5 Open House Tips for Buyers

people who go to open houses

Open houses have been around for decades and will be ingrained in the buying and selling of homes for years to come. But as a buyer, are you getting the most from your home tours? Here are five open house tips for buyers.

1. Use open houses to learn the market without committing

Open houses make it possible for anyone to see a property without an appointment or even being a very serious buyer. New buyers in particular should take advantage of open houses to get a feel for the market. In today’s real estate markets, 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 buyer and agent relationships to start.

2. You don’t have to sign in (but don’t be rude)

The biggest fear of some newer buyers is that a real estate agent at an open house will be all over them, ask for their contact information and then start harassing them. It happens. But it’s also common courtesy to at least recognize and say hello to the agent at the open house. Don’t forget, in addition to trying to sell the home for her client, for safety reasons, the agent is keeping a look out for who is coming and going. It’s polite to say hello and introduce yourself to the agent, but you can also politely decline to sign in.

Active buyers should make themselves known to the agent. 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.

3. Watch other buyers

You can tell a lot about the activity and marketability of a home by watching other buyers during an open house. If you see a lot of people walking in and out quickly, the home probably has issues. Are the buyers hanging around, asking the listing agent questions and then huddling in the corner talking to their spouses or partners? If so, it may be a sign this is a well-priced and “hot” listing. If you’re interested, observing other buyers at the open house could help you determine the competition.

4. Ask questions

The real estate agent is at the open house for a reason. If he’s the listing agent, ask him questions. He is a direct line to the seller. He should know more than anyone about the property and the seller. Watch the agent’s facial expressions and reactions 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.

5. Be open to meeting your future agent

When considering a new doctor, lawyer or CPA, you don’t get the chance to see them in their element until you’ve decided to work with them. That’s not true for real estate agents. You can get a feel for an agent just from a brief meeting at an open house. If you sense the agent could be someone you might want to represent you, ask some open-ended questions, such as “How’s the market?” and “What areas do you cover?”

Why open houses endure

For someone new to the market, it’s helpful to know the best practices for visiting open houses and interacting with the real estate agent. For more experienced buyers, the open house is an opportunity to make a second or third visit, getting a closer look at the details and uncovering things you may have missed earlier. There are lots of reasons why open houses have been around for decades—and why you should take full advantage of them.

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