Open Houses are a great opportunity to ask questions and gather information about properties. In a recent post, we suggested questions to ask at open houses for single family homes. Below is a list of questions to ask at condo open houses. They are geared specifically to apartment-type condos (i.e. those in a condo association building as opposed to townhouse condos).
MLS listing sheets have data fields to accommodate detailed information about each property. It’s a good idea to review the sheet carefully in the MLS reports you get from your buyer agent or from the agent at an open house. That way, you won’t waste your limited face-to-face time with the open house agent asking for information that you already have in writing. The questions below aren’t covered in the standard MLS data fields.
1. When to ask the Open House Questions
If you don’t like the feel of the condo, and you wouldn’t consider buying it, no need to ask anything. But, if you go through the condo and like it, then ask the questions about the physical condition of the condo and the building, questions about the neighborhood, and about the condo association. And, if you get past all that without losing interest, ask the agent some of the suggested questions about the listing (i.e. the marketing and offer process) in Section 6 below. If you get to know more about the listing, you can better position yourself to make an offer that will be accepted, even if there are competing offers.
Of course, not all questions apply to every property, and not all issues may be of concern to you. Plus, there isn’t enough time at an open house to ask all the questions in this post. Use it as a master checklist from which you pick and choose questions. The idea is to help you screen out properties so you can focus on the contenders. And, the list will help you follow up with the properties that pass your screening after the open house, as well.
2. Questions about Systems and Structure
The MLS listing sheet – to the extent that it is filled out – tells you a lot about the structure and systems of the condo and the building. For example: Is the heat gas or electric? Are there radiators or is there central heat? Is the structure wood or brick? Is the roof rubber or asphalt? MLS can contain many more possible answers for each of these questions, and MLS covers many other elements.
But, MLS does not cover the age and condition of the systems and structures. If the agent didn’t address these things in the MLS Remarks section or a supplementary handout, it is a good idea to ask about any systems and structures that concern you. Especially if they look problematic to you when you view the house. Below is a basic checklist of systems to consider addressing at the open house. The list starts with things that apply to single family homes as well as condos. The last five items, which are marked with an asterisk (*), are specific to condos.
- HVAC (individual vs. common to building)*
- Decks and patios*
- Parking spaces*
- Private storage room*
- Common laundry*
3. Questions to ask at the Open House about the Physical Condo and the Building
- When was the last time the kitchen and bathrooms were renovated?
- Have there been any floods or fires in the unit or building? Where? When? How was it addressed?
- Ask the agent to expand on the disclosure(s) in MLS and in handouts. Ask if there are any items requiring disclosure that aren’t in the materials you received.
Note: Home warranties provide limited coverage for condos compared with houses. Asking about them is probably not the best use of your time at an open house.
4. Questions about the Neighborhood
Even if you are familiar with the neighborhood, there may be planned new developments that are worth investigating.
- Any major building planned in the immediate vicinity? Any major improvements planned? (They may cause construction noise; they may block your view; they may have a big impact on traffic/street parking; they may just change the neighborhood for good or bad.)
- Any environmental issues in the immediate vicinity?
5. Questions about the Condo Association
Many very important pieces of information should be in the MLS listing sheet: number of units in the association; number of units rented vs. owner occupied; how the building is managed; the pet policy. If these things are not filled out on the MLS listing sheet, by all means ask about them. Of course, chances are the agent doesn’t have that information. You may ask the agent to follow up with your buyer’s agent or with you about any of these items that are important to you:
- What repairs or improvements are planned in the building in the next couple of years?
- Can I see (or get) a copy of the last association minutes?
- What are the current reserves for the association
- Are there any special assessments pending? For what? Are there any assessments being considered? For what? (When the money in the condo “kitty” together with the money coming in from condo fees, insurance companies, litigation etc, are not enough to cover a special expense, the association may levy a special assessment to all owners.)
- Are there any lawsuits pending involving the association?
- If it is not professionally managed, what is the division of labor for taking care of the building?
- Are any units more than a couple of months in arrears?
- Is smoking prohibited in the common areas? In the condo units?
- What is the policy about noise in general? About dogs barking?
6. Questions to ask at the Open House about the Listing
These questions relate to the marketing and selling of the property. Please note that the law may prohibit the agent from answering some of the questions. Or the owner may have directed the agent not to discuss certain things. But you aren’t prohibited from asking, and many agents will answer even if they are not supposed to.
Some of the questions are geared towards getting information that the agent won’t volunteer, but will provide if asked. Other questions are intended to help you make your offer more attractive to the seller if you decide to go for it!
- Why are the owners selling?
- When would the owners ideally like to close?
- Have there been any offers? If so, why didn’t the owner take them?
- Has the condo been under agreement. If so, why did the agreement fall apart?
- Are there any offers currently pending or expected to come in shortly? What can you tell me about the offers? When does the owner plan to make a decision about them?
- Is there anything other than price and closing date that would make my offer more attractive to the owner?