Buying guide

What to look out for at an open home

Check out our open home tips for buyers.

Attending open homes is often a key stage to buying a house in New Zealand.

You'll probably find yourself in a love/hate relationship with open homes. On one hand, it's exciting to get out and see homes, and feel one step closer to finding your perfect property. However, open homes can become a real time suck – and trust us, buyer fatigue is real.

So, because you're making this commitment, here's our guide to what you should look for in an open house. We'll also give you some tips on scheduling your home inspections to make the most of your time and opportunities. 

A little guide to open homes

Open home tips: plan, plan, plan

If you're in serious buying mode, there's a good chance you'll be looking to attend a lot of open homes. This is great, but you need to think strategically. We'd advise:

  • Go on the first weekend: this buys you time to take another look, or (if you like it) get started on your due diligence. 
  • Grouping homes into suburbs or neighbourhoods: make life easy for yourself, there's no need to be running all over town if you plan ahead.
  • Set reminders: it's your dream property, but you got the date wrong – this isn't a good look in the eyes of the agent or vendor, and means you could miss out. You can use Trade Me Property's free Open Home Planner to help you stay on top of your viewings.
  • Bring a pen: no matter how good your memory, 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, take in as much of the surrounding suburb as possible – does it look like somewhere that would offer what your family needs? We'd also recommend backing this up with suburb research, and asking questions about the area 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 in place? 
  • 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. 
  • The underneath: if the house has 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.

Inside

Once across the threshold, 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 damp 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 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 damp (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 the property has adequate space.
  • The layout and room size: will the rooms be big enough for the furniture you plan to put in them? Do you have the functionality you need – e.g. an office space, if you work from home.
  • Security: what alarm systems does the property have in place? Are they working? Also we'd advise checking 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, if they don't have it at the time, they might be able to get this information to you later. 

However, even with this info, you still need to do your own due diligence – if you're interested, you should get a 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. For example, "have other potential buyers done building inspections?". If the agent answers 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 you heart on this being your new 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.

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.