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Open House Tips for First-Time Buyers

By Anita Townes | January 20, 2021

You’ve decided to take the first steps to go from renting to buying. Once you’ve stopped window-shopping on real estate sites and decide to see the real thing, open houses are the best low-pressure way to see your potential dream house up close. Worried you don’t have enough experience to tell if a house has good bones and beyond? Consider these open house tips for first-time buyers as you start the process toward becoming a homeowner.

Take a Curbside Look

When you arrive at the open house, don't get out of the car without taking a good first look. Some pluses and minuses are more obvious than others. How does the roof look? Old? Patchy? Missing shingles? Does the house need a roof replacement? Is there standing water in the front or backyard? These are all big warning signs. How are the sides of the house? Is the siding damaged, sliding off, or missing? What do the neighboring homes look like? Feel free to leave without crossing the threshold.

Don’t Just Look Around—Look Up and Down

As pleasant as it is to enjoy seeing a new home and imagining what it will look like with all your stuff, you need to look closer. Some homes may already be set up with prop furniture, so you need to read between the lines. Check for cracks and stains and evidence of mold. Look beyond the surface by peeking into cupboards, closets, and cabinets too.

Is It Clean? Is It Too Clean?

Every seller, no matter their level of experience, knows that a clean house sells better than a dirty one. When you arrive, you can expect clean walls and floors, but keep an eye out for spackling jobs, newly and randomly applied paint, obvious quickie repair jobs, and any unpleasant odors that somehow rise above the smell of cleaning products. The house may have just received a temporary facelift.

Give the Basement Your Full Attention

Unless they’ve been remodeled, most basements are expected to be a bit dull, dingy, and bland. Don’t be fooled. Numerous basement issues can affect the health of the entire house. Look for foundation cracks; horizontal cracks more than ¾ of an inch wide could mean structural damage to the foundation. If possible, try to see what the basement looks like after a good rain, as some cracks could allow leakage and concrete leveling is necessary to have the cracks fixed. A damp basement with a strange smell is another red flag. When you’re ready to commit, work with an agent, and place a bid, you’ll need to hire an inspector to give the house a thorough examination. Until then, these open house tips for first-time buyers can help you know when to walk away, right away.

Anita is a Realty Biz News Contributor and loves all things real estate from housing, marketing and investing.
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