5 Important Questions to Ask During an Open House

5 Important Questions to Ask During an Open House

  • Douglas Pearson
  • 10/11/22
When looking for a new luxury home, townhome, or condominium in the historic Philadelphia neighborhoods of Society Hill, Rittenhouse Square, or just outside Philadelphia in beautiful New Hope, attending open houses is a great way to get started. Open houses enable potential buyers and renters to learn more about a property before making an offer. After attending a few and comparing, you will also acquire a more nuanced sense of what you truly wish to purchase, what the vibes are in the neighborhoods you are interested in, and what the competition might look like if you decide to make an offer.

Before attending your open house, reflect either by yourself or with your loved ones about what is most important to you in your new home. Is it a modern kitchen? An extra bedroom? A yard? Is a dining room adequate for entertaining large groups? Proximity to a cafe or an excellent elementary school? You will want to ask your personal questions, but there are some more practical questions that we recommend you ask as well.

Is the home historic?

Suppose you are seeking luxury condominiums for sale in Philadelphia, row homes for sale in Society, or Rittenhouse Square real estate. In that case, your agent will guide you toward history-rich 18th- and 19th-century architecture, Victorian and Georgian-style dwellings, and charming row homes lining the cobblestone streets and brick sidewalks. Enthusiasts of historical architecture and the splendor of grand staircases, ornate crown molding, high ceilings, and fireplaces will flock to open houses here.

Purchasing in a historic neighborhood can have implications. We would advise you to explore them by asking a few questions of the seller or agent at an open house — particularly if you are interested in a row home that is part of a historic preservation district. Take special care as you plan any alterations to the home's exterior so as not to diminish its unique architectural value, which is part of your investment. For example, if a home is in a historic preservation district, there may be guidelines for you to follow if any additions or changes need to be made to the front door or the depth of your front stoop or staircase.

Ask the agent at the open house what changes previous owners made to the residence and whether a local historic preservation board guided them. Learn how careful the previous homeowners kept to the historical property’s original character. Remember, it's about preserving the charm of the neighborhood you fell in love with (and your home's value).

Homeowners in and around Society Hill should review the zoning and regulation of the area. You also should consider joining the Society Hill Civic Association, a fantastic way to participate in your new community. Members help preserve the distinctive character and heritage of their great historic neighborhood.

If you are browsing real estate in Bucks County or homes for sale in New Hope, PA, you are more likely to encounter new construction and potentially fewer questions about zoning. However, don't shy away from asking similar questions to agents at the open house. When in doubt, we recommend consulting the New Hope Borough Historical Architectural Review Board to ensure participation in preserving the Commonwealth's heritage. After all, owning a historic home is truly an honor reserved for those who have the means to appreciate history and maintain its architectural expression.

What renovations or restorations were conducted, and when?

Don't hesitate to inquire about when a home was last updated or renovated and what restoration may have been done to return it to its original character. If a home has not been renovated in a while, you should budget for improvements to the home’s comfort level and modernization.

If the home is historic, it's worth asking the agent or seller for any research on the house, its inhabitants, and its original architectural plans. For example, a recent repointing of a row home's brick may reveal that a porch once existed along the side that you may wish to bring back to extend your living space.

You may also be interested in knowing the materials used in the latest renovation to gauge how long those updates will last. Asking when a home was last updated or renovated can help you determine how much you should invest in making changes to the property right away and also what can wait.

Are there any major repairs that need to be undertaken?

Historic homes require more repairs than new construction homes — it’s just a fact. The materials and techniques used in older homes become more fragile as time passes. If any major repairs need to be done on a property (for example, plumbing or cracks in the fireplace or chimney), know what those repairs will entail. Don't forget to ask the agent if the local historical preservation guidelines have zoning regulations that impact the necessary work. These repairs can also serve as a bargaining point when making an offer.

What is the actual square footage?

We recommend not taking for granted the listed square footage of a home. While at the open house, ask the agent what that number entails so you have a specific idea of the home’s living space and format. A 2,000-square-foot Victorian row home will feel different than a 2,000-square-foot newly constructed home in New Hope.

Knowing the square footage can also help you compare it to other interesting homes. With the square footage in mind, walk through the space and consider how much of that square footage correlates to the rooms you find essential. There could also be a “bonus room” not included in the official listing that may extend the square footage. Is the square footage of a detached garage or workroom included in the listing, or not? It's important to compare similar homes accurately.

How many bedrooms and bathrooms are in the home?

It may seem like a silly question but bear with us. At the open house, compare the listing’s bedrooms and bathrooms with what you encounter in the walkthrough, and if questions arise, bring them up immediately with the agent. For example, some people may need three bedrooms so their children can have their own rooms, while others may only need one or two bedrooms.

When you tour a house listed as having three bedrooms, it may seem more like a two-bedroom or a four-bedroom because one of the rooms was listed as a “bonus room” or “den.” Don't rely on the listing; ask the agent to point out all the aspects of the house and take notes so that you can easily recall the pros and cons.

When it comes to open houses, you really can't be too prepared

It's essential to ask the right questions when you're touring a property. Knowing what to ask gives you a better idea of how the space works for you and if it's the right fit. Keep two lists of questions — the personal and the practical — and don't hesitate to ask the agent why the previous owner decided to move. It may give you insight into the home and neighborhood.

The questions we've suggested will help you understand the property's history and any potential repairs that may need to be made in the future. But don't stop there! This is your time and your investment. If you're feeling lost, never fear. Reach out to Douglas Pearson, a professional and experienced real estate agent, for help crafting your list of questions. With decades of experience, Douglas continues to help individuals and families find the homes of their dreams in greater Philadelphia. He'll find you the information you need to make an informed purchase you feel great about. 

*Header photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Work With Douglas

With decades of sales and marketing successes behind him, Doug Pearson is a leading Realtor in the greater Philadelphia area and a top salesperson in Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty. He has extensive experience selling new construction and land along with estate homes, city condominiums, and investment properties.