Did you know that you should have a home showing checklist to take with you to open houses or house showings? That is, when you’re looking to buy a home, you should have a specific list in mind to check out a house.
For example, I wrote in this blog post about house hunting checklists about must haves and nice to haves in a home or a neighborhood. But once you get inside a home during a showing, a checklist of what to look out for can be super helpful.
What’s on a home showing checklist for buyers
Below is a numbered list of items I believe should be on every buyer’s home showing checklist. Then, after the numbered list, I’ll expand, where necessary, on why each item should be on a home showing or home viewing checklist.
Trust me. These are the very things I’ve looked for when visiting homes I’ve considered buying a home. And if you’ve read my bio, then you know that my husband and I have bought and sold eight homes, houses and condos together. I really do know what I’m talking about.
Home showing checklist for buyers
- Inspect all bathrooms
- Open all closets
- Peek into attic
- Walk through basement
- Investigate the street parking situation
- Open and close windows
- Use your sense of smell on carpets ETC
- Notice temperature inside and on different floors of the home
- Take a critical look at the terrain of the yard
- Notice if the home is on a busy road
- Look at the roof and ceilings for any signs of wear and tear or water spots
- Turn lights off and on in any room you enter
- Bring plug-in phone charger
- Look under sinks and in cabinets
- What is your cell phone reception like
- Is the garage damp or dirty?
- Use a tape measure to measure rooms
- Look for age of appliances which should be on the seller’s disclosure form
Home showing checklist for buyers explained
I’ll admit that many of the items I’ve outlined above your inspector will cover. But I think it’s utterly important for you to do some due diligence of your own during a home showing.
For example, there were too many times during home inspections that my husband and I discovered things that were wrong with a home. These were things we could have easily inspected on our own during a showing.
Examples on my home showing checklist
For instance, opening and closing windows. You have no idea how many windows in older homes do not open and close. This could be because the owners painted them shut or because the home has settled so much.
Either way it is no good when you can’t open and close windows. I mean, that’s obvious for safety reasons. But it also portends a huge expense in your future, should you buy this home. And that would be having to replace all the windows.
So now I will go through for you, point-by-point, each item in the numbered list above and explain why they should be on your home showing or home viewing checklist for buyers.
Why you should check the bathroom
When it comes to a home showing, here’s why I put checking the bathroom on a buyer’s checklist. I want you to make sure that everything is working. Sure, your home inspector will look at these things, too, but why not do it yourself.
So, flush the toilet, turn on the sinks and faucets, turn on the shower, turn on the fan, and turn on any light switches in the bathroom. You want to make sure that everything is in good working order.
What’s the water quality
Another benefit of turning on the faucets, is you can tell if there are any issues with water quality. For example, does the water come out clear from the faucet? Or, does it sputter and have a low-flow? Is there a weird smell? You might even want to dip your hand in and take a quick sip.
For example, in one of the places where we have bought and sold a home, the town was known for not having great water quality. However, we found this out after we had already bought a home. Because of this condition, and we ended up only using bottled water to drink because the water tasted that bad. This is something your senses will tell you, not an inspection report.
Closets on your home showing checklist
Why do I want you to open all the closets in the home that you are touring? Because you want to get a sense of the storage pros and cons to this house.
In addition, you want to check the condition of those closets. For example, do the walk-in closets have shelves that are secure to the walls? Do the doors to closets open and close easily?
How do closet doors work
One of the homes that we bought many years ago had what’s called bi-fold doors on the closets, and they never stayed on the tracks. Not that these faulty doors would have prevented us from buying the house, but it might have been something I would have asked the sellers to fix before buying.
Peeking into the attic
Not all homes have attics, but if the one you are considering buying has, definitely ask to see it during your house showing. I put this on the checklist because attics can be a real bonus in a hole.
For example, the home we owned at the Jersey Shore did not have a basement. This was not surprising given that the home was near the water and the basement likely would have flooded.
I imagine this is true in many Southern homes that are near the water–that the home doesn’t have a basement. Anyway, this home had a generous addict so we knew it would have enough storage space for items we may have put in a basement.
Spending time in the basement during your showing
Of course, when you go for a home showing, you’re going to walk through every area of the home. However, you may not stop and spend time in each of the rooms, and you definitely should. This is especially true with the basement.
A few years ago we were looking at a home that ticked all the boxes on our checklist. We made an offer, and it was accepted.
Don’t wait for inspection day
On the day of the inspection, my husband and I went over to see how things were going with this home. As it so happened, the area had recently had a lot of rain.
The minute I walked down the basement, my eyes and nose and throat started to burn. I could feel an asthma attack coming on. I shared my symptoms with the home inspector and he pointed to some signs of moisture in the basement that hadn’t been apparent during previous visits.
