The first time my real estate agent took a marble out of her pocket during an Open House, I thought to myself “I’ve never played marbles and I’m not ready to start now.” Little did I know the trick she had up her sleeve – or should I say in her pocket.
You can test for uneven and sloping floors very simply by rolling a large marble across the floor and seeing if it rolls level or downhill. It will even give you a very rough idea of how much the floor is sloping, which could reveal larger (and costly) foundation issues.
Prepared sellers will hand out a property description sheet with information like square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and special features. But if they don’t, and square footage is important to you, bring a tape measure. You want to guarantee that your new king size bed fits in the master bedroom. Here’s more information on how to calculate a home's square footage.
Often times, the agent showing the Open House is not the actual listing agent. Unfortunately this means s/he is not as familiar with the property, especially the history. Bring a Housefax Report to help answer certain questions, identify potential issues and expenses, and to give you guidance when touring the home.
For example, during the Open House, you may notice the home has a recently finished basement but the Housefax Report shows no records of a permit. This could be a red flag. In some states, a home could fail an inspection without a permit. The Housefax Report will also estimate the strength of a cell phone signal at the property for different carriers. This is incredibly important if you work from home. And if the Housefax Report shows the property is located in a flood zone, you will want to pay close attention to potential water damage. As always, your
Bring your appetite. Not for all the chocolate chip cookies you’ll be enjoying from house to house, but rather, for a late lunch or early dinner. Drive around town and grab a bite at a nearby restaurant to hang with the locals, strike up a conversation or eavesdrop on others (what’s all this buzz about schools being recently rezoned?).
You have to remember that you’re not just buying a house, you’re buying a neighborhood, too. And that, perhaps, is the most important takeaway from seeing a property in person.
Bonus Tip: If you're going to more than one Open House, property details may tend to blend together after a long day. It's important to stay organized so that later you can properly evaluate what you saw. For tips on how to do this, see "Buyer's Guide:10 Essential Items You Must Bring to an Open House."