How to pick a winner: Guide to viewing open homes

If you’re in the market for a new house you’ll spend a lot of your spare time attending open homes. Open house inspections are a chance for potential buyers to not only have a look at a potential new home, but to ask questions to get understanding of the house and its history.

Whether you’re attending your first open home or your hundredth, it helps to know what you’re looking for. To help you avoid buying a money pit, we’ve compiled a list of things to look out for while you look for the right property.

Ten things to ask the real estate agent about

1. The roof: The age of the roof will give you an indication on when you’ll likely need to replace it. While a roof can be expected to last a few decades, it requires regular maintenance. Even if the roof was put in within the last decade, get up there (or hire someone to) and really get an understanding of its condition
2. Temperature: Does the property heat up too much in summer and not enough in winter? Is there heating and air-conditioning already installed? The temperature of a house can easily go from comfortable to insufferable.
3. Location: The location of the property should be a key factor in your decision. Is it near public transport or local shops? Do you want to live near a park? Your location will also impact your parking options–does it have space for a car? Or will you need a permit to park on the street?
4. Mould: Mould can cause serious health issues. Ask the real estate agent if they know if the property has a history of mould.
5. History of the house: Ask the real estate agent if the owners have any inspection reports for the property. You’ll be able to get your own inspections conducted if you go through with the sale. But you want to be aware of any potential issues before you make an offer.
6. Completed renovations: Find out if the owners have completed or if they know about any renovations on the property. Homes, like anything else, are subject to a bit of wear and tear over time. If you purchase a home at the right age, replacing or restoring parts of the home might be inevitable. But if you’re thorough during the open home, you might not have to.
7. Potential renovations: If you’re thinking about renovating your new property find out what the zoning restrictions on the property are. You’ll need to contact the council for this conformation as the current owners might not have the most accurate information.
8. Space: Don’t be afraid to bring your measuring tape to get a better understanding of how much of your furniture will fit in the kitchen, in the lounge, in the shed.
9. Sunlight: Which direction are the windows facing? Natural sunlight can be really important in a home–making some rooms feel larger and more open.
10. Plumbing: Don’t forget to check the water pressure of all of the taps, including the shower. Ask the real estate agent about the age, location and condition of the hot water pump or the water tanks. And don’t be shy about looking under the sinks or at the toilet to get an idea of how old the plumbing is.

It’s also wise to ask the real estate agent why the house is being sold. This information, along with how long the property has been on the market, will give you a good indication of the seller’s time frame. Are they in a rush to make a sale? They might be open to a lower price. If not, bargaining with the owners might be a hard sell.

You can even ask what the original asking price was to give you an indication of how popular the property has been. If it’s increased, you’ll probably have some competition. But if it’s gone down, there might be something wrong with the property you haven’t found just yet.

Before you start attending open homes, work out how much you can afford to borrow.

Then, compare home loans to get pre-approval before you start searching the property listings online. You can apply online and get pre-approval, so you know exactly how much your budget is.

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