The open home trail: How not to make a decision that costs you

There are some things that every home buyer should be thinking about on the open home trail.

The following tips will help you get a good indication of how much or how little you’ll need to spend on your new property after you’ve signed on the dotted line.

The roof over your head needs to be a good one

  • It can be costly to replace or even patch a roof, so be sure to check its condition. Look for signs of leaks in the attic/roof space and ask when the roof was last replaced.
  • Keep an eye out for rotten wood as this may be an indication that renovations will be required and these costs will need to be built into your budget.
  • If you can spot any cracks in the guttering the property may not have good drainage. If you can, pop back on a rainy day so you can see how the guttering and roof perform, and that the property drains quickly.
  • During the 1990s, a number of homes were built that could not withstand New Zealand weather conditions, so check that the property you are viewing is not one of them. There are a range of claddings associated with leaky homes so visit for all the information.

Room by room

  • In each room there will be specific things to check and some rooms will score higher than others. The kitchen might be celebrity chef worthy, while the bathroom is bordering on a health hazard. There will always be the need to compromise, but make sure you’re not compromising on key features that could end up costing you in the long term. Have a clear idea of what upgrades are urgent and necessary versus nice-to-have.
  • In living areas, kitchens and bedrooms, check the wiring and ask how recently it’s been replaced. Do these rooms have enough sockets for all the devices and appliances we need to plug in these days? Look out for tell tale signs of mould. Kitchens can be particularly expensive to renovate so keep an eye out for anything that might be faulty. Check whether your own appliances will fit if you’re bringing them with you.
  • In bathrooms, turn on the taps, turn on the shower, and flush the toilet. Lack of water pressure can indicate an issue with the property’s water heater. If you notice odd noises or strange smells, they could be a sign of plumbing problems. Check for bubbling paint or cracks which could mean water damage or dampness.

A warm home is a healthy home

A warm dry home is not just a nice-to-have, it’s essential for good health. Look at the insulation and note what kind of heating the house has. Is it positioned well in relation to the sun?  Are windows double glazed? EECA have a good checklist of things to keep to an eye out for.

Your checklist is your friend

It’s hard to keep track of all the things you need to check, especially when you’re seeing one property after another, so keep a list. This handy checklist is a useful one to take with you on the  open home trail so you can rate the rooms and make notes.

An inquisitive mind will pay dividends

Ask questions: This is a good place to get lists of questions to ask, as well as other checks to  carry out when you’re at open homes. It’s also a good idea to have houses checked over by a professional builder - there is a small cost involved, but it could end up saving you more down the track.

Happy house hunting!

To keep your strength up on the trail, make sure you check out the local amenities – it’s always good to know where you can get a good coffee or a cold one nearby.

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After going to 40 open homes in 9 or 10 weeks, here’s what I learned:

  • If you’re in the first home market, you’re probably looking at places that ‘need something done’. It pays to know what sort of price tag each sort of ‘something’ comes with. We built the price of a complete bathroom overhaul into our mortgage, which made the project much easier when we tackled it a year later.
  • Open Home Fatigue is real, and it fries your brain. When you’re over it for the day, even the best house in the world won’t look any good. Put down the map and go for a coffee.
  • Realistic non-negotiables are okay to have. If you can’t live without a garage or a second bathroom, admit it early and cull potential open homes from your list before you waste you time at them.
  • Bad weather days are good. You see each home at its worst, and fewer people venture out.
  • ALWAYS ask the real estate agent, “is there anything else you should tell me?” There are rules about disclosing things (non-consented renovations, for example) that can’t be bent around this clear, simple question.
  • Once you’re going back for your third look at a place, a building inspection is worth paying for.

Don’t be fooled by the fancy open home furniture, try and imagine yourself and your own things in the house and see if it works. Also a good idea to stake out the place at different times if you are really keen, see what it’s like at night etc. Also - no harm in knocking on the neighbours door and asking a few questions! :o)

  • Be positive. Don’t be put off by the number of people attending the open home, or doom-and-gloom reporting, or missing out on the first few you go for. How many times have you heard a story about someones smooth, easy, hassle-free entry into the house market with that perfect first house they went to visit? Didn’t think so.
  • Don’t feel afraid to visit homes outside of your budget - they’re great to give you ideas, and can help you to see the potential in other places
  • Be organised and pro-active - make friends with Real Estate agents

Also, find a forum where you can vent about your Home Search away from your friends and family and colleagues - looking for a new house is an all-consuming business, and trust me: no one care about it as much as you do, and yes, they are probably sick of hearing you talk about it. It’s good to get it out of your system, but be concious of those around you. 

One thing I have learned from friends that recently bought a home is that you should always ask whether a house has been a P lab in the past. They asked this very question and it turned out that it had, so it had to be decontaminated before the sale went ahead. They were lucky, otherwise it would have cost them a lot of money (or caused big problems with any potential tenants)!

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Get pre approval from your bank before you start your search. There’s nothing worse than falling in love with something you can’t afford or under estimating what you can borrow and looking at homes in bracket you can exceed as your search starts all over again.

then; never look at more than 7 houses in 1 day. You will forget things & you will end up with buyer fatigue. If it’s raining, definitely hit the open home circuit so you can see if roofs leak, spouting issues and how well the section drains.

know what’s important to you in a home & wat you can live without and know what areas are more desirable. Consider schools etc in area.

And be aware of wat the different exterior claddings mean for you, some are far less maintenance than others

Get the real estate. app on yr phone it can schedule open hms for you…it’s great.

lastly, be honest with the real estate agent because if that’s not the home for you they may know one that does suit yr needs or requirements and show it to you or give you heads up quicker when it does come to market giving you the jump on other buyers looking. Happy hunting!


See through the marketing and words of the real estate agent. Be inquisitive with your questions and be on the front foot. Try to identify potential issues which may be glazed over - this includes issues which may have been painted/renovated over.

Most importantly, pace yourself and try to have fun checking out potential homes!

Something I forgot until reading lilmsmetal’s tips just now - take notes and photos. After a few weekends of looking at half a dozen houses a day it can be really easy to forget which one had the big cupboard under the stairs.

We found it really worthwhile to make a list of non-negotiables that a property had to have/not have to be suitable for our family - this made sure there were no awkward conversations onsite at any of the open homes.

It was then a matter of joining the open home trail within our budget to see what was out there. 

I think it is important to take anything a real estate agent says with a grain of salt, and always ask if they are aware of any unconsented work that has been done on the property.

Congratulations to the winners of our vouchers: @Max @RC @red_rav and @lilmsmetal 
I’ll PM you for contact details so we can get your prizes out to you as soon as possible.

Thanks to everyone who posted tips - lots of gems that will be useful for those househunting this summer.

Thanks, @Yvonne!