Discovering mold in the basement
He suggested we test for mold, which would cost more but I didn’t want to buy a house that had mold. This was in the time after Hurricane Katrina when all of the homes that had flooded in the South were suddenly getting covered in black mold.
Turns out the way I reacted when I went in the basement was a clear indication that the home had mold. I don’t recall if we had gone down the basement during the home showing or whether we had just peeked from the stairs, but that was a huge mistake. It did turn out to have black mold, and because of that we were able to get out of the contract with that house. Never again will I go to a home showing and not spend significant time, as was reasonable, in every area of the home.
Check out the parking situation
When I say that a home showing should include checking out the parking situation, I don’t just mean in the driveway. Recently, friends of ours bought a home in a lovely town. It was perfectly suited for their needs, and they loved their home and we’re excited about the excellent school district.
What they failed to notice were the signs on all of the neighborhood streets that forbid street parking. I’m talking no street parking ever.
Restricted street parking
Turns out this town had an ordinance that prevented people from parking on the street. I don’t know the logic behind this ordinance but the point was the home didn’t have a big driveway, and it didn’t have a garage.
This family had three cars. So they ended up having to park one of the cars on the lawn because they couldn’t put it on the street. I’m not saying that every town has weird parking regulations like this town did, but I have now added this to my checklist whenever I am looking at a house because I never want to be stuck owning a home in a town that doesn’t let you park on the street. Ever.
Why you want to have opening and closing windows on your checklist
As I mentioned above, having workable windows in a home you are considering buying is really important. I know this because I have owned a home where I had to replace all of the windows. You are talking about a five-figure project. No joke.
So, unless you’re getting a house at a super below market-rate where you can afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars on new windows, I would check all of the windows in a home before putting an offer in.
Using your sense of smell during a home showing
As evidenced in the anecdote above with the basement and the black mold, my senses told me something was wrong there. While you may not have senses that are as sensitive as mine, your nose will know if you are in a moldy, musty, damp home. Don’t write off what your nose is telling you.
Additionally, your sense of smell isn’t the only sense that you should be using. Some of the other items on this checklist have to do with senses, such as your sense of hearing, or your sight, or even the feel of the temperature inside the home. More on that in the next section.
Checking the temperature feel inside the home
In my blog post on a house hunting checklist or what sellers need to know before having a house showing, I recommend that they get the temperature inside the home to be comfortable. For example, if they are selling their home in winter, I recommend making it warm enough in the house but not stifling. Similarly, if you are selling a home during hot weather, you want to make sure that the house is cool and comfortable for when potential buyers come to see it.
On the other hand, as a buyer going into the home, how do you feel when you walk in? Do you feel cold drafts on a cold day? Is the house baking in the sun on a hot summer day?
Temperature can affect utility bills
These are all environmental things that you should pay attention to when you go for a home showing. It could signify a home that is not well insulated or one that has exceedingly high electric or gas or other utility bills because you are constantly cranking the heat or air conditioning to make it comfortable inside.
Take a crucial and critical look at terrain
In all of the homes that we have bought and sold over the years, two were set on hills. One of the homes had a backyard was higher than the front yard. In another, the backyard sloped away from the home.
In both instances these were great looking yards. However, we never stopped to consider the challenges and the costs associated with having a home in rough terrain, as it were.
Issues with a home on a hill
For example, let’s talk about the home where the backyard was higher than the front yard. Turns out, a retaining wall that was holding up the back yard and the backyard pool had started to fail. This was about two years into our owning this home.
This was something we never had considered as a problem. Nor was it something that we would have anticipated with a hilly yard. It ended up requiring with a six-figure fix that involved hiring a very expensive engineer for a solution.
In addition, there was a steep driveway leading up to the house. Driving in winter is no fun in the Northeast to begin with. However, plowing and driving on an icy driveway with a steep hill in the winter absolutely stinks. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.
Mowing is no picnic
With the home that had the yard that sloped away from the house, we never had any major structural problems to deal with. However, mowing the lawn was a nightmare.
Because of the hill, we needed a new lawn mower. We had to purchase a more expensive, self-propelled lawn mower. So, a slight inconvenience, to be sure. However, itmade me so happy not to have to deal with that lawn once we sold that home.
Is the home on a busy road
As I mentioned above, your home showing checklist should include items that involve your various senses. So, with a busy road, you want to use your eyes and your ears.
For instance, if you stand in the front of the house, what does the traffic look like going by? What does the traffic going by sounds like? Both of these issues — the busy traffic and the loud traffic — could become nuisances over time. In addition, in the future when you go to sell your house, these very things could hurt your investment and your ability to sell your home at a higher price. Never mind backing out of a driveway onto a busy road. That is no fun
Checking out the roof and ceilings
I have mentioned in my blog post about a house hunting checklist how one of my pet peeves when buying a home is the roof. This is because with two of the homes we have owned, roof issues quickly turned into nightmares for us. Therefore, if I’m going to a house showing, I look for an older roof. If it has one, that’s a strike on my checklist. I don’t want to have to pay to replace the roof. In addition, I don’t want to deal with the problems that come from having an older roof, such as water leaks.
