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Top questions to ask listing agents at open houses

Whether you’re an interested neighbor, prospective buyer, or simply driving around on a weekend perusing potential neighborhoods, visiting an open house is great way to peek into the character and personality of a home and its surrounding area. It’s an important, first-step opportunity to obtain details on a specific home, so serious buyers can choose to make an offer or move on to other options. The agent hosting an open house may or may not be the actual listing agent for the home, but either way, he or she should have valuable details and stats on the home. From my experience as a REALTOR® and homeowner, below are some top questions to ask while viewing an open house.

But first, here’s a pro tip: Bring a binder, notepad and pen to jot down any pros and cons from each home you visit, plus to organize open house flyers, agent business cards and other materials you’ll collect. It will be hard to remember which homes truly fit your needs after visiting many in one weekend. Plus, you can’t always rely on open house marketing materials to tell the whole story based on your in-person viewing experience.

Now, back to the best questions to ask…

1. Tell me about the house.

This open-ended question gives the agent or homeowner an opportunity to lead with the best features, or discuss the home from their own experience. What do they feel is the best selling point of the home and does that line up with what you feel is important in your next home? If they lead with the amazing yard, and yard maintenance isn't something you want to deal with, then maybe it’s not the one for you.

2. Can you describe some of the upgrades that have been done?

Upgrades like new hardwood floors may be obvious, but other upgrades are behind the scenes and harder to detect – like a new water heater or upgraded heating and A/C. No one can predict what may need to be replaced in the future, but if you have an idea what has recently been upgraded, chances are it won't need to be replaced for a while.

3. What is the neighborhood like?

There is something to be said about buying the worst house in the best neighborhood. However, I do caution my clients about buying the best house in the worst neighborhood. The appraised value of a home is highly dependent on other home values in that neighborhood, not so much on upgrades and remodels. It may also be important for you to know the general demographics of the neighbors: do they have young kids, are they retired, is it a college area with high rentals?

4. What do the utilities and other monthly fees typically run?

Home prices, especially in San Diego, can be quite high. Mortgage payments can take up quite a bit of a homeowner's monthly income. It’s one thing to be able to pay the mortgage, it’s another thing to pay the other monthly fees such as utilities, HOA, Mello-Roos, etc. Before getting your heart set on a home, it’s a good idea to make sure it fits into your budget.

5. What is the usual traffic around the home?

Open houses are commonly on weekends where traffic patterns are much different than they are on weekdays. If you see a school down the street, large shopping center nearby or corporate offices one block away, it’s a good idea to ask the agent how traffic typically is. Also, along these lines, if you need to travel on a freeway to get to work, it’s good to ask what the typical commute is to the nearest freeway on-ramp. This added time could affect your everyday drive to work.

6. Just for fun, envision yourself unloading groceries from Costco.

If you are dreaming of a third-story condo with an ocean view, keep in mind you will be moving up flights of stairs and carrying carloads of groceries to your home. If you want to live in a country cottage, the nearest grocery store could be thirty minutes away, plus you could have a bumpy hike from your driveway to your kitchen. There are endless scenarios, but the main point here is to think about your life routines and what conveniences you may be trading for certain inconveniences.

If you’re interested in real estate advice or viewing open houses in San Diego County, email or call Michael Biondo at 619-993-9559 to get started.

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