Making the Most of an Open House Visit


Buying a home is most often the largest investment people make. Therefore, planning carefully, learning about the neighborhood, schools, Home Owner Associations – Rules and Bylaws are just the beginning. You should use an open house as an opportunity to ask as many questions as possible of the listing agent. The more you learn about the house, the seller’s motivation to sell and the neighborhood will help you make an informed decision when it’s time to buy. Be prepared – you may have dozens of homes you go through before you find one, or locate the neighborhood you wish to concentrate on. Here are some things to bring to an open house:

  • Tape measure
  • Smartphone/camera
  • Folder with questions
  • The MLS sheet or Flyers on the house

 

Use the open house to learn the market

What is the First rule about buying a house? Location. location, location! Open houses make it possible for anyone to see a property in a certain time period, without an appointment, and are one of the tools buyers can use to learn about the market.

In today’s world, most buyers are using online search tools, to find out about homes, areas and different markets – even before they start looking. But once you start going to open house’s, you can really start to get a feel for pricing and the market conditions in each area. Also, if you haven’t found an agent yet – you want to work with, this gives you the opportunity to meet all different types of agents, so you can choose one who has the knowledge and expertise you want when you decide on the home you want to make an offer on. However – you still need to ‘Research’ your agent online to make sure they are representing you as the Buyer – and at open houses, the listing agent represents the seller. Here are 10 Reasons Buyers need their own representation. via Anita Clark

 

Attending Open Houses

The first thing you will most likely be asked to do when you go to an open house is to ‘sign in’. This is something most people don’t want to do, or give inaccurate information, because they don’t want to be contacted by an agent over and over, until they have decided if they want to work with that agent or not. So, the best advice is to be polite, introduce yourself to the agent but say – you don’t want to give out your personal information at this time. It would also be wise to ask the agent for their card, in case you have follow up questions or are working with another realtor. Then, you have their name – and you can establish a line of respect with the agent, especially if you choose to work with them in the future, or so they can put a name to a face if you come back with your own agent.

Now comes the good stuff. At an open house, you can learn a lot about the home by the activity in the home and by watching the other buyers. If you see the buyers asking a lot of questions to the listing agent, this may be a sign of serious interest in the home. Are they going into rooms and going off into a secluded area talking to their spouses or significant others? This is a good sign that the home may be something ‘special’ and they are discussing their next step. This should be a clue – to take the opportunity to ask the listing agent some questions of your own, or if you have interest, contact your agent immediately.

 

Ask the agent questions

The real estate agent is there for a reason. It’s his/her job. Remember, he/she is a direct line to the seller. Now, if you have your own agent, you may want them to ask the listing agent your questions. This usually works well in your favor, especially if its a ‘hot’ property, because agents will usually give more information to another agent then they will to a buyer. Also, if you are interested in the home, you don’t want the agent to know this before your agent has had time to do the proper research for you on the home; what are the recent sold homes in the neighborhood, are their any pending sales, has there been a price reduction on the home…  But if you’re there, and you don’t have your own real estate agent yet, ask away. Watch the agent’s facial expression and reaction to your questions. If it’s a competitive market, ask questions such as: “Why is the seller selling? How long have they lived here? How long has the property been on the market? Do the sellers have another house they want or are they still looking? Have there been any offers yet?”

 

A Broker Open House Tour

Another good tip, especially in a very competitive market with a low inventory of homes is the Broker’s Tour. In most markets, Brokers will put their new listings on tour for their office – before an open house for the property is scheduled. This is so that all the agents in the listing office have the opportunity to see the homes, and pre-view them for their own buyers before or just at the beginning of listing the property. This is a Huge advantage to a buyer to see the house the first time its being presented, sometimes before a final listing price has even been established. This way not only can preview it before any other buyers, but you may have the advantage to hear what the agents going through the house have to say as well. And, as mentioned, in a tight market with low inventory of homes, this is a great chance to find your home before anyone else ever sees it !

 

Things to Look for – Potential Issues

Open houses offer a buyer additional opportunities to learn about the neighborhood and home. Many times, neighbors will come through open houses, either because they are just curious, want to know what the market conditions in their neighborhood are like, or possibly they are looking for a friend. This again is a great chance for you to ask about the neighborhood from people who actually live there. What are the schools like? How do you like the neighborhood? Are their a lot of kids here? What are the home owner dues and what do they cover?

Look closely at the home inside and outside. Do you see any peeling paint, missing roof shingles or tiles, any cracks in the walkways… Inside the home – does is smell like it was just painted – ask. This could just be due to the seller sprucing it up, or there may have been repair work done and you can find out what was done and when. Ask if there are any receipts – to check if a licensed contractors did the work, especially if the agent says there were repairs to the roof made. Sometimes a seller will have the Disclosure Statement there – look it over, then you may have other questions as well. What you need to know about the real estate residential property disclosure form. via Paul Sian

 

So if you are an experienced buyer, you can use the open house as a chance to go back through a property you are interested in and make sure you don’t see anything you may have missed earlier. If you are a new buyer, you may be just starting your house hunting, and this is a great way to get your feet wet. Learn what questions to ask, what to look for and how to get your questions answered best – by the listing agent or your own agent. Just make sure to write down all the questions you may have, check out the neighborhood by driving around and stop and ask neighbors questions if you want to.

 

Wendy Weir Relocation – Real Estate Agent, Relocation Specialist, Birmingham, MI

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