The Essential Questions to Ask an Open House

The PropertyClub Team
Sep 4th 2020
If you’re attending an open house, it’s good to come prepared. Today, we’ll explore the most important questions to ask the sellers and their realtor when you visit.

Going to an open house is a fairly exciting step in the home buying process. If you’re like many potential buyers, the thrill of seeing a potential future home can easily make you forget that it’s a time to ask questions about the home. Once you get home, all the questions you should’ve asked at the open house come flooding back. Sound familiar?

There are plenty of questions you should ask during an open house. Having a handy cheat sheet can help you figure out which ones are the right ones to ask. Not sure where to begin? These questions can provide a ton of insight on your future home. Our suggestion is to pick the ones you think are most important and create a list of open house questions you plan on asking. 

Questions to ask before attending an open house

Even before going to the open house, there are some key questions you’ll want to ask. These can give you valuable information on whether or not the house is a good fit. In some cases, you might decide it's not even worth attending the open house. 

How long has this house been on the market? Finding out will give you a good idea of what the demand is. Homes that have been on the market longer might be overpriced. 

Have there been any price reductions? Finding out if there have been price reductions is another good indicator of interest in the house as well as the seller’s overall motivation. If the house has been on the market for a while without a price reduction, and you feel it’s overpriced, it might not even be worth attending the open house. 

Is the home is vacant, and if so, for how long has it been unoccupied? A home that’s been vacant for ages might have fallen into disrepair. Too long a vacancy might be cause for alarm, especially when you consider the risk of squatters.

Questions to ask at the open house

Some of the first questions you’ll want to ask at the open house are general questions about the home and its owners. 

How long have the owners lived in the house? This may give you a good idea of the house’s use.

Why are the owners selling the home? Though personal, this reasoning can help shed light on issues you may have with the neighborhood. 

Have there been any offers? If there have been, consider using this as a backup plan.

Does this home have any stigma attached to it? Many homes on the market have been the site of traumatic events such as deaths, fires, accidents, or murders. These are homes that often come with a stigma, which might be a valid reason to reduce a home’s price. 

Negotiation questions to ask

Your open house question list should also include some questions about the seller’s willingness to negotiate. 

Are you open to offering any incentives for the home purchase? Things like being willing to pay the closing costs can sweeten a deal immensely. 

What kind of contingencies do you want to make? Are there any contingencies that you won’t accept? Some contingencies can be dealbreakers, so it’s best to know these while you’re still in negotiations.

What’s your sale timeline looking like? This question will give you a good idea of how soon they want to part with the house. The last thing that you want to have happen is to find out they were not as thrilled as you are about the sale.

Is the price negotiable? Asking if there is room to negotiate is a good indicator that a homeowner is looking to sell, sell, sell. Typically, you’ll get a firm “No” or a “We need to see an offer,” but if they indicate that they’re flexible, it’s a good sign that you can work out a deal. 

Safety questions to ask

You’ll want to make sure the house is safe to live in, so your open house question list should include some of the following questions. 

Can we get mold/asbestos/lead paint/radon/soil testing done? It would be best if you had these tests performed to ensure that the home is safe to stay in long-term. Buyers should also find out who will be paying for these tests since they can easily add up to around $1,000 in total. 

Is this home in a flood zone? How much does flood insurance cost here? Flooding is a pretty serious risk to take on. You should be aware of the costs before you go further.

Is there (or was there) an oil tank anywhere underground? This is another maintenance and safety question you need to ask. 

How old is the roof/HVAC/utility system? As homes age, these need to be replaced, or they become a fire hazard.

Do you have a Seller’s Property Disclosure? Obtaining the disclosure will give you a quick run-through of all the known issues a home has. It usually will contain information that will make or break the deal. 

Do your basement’s windows egress? This is a building code matter and helps ensure you have an escape route during a fire. 

Are there any building code violations we need to be aware of? What about any HOA regulations that may be difficult to work with? Knowing if your home is dealing with hard-to-fix issues is important for your property value and future repair prices.

Quality of life questions to ask

The listing agent might not be able to answer all of the following quality of life questions, but if the seller is at the open house, be sure to ask them about what it’s like to live in the area. 

How much are the typical monthly bills here? Though you might be worried about the house’s price, knowing how much it costs to live there comfortably is just as important. Finding out about the utility bills is a must.

How are the schools here? Good school systems tend to indicate a high quality of life, and not just for families. Great schools tend to happen in low-crime areas with ample parks. But be warned, realtors cannot answer this question directly as it’s in violation of fair housing laws. At best, they can direct you to websites that show local school rankings. But if the seller is present at the open house, they can certainly answer this question. 

What’s the local restaurant scene like? If you are a stickler for good food, you should be aware of what the options around your future home will be like.

What is the HOA like? If the house in question is part of the local homeowners’ association, you should ask about their policies. A HOA on a power trip can easily become a thorn in anyone’s side. 

What is the traffic like in the morning? People who will be making a morning commute should ask this to make sure they don’t end up buying into a gridlocked area. 

How is the neighborhood watch? If you’re worried about crime rates, learning about this can help put your mind at ease.

House Upkeep Questions

It can also be helpful to ask general questions about the property at the open house. This will help you can gauge any potential repairs or problems you may face. 

How old is the carpeting in this room? Having to replace the carpeting will not be fun, especially if you’re already paying a decent amount for the home. 

Can I test the water pressure? Ask this in both the bathroom and kitchen to make sure you’re getting quality plumbing.

Is this central air? Knowing the type of heating and air conditioning you’ll be getting will make a world of difference when you move in. 

Have there been any leaks in your bathroom or kitchen? Trying to assess the chances of a leak will help you decide if this home is right for you. 

Are there any areas of your yard that have difficulty draining away water? This is not the same as asking if you’re in a flood zone. It’s a great question to ask the seller if they’re at the open house as it will tell you whether or not you’ll have to deal with mud puddles throughout your yard. 

What is the sunlight like throughout the year? Bright, sunny homes are generally considered to be more favorable. 

The Takeaway

Attending an open house is a great way to see a home, but it should also be used as a way to get additional information about the property.

Be sure to draw up a list of questions you want to ask at the open house. 

And remember, if the homeowner is at the open house, you should certainly take advantage of their presence and ask them very specific questions about the home.