What to look for and what not to look for on a house tour
For Buyers

What to look for and what not to look for on a house tour

Peter Kim
November 8, 2023

Before you commit your life savings to buying a house, you'll want to see the home at an open house or on a house tour. And knowing what to look for and what not to look for in a home would be extremely helpful as well.

As someone who has helped both experienced homeowners and first-time home buyers, I suggest focusing on what truly matters. Try to pay attention to elements of the home that have a lasting impact on your quality of life and the property value.

In this article, I'll share six factors you don't have to consider, six factors you should consider and five questions to ask your agent on your next house tour.

6 Things You DON'T Have To Consider

1. Staging

Actively ignore any and all staging, furniture and decor in the home.

Good staging can make a house look more attractive than it actually is. On the other hand, poorly done staging might cause you to write off a home that has the potential to be great. Don't let the physical appearance of the home sway you; delve deeper into what the property has to offer.

2. Wall Paint

Focusing on the existing wall paint can distract you from evaluating the property's long-term potential. All it takes is a fresh coat of paint to change the appearance and ambience in the home. Although painting the walls may take a bit of work, it is a relatively low cost way to transform your home.

3. Flooring

While old or damaged flooring may not be aesthetically pleasing, it's also not a critical factor. Flooring is replaceable, and the cost is manageable.

According to Forbes, the cost of carpet typically ranges between $2.50 to $6 per square foot. The cost of laminate flooring ranges between $1 to $4 per square foot. The cost of hardwood flooring ranges between $3 to $10 per square foot.

You may need to put in some work to replace the flooring, but you can do it on your own fairly simply.

4. Outdated Kitchen

A dated kitchen, with its unappealing cabinets and appliances, should not deter you. You can upgrade these elements, adding instant equity to your home.

Inquire with any real estate agent, and they'll affirm that remodeling the kitchen can significantly boost the home's worth. However, that's also why you shouldn't be too concerned when you see dated hardware in the kitchen.

So make sure to focus on whether you are happy with the overall layout and the size as that is more permanent.

5. Lawn

The ugly sight of an unkempt lawn may repel you, but many sellers, especially older sellers, will let their lawns go for whatever reason. However, you can easily fix this problem by hiring lawn care professionals or by doing it yourself.

The cost will vary depending on what services you need but the average cost for mowing a lawn is $120. If you have the equipment and decide to do it yourself, it's essentially free. You may have to pay extra if the lawn is too high.

6. Fixtures

On your home tour, you may encounter old and ugly fixtures, such as janky chandeliers and stuffy ceiling fans. Don't let these things distract you from focusing on more important aspects of the home.

Ugly fixtures is a fixable issue and should not have a critical impact on your decision to buy a home.

6 Things You SHOULD Consider

1. Location

The location of a property is paramount because it is not something you can change once you buy the home. In a good area, even in a changing housing market, people will want to buy your home.

You should also evaluate the neighborhood, proximity to amenities, and potential for future resale value. Consider what a married couple looking to start a family would worry about as an example. This couple would be looking to live in a safe neighborhood that's close to the grocery store within a good school district.

The resale value of a home is important but it is also important to consider your quality of life. Consider your proximity from places you enjoy visiting, such as the park, the gym and your favorite restaurant. If you like spending time with your friends and family, consider how far you will be from them as well.

2. Red Flags

Pay attention to potential red flags in the vicinity, such as power lines, cemeteries, or busy arterials. Overlooking these factors could lead to long-term issues, like reduced property value or a miserable living environment.

Watch this video explaining why you should avoid these commonly missed red flags.

3. Layout

The layout of a house is significant. An impractical or poorly designed layout can result in long-term discomfort and costly renovations.

For example, if you discover a beautiful home but it only has one bathroom shared by multiple bedrooms, you may not want to live there. Having one bathroom can lead to future inconvenience and expenses when attempting to improve the layout.

4. Small Bathrooms

Think twice before buying a dream house with small bathrooms, as it's difficult to make them bigger or renovate them. Of course, if having a tiny bathroom is not of concern to you, then there is no need to worry about this.

5. Structural Integrity

When inspecting a house, examine the roof, siding, framing, and foundation for their condition. This applies to both old and new houses. Learning that the house you just bought has a broken roof can be costly. It may require you to spend a significant amount of money on fixing leaks and structural problems.

6. Low Ceilings

Low ceilings can be a significant turn-off for future buyers, and they are expensive to change. Focusing on this aspect is crucial if you plan to sell your home in the future. A low ceiling can limit your pool of potential buyers and hinder the resale process.

5 Questions to ask your agent on the tour

You can certainly keep an eye out for the points mentioned above on your own. However, it's more effective to directly ask your realtor for important information during the home tour.

You can have additional questions ready, but these five should be your initial focus before asking any others.

1. Does this home have good "bones"?

The first thing you want to understand is whether your potential home will last and whether it will sell later. The strength of the structure, layout, and dimensions of the rooms are all important factors that influence the long-term desirability and functionality of the property. A skilled real estate agent understands that even with great staging, a poorly designed layout will struggle to attract buyers.

2. Does the home have any red flags in the neighborhood?

High crime rates, noisy streets, or proximity to power lines are red flags that could impact your quality of life and property value. A knowledgeable agent should tell you about these issues so you can make a more informed decision.

3. How much would it cost to remodel this, and what are the practical implications?

Understanding the cost and difficulty of remodeling is essential. Experienced agents can provide ballpark estimates of renovation costs, including materials and labor. They can also discuss whether the changes you have in mind will be possible.

4. What is the fair market value of the home?

This question is about gaining a realistic understanding of the property's market value. A smart agent can use comps to give you a fair price for the house based on market data. This knowledge is crucial when making an offer, ensuring you don't overpay.

5. Ask point blank, what are his/her reservations on this home.

Directly asking your agent for their reservations opens a candid conversation. It allows you to benefit from their expertise and experience. Agents may have insights or concerns about the property that you might not have noticed, helping you make a more informed decision.


In conclusion, when going on a house tour or to an open house, it's important to be able to tell the difference between what matters and what doesn't. The bottom line is to pay attention to the more permanent features of the home.

Try to look past the staging, wall paint, and fixtures. Prioritize the location, potential red flags, layout, bathroom size, structural integrity, and ceiling height. Engage your realtor in this process and ask specific questions for a well-informed decision.

About the Author

Peter Kim

Peter Kim is the owner of Odigo Real Estate Club, a leading real estate agency in the Greater Seattle area that specializes in residential, commercial, and luxury properties. With over 10 years of experience and a team of highly skilled agents, Peter brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the real estate space.

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