Buying guide

What to look out for at an open home

Check out our open home tips for buyers.

Attending open homes is a key part of buying a house in New Zealand so let’s make you a real pro at them from the outset.

A little guide to open homes

Open home tips: plan, plan, plan

If you're in serious buying mode, you’ll be attending a lot of open homes. Have a strategy. We'd advise:

  • Using Trade Me Property’s Open Home Planner: this will help you see as many homes over a weekend as possible.
  • Grouping open homes into suburbs or neighbourhoods: so you’re not racing all over town and failing to give each property your full attention.
  • Go on the first weekend: this buys you time to take another look, or (if you like it) to get started on your due diligence. 
  • Bring a pen: no matter how good your memory is, you'll want to take notes as you go around each property you inspect. If the agent has brochures, take one – the more info the better.

Your open home checklist

The area

Your scrutiny of the property's suitability should start way before you walk through the door. 

On the way to the viewing, explore as much of the surrounding suburb as possible – does it look like somewhere that would offer what your household needs? We'd also recommend backing this up with suburb research, and asking questions about the neighbourhood at the viewing.

The exterior

Try to arrive at the property early enough so you have time to check out the exterior. In particular, look at:

  • The parking options: does the house have off-street parking? If not, is there going to be room on the street for your vehicle(s), and what restrictions are there? 
  • Vegetation: will trees block the sunlight at certain times of the day? If there's a garden, will it be hard to maintain?
  • The aspect: which way is the property facing? Along with vegetation, this will impact how much sun it gets, and when.
  • Building materials: what is the property built from? Don't forget to include the roof and any cladding used.
  • Gutters and drainage: look for any damage or blockages. Are plants growing into the gutters and drains?
  • Paths: are they in good nick? Will all members of your family be able to access the property easily?
  • Outside features: decks, lawns, chimneys, retaining walls – do they all look cared for?
  • Windows and paintwork: with wooden window frames, you'll want to look for signs of cracking or rot. Similarly, take a look at any paintwork for cracks. When was the house last painted?
  • Underneath the house: does the house have piles, assess these, and any insulation? Feel for dampness, and use your nose – unwanted moisture can leave an unpleasant smell.

Give the exterior a thorough look over as part of each open home.

Give the exterior a thorough look over as part of each open home.


Once in the front door, don't be afraid to take your time and explore every nook and cranny of the house. In particular look at:

  • The floors: Replacing a tired carpet is a big job, and patches of dampness are a real red flag. You also want to judge whether the floors are level. If they aren't and the house is on piles, you could have some serious work on your hands.
  • The plumbing: it can feel weird flushing toilets, turning on showers and running taps, but do it. You'll want to check the water pressure is consistently good, and doesn't drop off.
  • Insulation and ventilation: how is the property heated and cooled? Are the windows double-glazed?
  • Ceilings and walls: signs of sagging and/or mould can indicate serious issues with the property. 
  • Gas and electrics: check outlets are working, and try the gas hobs. Take a look at the fuse box to see if it's modern or outdated – rewiring a property is a big job.
  • Doors and windows: as well as looking for dampness (these spots can be prime culprits) check all windows and doors close properly.
  • Storage: open cupboards and drawers, check out the attic (if there is one) – you're entitled to do this, and you need to be content that the property has adequate space.
  • The layout and room size: will the rooms be big enough for your furniture? Do the rooms give you options for how you want to use the home? ( working from home a few days a week, for instance)e.
Security: does the property have an alarm system? Check the locks on all doors and windows.

Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions when viewing a home.

Questions to ask at an open home

1. Do you have building reports or documents I can see?

Often agents will have building reports available for the property. This could include valuation information, property titles and a LIM (Land Information Memorandum). Even with this info, you still need to do your own due diligence – you’ll be advised you should get your own builder's report completed. This can pick up on any potential issues – from problems with the wiring or plumbing, to spotting damp walls or rotting piles.

You may also wish to get an independent valuation on the property. If you're going to put an offer in, this can help ensure you're in the right ballpark.

2. Do you know of any problems with this property?

In New Zealand, licensed estate agents legally have to let you know about any issues with the property that they're already aware of.

You can take this a step further with follow up questions. You can ask if other potential buyers have done building inspections. And if the agent says yes, ask them if these parties still offered – if they didn't, why?

3. Why are the owners selling?

You'll want to get as good an understanding as possible about whether the seller is serious, ideally before you set your heart on this home.

If you know they've already bought a new property, for example, this can be a good indication that they really are wanting to sell. A great follow up, if you're not convinced, is to ask whether the seller has invested in marketing for the house.

4. What settlement date are the owners hoping for?

If this date is too soon, or too far in the future, this might be a waste of time for you. Equally, you'll want to know if there's a required settlement date before you commit to putting in an offer. Your flexibility on settlement can make you an attractive buyer.

Open home planner

Ready to get started? Make the most of your time using Trade Me Property's open home planner.

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*This information is not intended as a complete guide, as it doesn’t consider your individual needs or financial situation. Trade Me accepts no responsibility or liability for any inaccuracies or omissions in the content. Always obtain independent legal advice before buying or selling property.