15 Critical Things to Look For When Touring an Open House

Open house
SeventyFour / Shutterstock.com

When touring an open house, it’s easy to become distracted by things that don’t matter much. What’s with the orange-and-red shag carpeting in the master bedroom? Why the porcelain owl collection?

But there are other, more important things to look for when walking through a house. Some are obvious, but others are not.

Here are some bright red flags — and more subtle things — to look for when touring an open house.

Signs of water damage

Tom Gowanlock / Shutterstock.com

Signs of water damage may not be as obvious in the photo above. Look for brown water lines across ceilings and on walls.

If the home has a basement, pay attention to the carpet, walls and flooring. Don’t be afraid to reach down and touch the carpet in the lowest areas of the basement to see if it’s wet, especially if there’s just been a big rainstorm. Musty smells can also indicate water has found its way into the home’s lower level.

Are you in the market for financing? Start your search with the mortgage finder in our Solutions Center.

Foundation cracks

zimmytws / Shutterstock.com

Buyer beware: Foundation cracks may not be as obvious as the one in this photo. Real-estate site Trulia suggests checking for misaligned doors and windows, sticking doors, and sloping stairs or floors as signs that the house might not be solidly anchored.

Nearby bodies of water

outdoors family active autumn african american multi ethnic multiethnic
By Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

If you have children — or will someday — research whether there are bodies of water near your proposed new home. This can be a wonderful benefit: Ice-skating on the neighborhood pond! Wandering down to the local beach!

But kids can wander out of eyesight quickly, and a body of water that looks enticing and fun can be deadly. So, take the not just the benefits but also the risks into consideration when considering a new home.

Too many stairs

SutidaS / Shutterstock.com

Staircases are beautiful, and when you’re young and healthy, they’re easy to run up and down. But think twice about too many staircases. Grandma may not be able to climb them easily — and neither will you as you age. Also, reconsider a house that doesn’t have at least one main-floor bedroom.

Window issues

quadshock / Shutterstock.com

Older windows may not close tightly, which can make for high utility bills. Test a few windows to see if they open easily and securely, and close in a similar way.

The neighbors

Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com

You can do many things to improve your home, but you can’t improve the neighbors. So, cast an eye over at the neighboring homes.

Our real estate agent once warned us away from a particular block because a home a few houses down was known for having the police show up on a regular basis.

The neighborhood

People walking a dog in a nice neighborhood.
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

We all know the real-estate agents’ mantra: Location, location, location. There are many details to consider when picking a neighborhood.

If you or anyone in your home will take public transportation, check how far it is to the nearest stop. If the home doesn’t have a garage, is street parking plentiful? How are the local schools?

For more on this subject, check out “20 Tips for Buying a Home in the Best Location, Location, Location.”

Funny smells

Bad smell
Dean Drobot / Shutterstock.com

Home sellers are trying to put their best foot forward. If their house stinks, that means they likely tried, but couldn’t extinguish a bad smell. It could be mold, mildew or pet accidents.

A tip: Also sniff for overly false good smells, like a bunch of scented candles burning, or the old freshly baked cookie trick. It’s possible the sellers are leaning hard on good scents to mask the bad ones.

Closet space

alexandre zveiger / Shutterstock.com

We all need room for our stuff. Try to picture how full your closets are at home and envision whether those items will fit into the new home’s closet space.

Also check out “15 Smart Ways to Organize Every Room of Your Home.”

The age of the roof

Stockr / Shutterstock.com

We recently replaced our 20-year-old roof, and it cost a giant chunk of change. According to Trulia, replacing a roof can cost $5,000 to $10,000 or more.

Check the roof’s age and condition on any home you might want to buy. An older roof may not scare you away from your dream home, but figure that replacement cost into future budgeting.

Chimney issues

Photosampler / Shutterstock.com

A fireplace was one of the nonnegotiables in our first home. We lived in a wintry climate and wanted a cozy hearth where we could enjoy the crackling flames on a December night.

But we soon learned that the chimney was damaged and had never been relined. When we went to buy our second house, I insisted on a chimney inspector taking a look inside the fireplace and chimney before we signed on the dotted line.

If you need to hire for a major repair or construction job, check out: “11 Tips for Hiring a Home Improvement Contractor You Can Trust.”

Water pressure

Shower
ben bryant / Shutterstock.com

Lackadaisical water pressure can be a sign of a problem you can’t see — possible corrosion or other problems deep inside the home’s pipes. Test the faucets by running them full blast to see how the water runs. It’ll be a good preview of what showers might be like.

Storage space

ChiccoDodiFC / Shutterstock.com

Where are you going to store holiday ornaments, camping gear and out-of-season sports equipment? Think seriously not just about regular closet space for clothes, but about space to store all your extras.

Most of us have at least a few boxes of items that we can’t yet bring ourselves to toss. They need their own space too.

Natural light

MJTH / Shutterstock.com

You may be touring a home in bright daylight, but try to get an idea of what it’ll look like on a gloomier day. Are there enough windows and doors to let in natural light, even in lower levels and rooms with small windows? You won’t want to spend time in a gloomy home.

On the other hand, if you are looking at homes in a desert climate, think about what shade or protection you will have in the home.

Leakage around the toilet

Toilet
MIA Studio / Shutterstock.com

When you’re in the house’s bathroom, examine the floor around the base of the toilet. You’re unlikely to find visible water, but you might see stains indicating there’s been a leak.

The floor around the toilet shouldn’t be soft. Also, the toilet bowl should be tightly secured, so that even if you try to gently shake it, it doesn’t move.

Have you been surprised by problems in a home you have purchased? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
7 Surprising Benefits of Staying Fit in Retirement
7 Surprising Benefits of Staying Fit in Retirement

Improving your overall physical health is just one reason to stay active after 50.

10 Tools You Need for Financial Stability
10 Tools You Need for Financial Stability

Have these tools and accounts in place so you can weather whatever comes your way.

8 Things I Always Buy at Target
8 Things I Always Buy at Target

I grew up shopping at the original Target store and am a lifelong fan. Here are my favorite purchases.

10 Products That Will Help You Save Money
10 Products That Will Help You Save Money

Sometimes, spending a little cash right now can save you a lot of money down the road.

This Cellphone Carrier Has the Worst Network Quality, Customers Say
This Cellphone Carrier Has the Worst Network Quality, Customers Say

One major wireless provider stands out for the least reliable call, messaging and data services.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Vacuums from this brand can last a half-century, if not longer — and they’re hot on the resale market.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs
Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs

Don’t let these health care expenses catch you off guard in retirement.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

This iconic dinnerware is prized for everyday use as well as reselling for profit.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken
Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken

Something foul may lurk in those delicious, ready-to-eat birds.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees
5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees

All of these states are located in the same region of the nation.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

12 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
12 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic
5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

Sometimes the brand-name version is clearly superior.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.