What to check at an open house inspection April 21, 2022
If you’re searching for your first home, you’ll quickly realise how important open house inspections are. As a first-time buyer, weekends will likely feel like an endless effort to coordinate and drive between inspections searching for the ‘the one’. Buying your first or next home is an exciting but daunting time. It’s easy to get swept up in the moment and let the lighting, stunning view, or crystal clear pool water influence your decision to make an offer. But if you’re serious about making the right decision, you’ll need to look harder. Use this guide so you know exactly what to check at an open house inspection.
Walls and Ceilings
The walls and ceilings of a house are often overlooked by buyers at open home inspections. Still, they can give critical insights into the property’s foundations. As you walk from room to room, look up and down the walls, at cornices and skirting boards, behind curtains, and corners. While cracks aren’t always a sign of something sinister and can be cosmetic, large cracks (larger than 5mm) can indicate a structural problem. Any foundation or structural issues can be costly down the track.
While you hunt for cracks, keep your eyes peeled for mould or signs of water damage. Specifically, look for discolouration of surfaces, rotting, musty odours, condensation, warped ceilings or floors and visible mould. Water damage can have severe impacts on the structural integrity of your home and your health.
Cupboards and drawers
Homebuyers can feel uncomfortable opening cupboards and drawers in someone else’s house. The key is to remember that an open house inspection is not an open invitation to snoop. Real estate agents generally advise sellers on the areas that potential buyers are most likely to look to help them protect their belongings and privacy. But, it’s totally ok to check that doors and drawers are in good working order. More importantly, be on the lookout for any water damage or leaking sinks and taps in the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry.
Functionality, floor plan and storage
Prospective home buyers rarely have longer than 30 minutes to inspect a property. Make the most of what little time you have to ensure the house is a good fit for your lifestyle. Check that the kitchen and bathrooms have functional layouts. If you have young kids, are there ways to prevent them from getting into areas where little ones can hurt themselves? Does the floor plan work for you? Do you want the main bedroom at the front or at the rear of the property? Do you need a separate area for a home office or an activity area for kids? Will the alfresco area get the full brunt of the afternoon sun while you’re trying to chill? Are there enough cupboards for linen and general storage? Think about your property must-haves and whether the house lives up to your needs.
Working appliances, lights and running water
Dishwashers and ovens are generally included in the sale of a property. A quick inspection will give you hints about whether they’re working the way they should. Open up the dishwasher and check for smells, oil or broken cleaning arms. Look at the flooring beneath the dishwasher for any water stains or potential leaks. Next, check the oven. Does it turn on? Does the fan work? Are the seals in good order? If either of these appliances doesn’t work, talk to the real estate agent.
Pest control and termite inspections
No one likes little critters running around in their new house or finding out that the house has issues with termites. Building and pest inspections occur after you’ve made an offer that was accepted. But, an open house can give you an early hint as to whether the home has been maintained for pests and termites. You may not be able to visibly see termites or the damage they cause, but if the house has an infestation, it can be very costly. In Australia, the average cost for initial eradication and prevention of termites is $4000 to $5,500, including a follow-up inspection at 12 months. If the home has had regular pest and termite inspections the provider often adds a treatment sticker on the inside of the cupboard door under the sink
or in the meter box outside or in the meter box outside. Ask the real estate agent when the last inspection was if it’s not there.
Windows and doors
As you move throughout the home on open inspection day, check that windows and doors are easy to open and shut. Cast your eyes around the door frame – are there any cracks or damage? If windows and doors are hard to open, feel jammed, or the frames have large cracks, there could be structural issues. For those security-conscious buyers (aren’t we all?), it’s also a good idea to ensure that all windows and external doors are lockable and have security screens.
Gutters and drainage
During the open house, head outside, walk around the home and check that the gutters and external pipes appear in good order. Cracks, holes or signs of rust can indicate leaking, which can cause damage to the exterior of the home and the foundations.
You’ll also want to inspect the yard for adequate drainage. Besides impacting your new lawn, if the yard doesn’t have sufficient gully drains or water pools around the outside of the house, you could be faced with foundational issues. Be on the lookout for standing water or water stains close to the home as a sign of poor drainage. In most cases, poor drainage can be improved with changes to landscaping or rerouting water with new drains and pipes.
Neighbours and neighbourhood
While you’re outside, check out the houses on either side and to the rear of the property. Also, look up and down the street. Are the yards neat and tidy? Are there lots of cars parked in front yards or on the road? Are there dogs barking? Your neighbours will have a big impact on your day-to-day life so take note of your surroundings.
What about crime? First time or experienced buyers are often not aware that they can access crime information for their new neighbourhood. The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research provides free access to Crime Maps, an interactive online tool providing easy access to information on crimes committed within NSW. Simply enter your postcode and use the filters to determine the types of crimes committed within the area. Be mindful that every neighbourhood will have some level of crime.
General damage and neglect
Other than the items mentioned above, look for any general damage or neglect. Are door handles or taps loose? Are exterior gates working, and are gutters clean? Is the flooring in good condition, or are there stains or water damage? Are showers clean, or is there missing or mouldy silicone? Note any issues you may need to chat to the real estate agent about.
Are you prepared for open house inspections?
Open house inspections are your golden opportunity to feel whether the house has been well maintained and cared for. The age of the house is likely to impact the number of issues that may arise but remember, not all problems are significant. If you decide to make an offer, ensure that the contract of sale is subject to a professional Building and Pest Inspection. If you’re not sure how to make this kind of offer for your property purchase, let our experienced and friendly team help. Request your free quote today or call our office on (02) 4056 1070.
Hi there! I'm Tayla Oliver
I founded Oliver & Co. Conveyancing to educate and support you through the buying and selling process with affordable, full-service conveyancing services. You can count on our experienced and friendly team to look after your best interests, all the way from ‘just looking’ to settlement and beyond.