September 1st 2022
13 important questions to ask at an open house
Visiting open houses is one of the most essential (and fun!) parts of your home search.
Not only does it give you a chance to picture yourself living in a future space — it's the perfect opportunity to ask deeper (and super important) questions that the online listing alone can’t answer. Knowing more about the history of the home, and more, can help you make an informed decision.
Now, you don't need an endless checklist of questions to ask at an open house, but you do need to take stock of the ones that will reveal any major concerns, considerations, or hidden surprises — whether they are the good, the bad, or the not-so-pretty.
13 Questions to ask at an open house … or open apartment … or condo
Let us just say: open houses aren't just for houses!
If you're searching for a condo or an apartment, the same open house questions apply, and the experience will be pretty much the same.
When you visit an open house, you'll meet the listing agent, who will be your go-to expert on the space you’re checking out.
Start by getting a little background on the seller and the listing, then ask these specific questions about the property to get all the information you need about your potential new home's history, and what you can expect during the process:
Why are the owners selling?
Every seller has their own personal reason for listing their home. Maybe it's a new job. Maybe it’s wanting to be closer to family. Or, maybe it’s strictly a financial move.
Asking this essential question upfront will help you to begin to hone in on any potential challenges with the property (maybe the seller finds fixing the crack in the foundation a little daunting!).
Be sure you're getting the whole truth here — and don't shy away from asking for details. It will save you time, and potentially money, in the long run.
How long has it been on the market?
A home that has been on the market for a while could mean a few things:
- There are issues that other potential buyers have uncovered
- The seller isn't willing to negotiate, or
- The larger real estate market has slowed (recent interest rate hikes have made houses cheaper to buy but more expensive to own).
On that last point: sometimes a home can spend many Days on the Market because there simply aren't enough people looking to buy. So, if a house has been for sale for several months, you might be in luck: the seller may be more than ready to negotiate with you.
Has the owner received any offers? How many?
If there have been several rejected offers, then consider asking the listing agent why these deals never reach ‘done’ status. This may help you understand how flexible the seller is, and what their most important conditions are.
If there are any offers currently on the table, then you'll know you need to move quickly with your best offer. If there isn't a bidding war in progress, you are more likely able to take your time and ease carefully into the negotiation.
Are there any problems with the home?
You can, and should, be direct here! Find out what issues, if any, the home has. The owners legally need to disclose any structural or code problems in their Property Disclosure Statement (PDS), so make sure to ask up front if the PDS is available.
Have there been any renovations done to the property?
If the answer to this question is yes, you'll need to make sure that the seller received the right permits for those renovations, just so you're not surprised to learn of any code violations.
Luckily, there are professionals who have your back here. Hiring a home inspector down the line to investigate any renovations, and be able to identify any existing structural problems and reno no-no’s, is an absolute must.
How long ago was the home last updated?
Ask the seller or listing agent for information on all of the property's features. Get details on any updates that have been made to all of the home's items and features like:
- Heating and cooling systems (energy efficiency)
- Electrical system
- Age of the roof
- Water heater
- Water pressure
Homes that haven't been updated in recent years may be in need of a refresh sooner than later — something to consider in your overall budget.
And: updates are yet another area that a professional home inspection will help you with.
What’s included in the sale? or What stays with the house?
Appliances like the washer, dryer, fridge, and stove could be included in the sale or could be going with the seller to their new abode. These are expensive items, so if you need to buy your own, you’ll need to budget for it.
Other items that you like about the space (think lighting features and shelving) could also be going out the door, so it's a good idea to ask what's included in the sale. Some furniture that's too heavy to move, like a piano, could also be staying behind.
On the other hand, the home could be completely move-in ready, meaning that everything you see, you get. All that's missing is you!
Are there condos or other maintenance fees?
Whether or not you’ll need to pay maintenance fees really depends on the type of home in question. What’s most common are condo maintenance fees, which are mostly specific to condo apartments, and condo townhome developments (also known as ‘strata’ properties in BC!).
In Ontario, for instance, condo fees ensure the upkeep of shared areas (think hallways, pathways, and elevators), as well as the surrounding grounds, and major building repairs or replacements. This expense is key to ensuring that your home is well looked after, but it is an added expense that you’ll have to account for. That’s why it’s best to ask about it early in the process, to avoid any financial surprises down the road.
What’s the neighbourhood like?
You can find your dream home, but what if the area won’t meet your needs in the long term?
Loving the neighbourhood is nearly as important as loving the property itself. Check the practical boxes like what amenities are around (grocery stores, public transit, hospitals). If you have kids, ask: what about schools? And, to get a sense of how enjoyable the area is, ask the listing agent for local recommendations or ask if the seller has provided any.
Beyond the neighbourhood, you'll also want to get an idea of what your neighbours are like.
Is the area mostly home to families? Students? Young professionals?
Not sure what neighbourhood characteristics will bring you the most joy? Then check out our Happiness Index for inspiration. We ranked Toronto and Vancouvers’ best neighbourhoods based on what Canadian buyers are looking for:
- Outdoor space
- Food & drink
Does the seller have a timeline?
Understanding how quickly or slowly the seller is taking things will help you with your own plan, and whether you should take your time or make an offer ASAP.
Sellers who’ve already bought another home may be more willing to move things along faster. Still, sellers who are taking their time and don't have a firm ideal closing date could be biding their time and waiting for their best offer.
What are the utilities, what do they cost, and when were they last updated?
You'll need to know what energy source the house has before you buy. Ask if the home is powered by natural gas, solar power, electricity, or a combination. Check to see if you can get an estimate of the monthly cost of utilities to help you calculate your potential budget.
Having an energy-efficient home is more important than ever. Even if the house you're interested in doesn't have a green power source, there are several eco-friendly hacks to keep your future home affordable and sustainable.
Has the asking price gone up or down?
Knowing about any price fluctuations can help you understand the home's desirability through the eyes of other buyers. Reductions can indicate that not a lot of people were interested, so the seller has lowered the asking price to drive more interest.
Understanding the listing's history, and having the deepest possible context, will inform your own offer, and ensure you’re ultra happy in your new home.
Find your dream home!
Now that you know how to prepare for open houses, it's time to start sifting through the listings!
You can begin to Search for homes in Vancouver and Toronto. Or, if you'd like some help on your house hunt, you can start by chatting with an agent — someone who can answer your most burning real estate questions, and help you move in the direction that best fits your future homebuying goals.
*DISCLAIMER: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not an exhaustive review of this topic. The content is not financial or investment advice. No professional relationship of any kind is formed between you and Properly, Properly Brokerage, or Properly Homes. While we have obtained or compiled this information from sources we believe to be reliable, we cannot and do not guarantee its accuracy. We recommend that you consult a trusted professional before taking any action related to this information. Properly is a tech-enabled real estate brokerage that is transforming the home buying and selling experience with AI-powered home valuations, Sale Assurance, and a modern streamlined service. We recommend that you compare and contrast your options, read the fine print, and conduct detailed research into any real estate, loan, and/or investment provider before using their services.*
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