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Questions to Ask at an Open House

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

A smart buyer views open houses with their real estate agent with whom they have signed a buyer-broker agreement. Prepared ahead of time, an agent will already have provided the answers to many of the questions a buyer may have about a home, even before it's viewed.

But if you are viewing a home on your own, bring your agent's business card and state first-hand that you are working with this agent. Then, ask these top open house questions and learn why they are so crucial to your home purchase.

Are you the listing agent? How much do you know about this property?

Sometimes the listing agent is not in attendance at the open house, instead sending another agent as their surrogate. This agent may know little about the property -- their presence is merely an attempt to bring in buyers. If the listing agent is not present, don't waste your time asking questions. View the home and, if interested, call your agent.

Is the home still on the market?

Immediately ask this when you walk in the door. Sometimes a home garners an offer during an open-house viewing, so if you did decide to make an offer, it may be a backup should the first offer fall through. Find out where you stand so no time is wasted, even if the open-house agent has to contact the listing agent.

Is there an impending offer deadline?

You may need to know if a deadline is looming, so you can get in touch with your agent in a timely manner. Missing a deadline for a home you really want is devastating.

Can I measure to determine if my California king-sized bed or sectional couch fits?

Fill in the questions with any piece of furniture you have doubts will fit in the home. If the home is still occupied, this may not be allowed. This could be a deal breaker for those who don't want to part with favorite, overly large furniture that may be hard to fit in a room. Instead, ask for detailed room measurements, if available.

May I take pictures or video?

If only one spouse or partner can be present for the open house, a video is the next best thing to being there. Again, ulterior motives may be suspected if the home is occupied, so don't be surprised if the answer is no. Seller's safety is important. Ask your agent to see what visuals are available online and take detailed notes.

Are inspection reports (pest, structural, general home, lead-based paint), invoices or receipts available for major repairs or purchases?

Not all sellers keep good records. If documentation is available, ask for copies to be emailed to your agent. This paperwork could help answer questions for the inspectors working for you during the purchase process.

Are there special assessments or other homeowner association (HOA) fees? Are there problems with the HOA or legal action taken against the homeowner by HOA?

If looking at a home with an HOA, this information may take awhile to turn up on reports from the title company or HOA. Ask it and watch their face when the agent or seller answers to ascertain if the whole truth is being told.

Why are they selling now?

This question should provide an accurate reason the owner is selling. The answer could give tips on offer pricing, selling timeline or other issues to give clues to a more acceptable purchase offer.

What is important to the seller to sell this home besides the right price?

This is a more to-the-point question than asking how motivated the owner is to sell. Listen to the answer, as information gleaned can be used to give your offer the upper edge.

What is the process used if multiple offers are received?

This is an important question if looking at homes in a popular area where homes sell fast. Will the owner take the first acceptable offer based on date/time or take a few days to look over all offers and choose the offer in their best interests? You don't want to miss making an offer on another property waiting on an answer from this one.

Remember to speak to nearby homeowners when present, as they often are, to get a feel for the neighborhood. Often, neighbors will provide information you may not get any other way. If the home is one you wish to make an offer on, give your agent the details and they will provide answers for other questions pertinent to your offer.

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About The Author

Elizabeth R. Elstien has worked in real estate for over 15 years as a real estate...

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