With delicious appetizers and a casual social environment, open houses are fun to attend. They're a powerful tool, too, offering buyers insight and aiding in the decision-making process.
But what are those open houses not telling you?
While an open house won't reveal everything about a property, that doesn't mean the info you need isn't out there. Here are four hidden home details to look for:
Structural challenges. The house might look fantastic from the moment you step through the front door until you get in your car and drive away. But only a trained eye can identify potential structural challenges that could cost you big in the long run. Look for cracks in the ceilings and walls, and note any uneven sloping as you walk through the property. Then make an offer contingent on an inspection -- and never (ever) waive an inspection, even if the property is newly constructed.
Cosmetic blemishes. At an open house, properties are carefully presented. Thanks to professional staging and artfully arranged rugs covering scuffs and stains on floors, there's likely something you're not seeing. Ask your agent for an additional viewing of the home after the open house has closed. Without people around (including the owners and their agent), you'll be more free to check for flaws that might've been concealed or hidden among the crowd.
The neighbors and neighborhood. What looks great by day might not be so nice at night. Open houses are scheduled optimally, and what you see during an early morning showing might not be reflective of what a neighborhood is like when everyone is home from work at night. Drive through the area after dark to see what the community is really like.
History of home insurance claims. You could be setting yourself up for big trouble if you walk into a property with a boatload of previous insurance claims -- something you'll never learn from visiting an open house. Be sure your real estate agent requests a CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) report from the sellers for any home you want to submit an offer on. These reports give you five years of insurance claim history without a seller having to divulge any personal information. Request one as an offer contingency.
This article originally appeared on Trulia.com.
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