Speaking of leaks, you should always look up when you are checking out a house. That is, look to see if there is any staining on the ceiling or in corners where the ceilings meet the wall. This is where water likely has settled, which will indicate a water problem.
Again, this is something that a home inspector would likely catch during an inspection. However, I don’t want you to make an offer on a home that may have major problems, such as water damage.
Turning lights off and on
Why do you want to turn lights off and on during a home showing? Chances are all of the lights will already be on.
However, just like with turning the water on and off in the faucets to see if everything works okay, you should check the lights to make sure that they go on and off with no problem. Also, see if there are dimmer switches on the lights. Move them up and down or left to right or whatever direction they go in. You want to make sure they are in working order as well. Honestly, checking lights like this might be a little nitpicky, but you can’t be too careful.
Bring a phone charger with you to a home showing.
Again, a home inspector is going to check on the electricity in the home. For example, when we bought our house in Maine, on the inspection report, we discovered that many of the plugs in the kitchen did not work. Had we thought to bring a phone charger with us, and plug our phone charger into each of the sockets, we would have discovered this. In the end, we ask the sellers for money off on the sale price to make up for the fact that we would have to hire an electrician after closing to fix all the electrical issues.
But just like that basement with mold, I would hate for you to have to get to the inspection and discover little problems that could add up to big problems and maybe may have stopped you from making an offer on a home. I mean, having to hire an electrician after closing was not a deal-breaker for us. However, I have found that in homes where these little problems crop up, they often signify larger maintenance issues that the previous owners had neglected to keep up with. And those sorts of maintenance issues tend to become expensive repairs in the near future
Look under sinks and cabinets
Why is looking under sinks and cabinets on this home buyers checklist? Because during your home showing, I want you to look for evidence of water damage. This would include buckling or warping on the bottom of cabinets, or rust stains.
Check on cell phone reception
If you were like us, then you are like most people these days who aren’t bothering with a landline when you move to a new home. That means that cell phone reception is everything.
During your home showing try to open up your favorite social media apps. Or send a text message. Or make a phone call. You want to get a sense of how well or poorly you get cell phone reception is at this house.
For example, in one of the homes we owned, Verizon Wireless never was a problem. And that was good for us, because we have Verizon Wireless. However, my neighbors who had Sprint or T-Mobile or AT&T or another cell phone carrier we’re constantly having issues with sending and receiving texts or making phone calls. So be aware of what the cell phone signal is like in the home while you’re at your showing.
Side note: I realize that you will probably be putting in high speed internet and therefore a Wi-Fi signal. However, I have found that with poor cell phone reception, even a strong Wi-Fi signal can’t always help you with phone calls. Sure, you can get on the Internet alright, but if you want to make or receive phone calls, you may be in for trouble.
Looking critically at the garage
When you step into a home’s garage, what does it look like? What does it smell like? How does the garage door open and close? Are there any water stains on the floor of the garage? Many of the issues that you might look for in a basement you should also look for in a garage.
Why you have a tape measure on your home showing checklist
It’s always a good idea to go to a home showing with a tape measure in hand. That way if you are serious about a home, you can take measurements for important pieces of furniture or other items you know you will want to fit in the home.
If for some reason you forget a tape measure, see if the listing agent has left a floor plan of the home. These often include dimensions of rooms which could be a good stand-in if you don’t have that tape measure.
Look at the age of the appliances
When you are looking to buy a home, you will be given something called a seller’s disclosure form. This is the place where the seller is supposed to indicate as much information as possible about the home, the appliances, history of repairs and everything else. Sometimes a seller’s disclosure form will include the age of appliances. However if it doesn’t, you can do some sleuthing yourself, which is why I am bringing this up on this checklist.
For example, you can open a dishwasher and look inside the door to see if there is a manufacturer’s sticker that tells you the year the dishwasher was made. You can do the same with a refrigerator, a washer and dryer, the stove or oven, and any other appliance that might be in the home.
I mention this because most appliances these days have a lifespan of 7 to 10 years. That’s sad since appliances used to last for way longer than that.
If you’re looking at a home with appliances that are at least five years old, then you should probably make a mental budget for the near future for having to buy new appliances. You don’t want this to catch you by surprise.
Final thoughts on a home showing checklist for buyers
Maybe you think this notion of creating a checklist for any home showing that you’re going to is overkill. It’s okay with me if you feel this way. However I always like to do my homework, and I would rather be overprepared for something then woefully underprepared. Therefore, I hope you found this information helpful.
If you discover I have left anything off of a checklist that you, as a home buyer, would have found helpful to include, please post a comment and let me know. If I agree with you, I will update this post accordingly.