The open house is one of the best resources a homebuyer can take advantage of. It’s a great way to go check out a house that you might be interested, ask some questions and inspect both the interior and exterior in person without feeling any kind of pressure or obligation from the seller or their agent. The following are a few tips that will help you get the most out of an open house:
- Use an Agent to hold the houses open exclusively to you
The best open houses are the ones you choose, based on your price, your criteria, and a selection you have made with an agent. Instead of following open house signs that go on forever that lead you to a home way out of your price range, or not in the right school zone, or without the right number of bedrooms, schedule a day of home tours with your agent. They can schedule the tour and show you these homes when convenient for you. Did you know that in most cases, the use of a real estate agent is no cost to you, the buyer? And they don’t get paid unless you buy something unless you agree to other terms. The seller actually pays the commission for both sides in most cases. So why would you avoid the use of an agent who has the best access to the inventory in your market and is ready to serve you?
- Do basic research online
Before you go to an open house, try to learn as much about the property as you can by reading the real estate listing. You don’t want to go to an open house just to go to an open house. By doing some research and reading through the listing, you should be able to tell if it’s worth your time to go to the open house or not. Some listings will even provide virtual tours so that you can get a better look of the home’s interior before going there in person. Knowing some basic information about the house will allow you to formulate a few questions for the agent while you are there as well. This is a much better option than following an open house sign randomly. Plan which open houses you will attend in advance and you can even put them on a nice driving route using Google Maps!
- Control your emotions
When walking around at an open house, make sure you try to control your emotions. Even if you love the house, try not to get impulsive. You’re not going to buy the house on the spot (or at least you shouldn’t), so keep your emotions in check. It’s easy to fall in love with cosmetics. Be sure you are looking deeper.
- Make Notes, a Lot
You will forget houses once you look at too many. You will be convinced that kitchen was in this house and your spouse will tell you it was in another. You will forget what the backyard looked like and which one had the walk in closets or roman tub, so take notes. Even better? Whip out that cell phone and take a video and pictures of the home and save them under the property address. Don’t just make notes about what you liked. Be sure to note anything you didn’t like. Include things like appliances, as you will want to remember to ask what is included in the house or what you might ask for if you make an offer. Things like window treatments, ceiling fans, built in’s and so on are often assumed to stay, yet suddenly, there’s a new chandelier where the old one was. Or worse, they take it out and cap it off without adding a new one. Anything that looks “special” should be noted and asked about.
- Don’t reveal too much about your buying situation
If you’re interested in the house, then the last thing you want to do is provide information to the sellers agent that could be used during negotiations, such as if you’re looking to buy a house as quickly as possible or how much you are willing or qualified to spend. Save these conversations for the agent that is going to represent you. If you decide you really like the agent selling the house, before you disclose anything, have a conversation about who they represent, if they are allowed to represent both parties, and if there is anything you should know about the dual representation. Remember, at this point, their motivation is to sell the house. If you decide you don’t like that house, and you are going to use that agent, head over to a new location and have a conversation about representation before you disclose anything else. You want to be sure you understand what it means to use an agent in your city. It’s not the same everywhere.
- Don’t reveal your interest
Exclaiming loudly in the middle of an open house that this is your dream house because that loft is the only one in town like it, and you must have it, is a bad idea for a number of reasons. First of all, you’re killing any leverage you might have had with the seller since the seller’s agent is present. Secondly, any other buyers that were on the fence or potentially thinking about putting in an offer may now make a quicker and larger offer knowing that there is competition for the house.
- Inspect the exterior
Do a couple of slow laps around the exterior of the property and check for any potential issues. Be on the lookout for possible problems with the roof or the siding. For example, how does the exterior paint look? Is the siding in good shape? Are there shingles missing from the roof? Do you see any dead trees nearby? Are the gutters in good shape? These are all important questions to ask as you survey the exterior.
- Inspect the walls and windows
Try to evaluate the condition of the property’s walls and windows. Do you see any signs of damage? What may look like small issues, like water spots on the walls or near the windows, could be indicative of bigger problems.
- Take lots of pictures and notes
You may think you can remember the pros and cons of the house you’re walking through, but after a while all of those open houses are going to blend together, and you won’t be able to remember which home had what. Take pictures of potential problems as well as of features you are impressed by and be sure to write down lots of notes. You can use these notes to compare properties later on.
- Ask the agent lots of questions
The seller’s agent is present for a reason — to provide you with as much information as possible in order to stoke your interest in the house. You should ask about why the owner is selling, how long the house has been on the market for and if there are any known problems with the house – the seller is required by law to disclose large issues, so the agent will most likely tell you upfront about them.
An open house is a great opportunity for you to get a close look at a property you might be interested in as well as to obtain more in-depth information about the home from the seller’s agent. Be sure to use these tips in order to get the absolute most out of your open house visits.