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Open Houses: It's One of the Most Important Hours of Your Life, So Use It Wisely to Gather Information

By Eleanor Boschert

It's amazing that you could likely make one of the most expensive decisions of your life after spending under an hour wandering through an open house. So, make the most that time. While you explore home after home, follow these tips from MassRealty to help you focus on what to look for and how to get the information you need before you decide to make an offer to purchase.

Be organized. Bring a checklist and an open mind. You'll want to have a record of what you see. It will help you remember which house you liked best when your selective memory fails you afterwards.

Keep your comments and opinions to yourself, good or bad. You don't want to lose any bargaining power if all parties know how excited you are about the home. And, keep quiet if you really don't like it. Everybody has different tastes.

First impressions count. You can get a good idea of the condition of a home by how it looks on your walk up. What's the condition of the roof and shingles? Are the gutters clean and secure? Paint job? Is the stonework of the walkway or steps in good shape? Cracks anywhere? How kept up is the yard?

Leave no room unturned. Look into every room, closet, every storage space. Does it have a nice flow to the rooms? Is the storage enough for you? Will you and your family fit in the space?

Look beyond a perfectly staged home, or the perils of bad taste, to the bones of house itself. Walk around and open and close windows, doors, and cabinets. Check out the ceiling and floors. How well do the electrical outlets work? Is the plumbing in good shape?

Look for certain types of damage: mold, fire, and pests, especially water. Are there stains? Can you see seepage or mold discoloration on the basement walls or floor? Does it smell musty or just plain stuffy? Is it well-ventilated, insulated? Can you hear strange noises from any appliances or systems?

You can never ask too many questions. Ask about the neighborhood, the city, and its services. What are the transportation options? Shopping areas? Schools? Follow your checklist of the major systems such as heating, cooling, electrical, plumbing. Has the house been renovated? What comes with the purchase?

Go back. You can schedule a private showing to take the time to really review the home. It will feel less harried and allow you to get a better feel for it. Follow your instincts too. Sometimes a home just feels right, and sometimes it doesn't.

Be respectful. It is someone's home and you should respect their living arrangements and personal items. You wouldn't want strangers rummaging through your things, would you?

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