Buyer’s Guide: 10 Essential Items you Must Bring to an Open House

OH Tool Kit

Attending an Open House, or several, this weekend? House hunting can quickly turn from fun to daunting by house number three. But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s our list of essential items to bring with you to your next Open House.  You’ll get the most out of your visit with a little prep and a few common household items.

  1. Marbles

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.

  1. Neighborhood comps

As a 30+-year-old first time home buyer when my father-in-law advised us to not purchase the most expensive home on the block, I laughed. Of course I wanted the biggest and best — until I discovered that he was exactly right.

From an investment standpoint, owning the biggest house on the block has never been a good strategy. Home values in a neighborhood are intertwined because comps (industry speak for “comparable properties”) are so important in determining how to price — and what to pay for — a home. So the value of your McMansion will be limited if it’s surrounded by homes of considerably lesser value.

  1. Tape measure

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.

  1. Phone/camera

The old adage “Don’t leave home without it,” which once referred to your American Express card, now refers to your phone. If your phone doesn’t come equipped with a camera or a decent one (don’t laugh, these do exist) you might want to consider bringing a camera with you to take photographs. By the time the third house comes around, they all start blending into one. It’s perfectly legal to snap a photo or even take a video, but always ask permission.

  1. Folder

Be prepared to receive a lot of information. You’ll get it all: flyers, spec sheets, home warranty details, agent business cards. Anything that could potentially help sell the home will be thrown your way. To manage it all, take a folder and paperclips, especially if you are visiting multiple Open Houses.  Admittedly this might appear a little “Type A” but you’ll appreciate the organization later.

  1. Pen and notepad

Writing down the specs and details of each home as you walk through will help you to  truly analyze later what you just saw. Make sure to record both things that you like and things that you do not at each visit.

Also, rather than trying to remember various questions, take some time before you go to an open house to create a list of everything you would like to know about the property and the surrounding area. Here’s a fantastic list of Open House questions to get you started.

  1. Must-have checklist

Here’s where a little soul searching is needed. What are your “must haves”? What are you willing to compromise on? Is living on a cul-de-sac absolutely necessary? Do you need to have top of the line, stainless steel appliances? Making a written list, where you can record responses after each Open House, helps keep things in perspective. Take it from HGTV’s “House Hunters.”

  1. Friends and family

Two pairs of eyes are better than one and, when looking at homes, this is especially true. It is helpful to bring along a friend or family member who can see things you might have missed. While, ultimately, it is your decision, it is good to gain another’s perspective.

If possible leave the younger children home. I love children, I do. But as the mother of a 2-year-old I know how difficult it is to look for foundational cracks while chasing after my daughter.

  1. Housefax Report

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. Visit housefax.com to get a Housefax Report.

  1. Your appetite

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. Why?

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.

The house hunting process is a very important one. Take your time and make sure you are 100% prepared and ready. If you take these tips to heart, you will find your dream home in no time!