Congratulations on reaching this exciting step! You’re ready to move from virtual to real and start seeing – and touching – your potential dream home. Attending an open house is usually the easiest and least stressful way to start visiting properties. You can drop in casually on your own and usually wander around without an agent following you. I recommend visiting homes that are in your ideal neighborhood or price range but that you don’t immediately love when you see them online. Many factors can influence how the house appears in photos and you may be surprised. There are also some things that photos don’t capture like the feel of the street and ambiance of the home.
Beware though, it’s easy to get excited at an open house and to overshare. Remember that friendly agent who greets you at the door is working for the sellers – and thus must share anything you say with them. Real estate agents have a fiduciary duty to their clients and must disclose anything that they know. That means that if you tell them that you’ve been looking at houses for 3 months and this is the first one you’ve liked and that you’re completely in love with it, that puts you in a very bad negotiating position later. Ditto if you share things that could make the seller uncomfortable, like that the house is at the top of your budget or that you’ve put offers on several places but had to walk away after the home inspection. Best to ask generic questions – like why is the seller moving and what updates have been done recently – and to answer only generic questions. If the agent starts asking things like: how long have you been looking or what do you think of the house, just change the subject or answer vaguely.
I advise my buyers to be friendly and memorable – always helpful if you expect to be competing with other buyers for the home – and to be ready with some non-answers and distractions for curious agents. Example:
Agent: How long have you been looking for a house?
You: Oh gosh, seems like I’ve wanted to buy a house since I was ten years old. It’s always been my dream to be a homeowner. Do you own a home? Oh, that’s great. Was that always your goal? etc.
Agent: What areas are you considering?
You: We just really want a fun neighborhood with plenty of happy people. Gee, do you know what kind of tree that is in the front yard? It’s really beautiful and it reminds me of a tree that we had in the yard when I was a kid. etc.
So you’re being friendly and so darned sweet that the agent can’t help but love you and at the same time, you’re channeling your inner politician and not revealing any useful information. Read on for more tips.
Seven steps to home buying success –
- Check it out. The open house is a great opportunity to do almost a pre-inspection. Be sure to try all the doors, prowl around the basement and look for any potential problems.
- Get a second opinion. If you think this could be “the one,” call your agent or a handy friend and ask them to see the house with you or to drop by on their own during the open house. It really helps to have a second pair of eyes, especially the eyes of someone who hasn’t already fallen for the house.
- Will you fit? Don’t be shy about bringing your measuring tape to the open house and checking whether your Cali-king bed or super-sized sofa will be practical in the space. Especially if the house is empty, it’s hard to judge. You could miss out on a house because it felt too small or buy a house only to find out your stuff won’t work there.
- Keep your ears open. What are other people saying about the house? Sometimes you can find out about a problem that you missed by listening to other buyers. Even knowing that everyone is gaga over the house is helpful when it comes time to put in your offer.
- Have your checklist handy. There can be a lot of energy at an open house and you could develop FOMO – fear of missing out. Having a list of your must-haves will help you stay in your logical brain.
- Keep notes. If you’re seeing several houses in one day, take a few photos and take some notes so you’ll remember which house is which when you get home.
- See it again. If you think the house is for sure The One, make an appointment to see it again in daylight and outside of an open house. Take your time going through the house and see if you still feel the same after 20 or 30 minutes of prowling around without the added energy of other buyers.
Do a drive-by. If all of the previous are a go, drive by the house several more times on different days and different times of day. I used to live in an area that was quiet and peaceful during the day but loud and full of drunks at 2:00 AM when the area bars closed.
Now you’re ready for HBU E08 – Submitting an Offer, nice job!
Start this series at the beginning.
More open house tips from OpenDoor, Zillow and MoneyCrashers.