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Five Questions You Should Ask at an Open House

By Tiffany Raiford

What's great about open houses is that they allow you to see a home without the commitment of making an appointment with an agent or scheduling a showing. In fact, open houses are great ways for families to scope out a neighborhood and the homes in the neighborhood on their own terms, seeing what each home has to offer and what the neighborhood has in store for them should they purchase this particular home, or another one in the area. If you plan on using this method to find out more about a specific neighborhood, you should do so. However, be sure to ask these specific questions.

Have You Had Many Offers?

This is an important question to ask -- with this info, you'll get an idea of whether or not you have competition and need to up your potential asking price or if you should put in an offer that's lower than the asking price. It also gives you an idea whether or not there might be something wrong with the house or the neighborhood based on a complete lack of interest.

Has it Been in Escrow?

If a home has previously been in escrow and the sale did not go through, you want to know why. Hopefully, it was a decision the buyers made based on personal reasons such as the need to relocate to a new city or a new pregnancy that caused them to decide they needed something bigger or in a new neighborhood. Otherwise, the sale may have fallen through due to issues upon inspection or with the appraisal of the home, which could be red flags if you're not willing to deal with that mess.

Why Are the Owners Selling?

You might unintentionally find out something really important by asking this seemingly casual question. For example, if the sellers are moving because they want their kids to go to better schools, you'll know the schools here aren't stellar. You might find out there's significant construction in the neighborhood, sink holes opening up everywhere, a new shopping mall being built too close or some other information that might show you that this is an undesirable neighborhood. You might also find out it's a beautiful neighborhood but they're just empty-nesters looking to downsize or a young family looking for a house that will grow with them.

Are There Additional Ownership Costs?

The last thing you want to find out when you make an offer on a property is that you have additional ownership fees you weren't expecting. Ask this question at an open house to find out about homeowner's association fees and/or any other fees that might affect the cost of living in this particular home or neighborhood.

How Long Has it Been on the Market?

Knowing how long a home has been on the market can give you a lot of information. If it's been on the market for months, there might be a reason. It could be priced too high or it might require too much work to update it. It might also give you information as to whether or not the owners might be getting to a point where they're desperate to sell and might accept a much lower offer.

Open houses are a great source of information, even if you aren't particularly interested in that particular home but rather the general neighborhood. By asking the right questions, you'll be prepared for your future purchase and ready to make the right offer in the right neighborhood.

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