small or hidden cracks that could mean structural issues. That clattering sound when water is running? That can be a sign of perilous plumbing.
Don’t be distracted by the beautiful bling
Anyone can invest money in pretty cushions and lamps to set off the house. Or bake some bread just as the open inspection starts so the house smells cosy and homely. But when buying property, you’re buying the sausage not the sizzle, so look past the perfectly presented and lit lounge room to the size, shape and placement in the floorplan of the actual room, and imagine how you will use it where your furniture will fit.
That means checking the roof on the way in and looking at the ceilings in the rooms. Damp and leakage issues are costly and notoriously hard to fix. And once the rot sets in, it’s there to stay.
That kitchen and bathroom advice
It’s true what they say. If these two rooms aren’t how you would like them to be, are you prepared to live with it or spend the money required to transform them? If you’re thinking of spending the money to transform a kitchen or bathroom, take a copy of the floorplan to a kitchen/bathroom specialist and find out cost estimates so you can budget for it.
Look at your surroundings
Who and what are your neighbours? Check the location at different times of the week and day. It may sound excessive, but maybe the house is under a window-rattling low flight path only when the weather is bad, there’s a bar across the road that blasts out loud music in the early hours but is closed during the day when inspections are on, or there’s a factory down the road that when the wind blows a certain way sends nasty smells wafting. If you have kids, what are the local school like?
Ask lots of questions
What are the utilities like gas, electricity and water costing the current residents? A house with large windows might seem bright and sunny, but it can also make for more drafts in winter and warmer rooms in the summer – both problems that make for higher utility costs. It’s also important to ask about previous repairs and renovations; if something goes wrong down the track it can be good to have a history.
Have a pre-purchase building and pest inspection
This may seem obvious but many houses are bought and sold without one. Home inspectors are trained to find flaws in a home that your untrained eye may never see as a problem, but may cost a lot to correct down the line. If it’s your dream home, you may choose to buy it even with structural or pest problems, but you’ll be making an informed decision and no doubt be able to negotiate on price.
But don’t freak out!
I’ve given you a lot of things to think about. And granted, some things may be skipped. There is a cooling off period for negotiated purchases (auctions have no cooling off period) so there is the opportunity to revisit the house and check anything else that you forgot on previous visits. There is no harm in having a checklist on your phone of things to check/ask as you move around the house. Make the most of the cooling off period to cover off anything that you might have missed. It’s your last chance to make sure you know exactly what you’re buying.
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