Open Houses: Here’s What To Look For

Just like when you are looking for a partner for life, you want to pull back the layers, wipe off the make-up, the fancy suit, the shiny jewelry and see what is underneath; same goes for house hunting. When you are looking for your forever home, you want to look beyond the staging, the trendiness, the make-up and theatrics, and really examine the bones on your potential home. Those bones are going to be what keeps you content and happy with the home; the bones also give an indication of whether you are buying a turnkey home or a potential money pit, and they aren’t entirely exclusive. To minimize your risk and decrease the chances of finding skeletons in the closets, here is a checklist for the next open house.

✔ Windows

Good windows make your home more peaceful and quiet; they look nicer on the inside and the outside. They don’t let in air with inadequate seals, and they don’t need maintenance, aka painting. Check the windows at the open house to make sure that they open and close. Of course, one would think that the windows open and close, but older homes, or even newer homes with low quality windows, can be difficult to open and costly to replace.

✔ Electrical

Your future home’s electrical is fundamental, so making sure it is up to snuff is essential. While you are walking through a home, it is a good idea to look for some of the common electrical problems. An inspector will check your electrical too, but it is nice to have an idea of any problem areas.Take something with you to check the electrical outlets in the rooms. Feel the outlets to make sure that they aren’t warm. Look at the electrical box; it will give you a pretty good indication of whether or not the electrical has been updated in the last century. Ask the agent when the electrical was updated, especially if you are looking at an older home. Even turn on the lights in every room to check for flickering.

✔ Water

There is nothing worse than taking your first shower in your new home to find out that there is no water pressure or worse yet, every time the toilet flushes, the water becomes blistering hot or bone-chilling cold. Do your due diligence to make sure that there aren’t any issues with the water, the plumbing, and the outdoor faucets. Turn the water on and off with each faucet to check for water pressure. Ask about the quality of water in the area. If the house’s water has a well, then you want to ask about mineral issues (there are some places where the well water is so corrosive that homeowners have to buy new water heaters, appliances, etc.. on a fairly frequent basis because of it).


A lot of flipped homes have the least expensive but new appliances in them that can be purchased. Sure, they look really nice, but to be honest, they have a 2-5 year shelf life. Don’t be sold on the way they look because new appliances always look nice. Instead, factor replacements into your budget if you find that they are the lowest grade or if they have a lot of “miles” on them.

✔ Closets

Back to the closets, both literal and figurative. Checking the availability of storage in a home is essential. It may not be something that is top of mind, but when you live there, not enough storage will quickly become a nuisance. You want to have enough closets and storage space for clothes, shoes, holiday items, and seasonal storage as well.

Also, looking closely at what isn’t visible on the surface is critical to you knowing what you are getting. Look under any rugs, to see the shape of the flooring underneath it. Look up at the ceilings and look for evidence of leaks or cracks. Of course, if you love the home, you will want to get an inspection on it to make sure that the home of your dreams isn’t, in reality, a money pit.

✔ Insulation/Attic

While it may be reminiscent of Indiana Jones movies with spider-webs and critters–you still need to check out the attic. Determine whether or not the home is well-insulated. According to Energystar, “If your insulation is just level with or below your floor joists (i.e., you can easily see your joists), you should add more. If you cannot see any of the floor joists because the insulation is well above them, you probably have enough and adding more may not be cost-effective. It is important that the insulation be evenly distributed with no low spots; sometimes there is enough insulation in the middle of the attic and very little along the eaves.”

It is also a good idea to feel around the windows and the doors for hot or cool air, depending on the temperature of the day. If you can feel the outside temperature, you will want to factor in the cost of making your home more energy efficient, or the reality that your energy bills will be higher with that home.

✔ Roof

This is probably one of the least exciting parts looking at a potential home, but it is one of the most important and can be a huge ticket item if you have to replace it. Most of the things you will want to know will have to come from an inspection where they can examine the ventilation, drainage, rot, and chimney, etcetera. But on first glance, stand back and check to ensure that it is moss free (especially in Michigan). Examine the shingles to see if any are missing or if they appear to be extremely weathered. Look at the edges and see if they are curled up which can be a problem. Also, look for any areas that seem to be bulging or sunken in. A level and straight roof is a good thing.


Find out how old the furnace is and how long it has been since it was inspected. Don’t be discouraged if it is old. Sometimes older is actually better, but make sure that the inspections have been up to date, and if not, recognize that a new furnace may be in the cards in the near future. And, check on that water heater, too. It isn’t a huge ticket item, but it is nice to have a heads-up if it is on the older side.


While this doesn’t really have anything to do with the open house, one of the essential aspects of a successful home search is finding the right agent for you. You want an agent who isn’t all about “making money” but who is about seeing you happy and settled in the perfect home for you. Do your shopping! Check out the agents at 616 Realty. (You can read all about them on their blog and then schedule an appointment).

It’s kind of like shopping for a car. It may look great on the outside, but truly, what is under the hood is what really counts. Look “under the hood” and utilize your agent’s knowledge as well during each open house or home tour in order to see what you are truly getting.