Here are some helpful hints on how to use an open house to your advantage in your home-buying experience.
Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report says that the average buyer attends three open
houses. Seventy-one percent of all buyers attend at least open house, and 77 percent of first-time buyers attend one open house or more.
But as a buyer, do you know how to use your open house visits to your benefit?
Here are some helpful hints on how to use an open house to your advantage at all ends of the home-buying spectrum.
Use an open house to learn the market
Open houses make it possible for anyone to see a property in a certain time period, without an appointment or even being a very serious buyer.
New buyers should leverage the open house opportunity to get a feel for the market. In today’s world, using online search tools, mobile apps and the open house, a buyer can start to get a feel for pricing and the market before committing to an agent. Most importantly, open houses are some of the best ways for buyers to meet several agents before choosing one to work with as a buyer agent.
I tell buyers to use this time to date the market. Think of it like being in high school. One year you were in love with one person. The next year, it was someone entirely different. You knew that you weren’t truly in love with any of them. Each different relationship taught you something more about yourself. You should explore different neighborhoods and home styles for several weeks or months before you really narrow your list of wants and must haves. Most buyers in fact choose a neighborhood first and then a home. Pick a different area of the city each weekend. Have brunch there before going to your list of open houses. Pop into a restaurant for a happy hour when you are finished looking at homes – or go to a new grocery store in the neighborhood. In short, you want to try on the neighborhood and see if you like it.
How to use an open house without signing in!
Of course, the real estate agent at an open house will ask for contact information. It’s kind
to say hello and introduce yourself to the agent, but you can also politely decline to sign in.
If you’re already working with a Realtor, you should make yourself known to the agent as such. Let the seller’s agent know who your agent is and don’t be afraid to express interest. When it comes time to review an offer with a seller, listing agents like to put a face to a name.
Your interaction at the open house with the listing agent may be the reason that you get the house!
How to use an open house to watch the other buyers
You can tell a lot about the activity and marketability of a home by watching the other buyers. If you observe a lot of people walking in and out quickly, the home probably has some issues. Are the buyers hanging around, asking questions of the listing agent and huddling in the corner talking to their spouses or partners? If so, it could be a sign this is a well-priced and “hot” listing. If you’re interested, too, observing other buyers at the open house could help you learn about the competition.
How to use an open house to ask the agent questions
The real estate agent is there is the listing agent, ask questions. He is a direct line to the seller. He should know more than anyone about the property and the seller. Of course, your agent can pass your questions to the listing agent. But if you’re there, 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?” “Is there a certain day to review offers or have you had a lot of showings?” In a slow market, ask how long the property has been on the market and what the seller’s motivations are. A good agent will engage you because it’s good for his seller.
Questions about the seller:
- How long has the seller lived there.
- Why are the sellers moving?
- How long has the house been on the market?
- Does the owner have a place picked out to move to?
Interest in the home:
- Is this the first open house?
- How has the traffic been at this open house?
- How has the traffic been generally on this listing?
- What feedback have you received from other agents?
- Have you received any offers.
- Are there any comparable homes currently listed nearby?
Questions about price:
1. What is the seller’s expectation on price
2. Is the seller open to an offer below asking price?
3. Is there a specific day the seller is reviewing offers?
4. Will the seller consider a pre-emptive offer?
About the home:
1. Is the property disclosure available for review?
2. Do you have any recent inspection reports on the home?
3. Did the seller make any improvements to the home?
4. Is there hardwood under the carpet?
5. Are the systems up to date?
6. What are the neighbors like? (If the agent answers this question- just run away!)
How to use an open house to interview agents
A good agent is has two functions at an open house. In addition to watching the serious buyers and getting feedback for the seller, an active agent is also looking to interact with future clients who might be good candidates to purchase this home.
Through your interaction with an agent you can get a feel for what kind of person that agent is. You will get a feel for how that person would be to work with in the purchase of your future home. If you sense the agent could be someone you might like to work with, ask some open-ended questions, such as “How’s the market?” and “What areas do you cover?” Ask if they are available for a cup of coffee after the open house or next weekend.
Remember that Fair Housing laws apply to agents. So… if that agent is willing to discuss the neighbors, that agent probably doesn’t have a good handle on Fair Housing laws – and may not understand other laws and procedures designed to protect you! Proceed with caution!
Use open houses to see lots of homes quickly!
At any open house, there are people at every stage of the home-buying game, from just testing the waters to looking at homes daily, making offers and working closely with an agent. For someone new to the market, it’s helpful to know how to use an open house to get lots of information and how to interact with the Realtor. More experienced buyers may use an open house as an opportunity to make a second or third visit, getting a closer look at the details and uncovering things they may have missed earlier. For any one it is a good way to see a lot of homes quickly without being hounded by your Realtor to pick one and make an offer!
Take full advantage of the open house by asking questions to learn all you can about the home and listing.