Michele Lerner, The Washington Post
An open house can help you scratch houses off your list. Elizabeth Lucchesi, a Realtor with the LizLuke Team with Long & Foster Real Estate in Alexandria, Virginia, says your real estate agent should alert you to open houses that meet your criteria. She also suggests paying particular attention to the following features when visiting a home:
1. The front door: How does the paint look, the door handle, knocker, light fixtures? Are they pitted and spider web laden or is this a pristine first impression? The first look is an indicator of what the rest of the house looks like and how well it has been maintained.
2. Trim and fascia: Is it peeling? Maintained?
3. Roof: Is it showing evidence of curling shingles? Is it striped? Ask how old it is.
4. Basement and (5) Foundation: How old is the water heater? Can you see the age of the (6) mechanical system in there?
Take a whiff. Alexandria is about two inches above sea level and there is marine clay where foundations can constrict and contract with freezing and thawing. These conditions can be corrected but by whom? The seller or you as a buyer?
7. Flooding in the house: Has there been any foundation work? One big tell is the walls and the floors. Are they freshly painted? Why? Can you see cracks in bricks, not just the mortar, but are the blocks or bricks split?
Throughout the house, look at age, such as the age of appliances and countertops. Are the cabinets and vanities in the kitchen and/or bathrooms warped and worn? Is there evidence of leaking under the sinks?
8. Plumbing: What type of plumbing changes and improvements have been made from the house to the street?
9. Windows: If the house has double or triple panes, are they foggy? Do these windows have screens? If the windows are older in a historic house, do the windows open and close properly or is this process like a guillotine when the balances are not functioning properly?
10. Fireplaces: What has the seller done to bring the fireplace up to code, if anything?
While all these features are important, Lucchesi also reminds buyers: Don't let perfect be the enemy of good. If a house is a "good" house and not perfect, that's okay. If all your non-negotiables are met, this house could become your new home.