At an open house, it’s easy to be distracted by carefully staged furniture or cheerful, chatty listing agents. But an open house is your chance to really get a good look at your potential new home. If you aren’t paying attention, you could miss some important details. Remember these tips for the next time you head to an open house.

1. Check out the neighborhood

As you head to an open house, be sure you get a good look at the neighborhoo. Do the neighboring homes look like they’re in good shape? Is the neighborhood calm and quiet or bustling with activity? Pay attention to how much foot traffic you see, as well as the speed of vehicles on the streets nearby.

Take an extra moment to look at the home’s nearest neighbors. Bicycles in the front yard or big dogs in the backyard can give you some clues about what life might be like living next to your potential neighbors long-term.

2. Look carefully at the exterior

On your way in, you’ll want to take notice of the exterior of the home, too. Keep a lookout for peeling paint, missing roof shingles, cracks. Look for and potential water damage from poor drainage or loose gutters. Don’t be afraid to walk the entire outside perimeter of the place, either. You’ll be able to tell a lot about the condition of the home just from the outside.

If there’s a fence, check to see that it’s in good repair. Look for loose planks on outside decks or cracks in concrete patios. If the home has trees or other greenery, check to see that they’re in good shape. Most sellers will do what they can to spruce up a home’s curb appeal, of course. But poorly maintained landscaping may indicate poor upkeep on the home itself as well.

3. Pay attention to structural details

Once you’ve entered the home, remember that the open house is designed to make the house look as appealing as possible to potential buyers.

Try not to be fooled by fancy staging. Keep a critical eye towards the structural details of the home. In particular, pay attention to uneven floors, cracked walls, or water stains on the ceilings, walls, or floors. Feel free to open and close cabinetry or to peek into closets. Take a quick glance at the plumbing under sinks. A full home inspection should come later, of course, so you don’t need to catch every potential issue yourself. But if you see anything that looks to you like there might be some structural issues that could cause you headaches down the road? Make a note of it to share with an inspector later.

4. Think about the light

Take the chance to look at every window in the home. You’ll want to see windows in good shape. Look for windows with for tight seals, and without drafts or gaps letting cold air in in the winter (or out in the summer). If the sky is overcast and the weather isn’t cooperating on the day of the open house? Do your best to imagine how much natural light the rooms in the home might receive on a brighter, sunnier day. While you’re at it, take note of the view out each of the windows. You can always cover a window with a less than stellar view, of course. But it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to change the view itself after you buy the home.

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