5 Questions to Ask at an Open House

If you’ve been on the search for a while or maybe just decided to start looking for a home, chances are you’ve been to an open house to “just see what’s out there.” It’s easy to be distracted by layout, or the view, or the beautiful granite countertops, but there are bigger pieces of the puzzle to pay attention to when looking at homes. Practicing at open houses is a great start. Here are a list of questions to come prepared with when you’re out looking at homes this weekend.

1. How is the foundation?

It can be the most updated, gorgeous home you’ve ever seen in your life; but if there structure isn’t secure, all those upgrades don’t mean shit.

One way to tell if a home has foundation issues is to look along the ceiling where it meets with the walls. If there are cracks or gaps between the ceiling and wall, good chances there are some foundation or settling issues and could lead to bigger problems down the line. 


2. How old is roof?

Replacing a roof can be a costly, out of pocket expense. If the roof is old or past it life expectancy and needs to be replaced soon, it is maybe something that you can negotiate into your offer with the seller.

One way to tell if a roof has an old roof is to look at the shingles. If its an asphalt or architectural shingle, it is made up of a black paper with sand granular glued to it. Over time, the sand is washed away by the elements and all that is left is the black paper that it was stuck to. So if you’re seeing a lot of black on the shingles it means that the granular have worn down and are doing less and less to protect the roof. 


3. How’s the sewer system?

Most homes in Orlando have already been converted to a public sewer line that is taken care of by the city or county. But there are still homes that are on septic systems. That means that all the *ahm* matter from the toilets are collected in a tank in your yard. These systems and tanks are costly and need to be maintained by the homeowner to avoid backups into the house.

One way to tell if you have a septic system is to ask the agent. But another tall tell sign is a big hump in the front or back yard covered by grass. It’s often pretty big and looks out of place. That’s probably a septic tank. Ask when the last time it was pumped and the last time the drain field was checked. These are VERY costly expenses if you have to replace a septic system so know if you should negotiate this terms with the seller or if it’s something to budget for for the future. 


4. Is there any polybutylene plumbing?

This is a type of plumbing that was used during the late 1980s and early 1990s. They stopped putting it in houses after that because the seals weren’t very secure and it caused many homes to flood. It’s harder to get homeowners insurance if a home has it and many carriers will require it to be replaced after or before closing if the house does have it.

One way to tell if the house has it is by checking in two areas. First, under sinks in the kitchen or bathrooms. It’s typically a grey piping as opposed to a white PCV piping and has a gold seal around it. Another place that is a give away is in the garage; it will have a panel of grey pipes.

Poly-piping panel found in the garage


5. How old is the HVAC?

The air conditioner is a major component of a home for us here in Florida. We want to make sure that it is still in great working order when you buy a resale home. A new unit can typically cost anywhere from $5000+ for both the inside and outside unit to be replaced if it breaks.

One way to tell how old the A/C unit is is to check the inside unit. It might be in the garage or in a closest inside the house. It will often have a manufactured date on it. Sometimes not though, so you really have to go based on the visual of it. You can often tell if it looks really old or not. Or have your agent pull the permits for the last time the A/C was put in. They have to legally pull permits to put an A/C unit in a house. 


These are good questions to ask in any home you go to visit. If you have an experienced realtor who cares about the house that you are considering buying, they will be looking for these things automatically. But it’s smart for you as a buyer to be educated on what to look for. These items may help to give you some leverage for negotiations with a seller once you find a home you love.