People Who Go to Open Houses — A Field Guide
In real estate showings, the Sunday open house is still the gold standard. But not everyone who goes is a potential buyer. Here are the five types of people who go to open houses.
1. Actual buyers
Of course, people who are actual buyers—they’re either testing out the market or they’re serious and fully qualified—go to open houses. Buyers may use the open house as their second or third visit, after having seen the home with their agent during the week. The open house provides them the opportunity to get more comfortable in the home.
At least a few of your neighbors have probably wanted an excuse to get inside your home. Their home may be similar to yours, maybe even designed by the same architect, and they want to compare your home to theirs.
There might be other reasons to see it, too. At an open house of a view property in San Francisco, a neighbor arrived and made a beeline for the back deck. Meanwhile, in the neighboring home across the backyard, the neighbor’s son sat in the window. What followed was a cell phone conversation in which the father instructed his son to move to the right, to the left, go upstairs, and so on. The father’s goal was to determine from exactly which points in this home he and his family were visible to their neighbors.
You’ll no doubt encounter nosy neighbors, too. They live nearby and just want to satisfy their curiosity about your home—or even about you.
3. Agents checking out the place for clients
Agents constantly check out properties for their buyer clients. The vast majority of the time, they’re professional and courteous.
There are exceptions, of course. Not long ago, in the living room of a packed Sunday open house, an agent sat on the couch and spoke to her client on the phone. “The finishes are cheap, the floor plan is off, and the bathrooms need updating,” she said. “Don’t waste your time coming over here.”
The listing agent politely asked the other agent to continue her conversation outside.
4. The agent who lost the listing
Often, a seller interviews multiple agents before selecting their listing agent. When the property lands on the open house circuit, an agent who lost the listing may visit. They want to know if the seller took any of their suggestions. Did they paint the orange room a more neutral color, or renovate the kitchen or bathrooms as suggested? It‘s their chance to run through the property anonymously, as most agents usually won’t know with whom they competed for the listing.
5. A previous owner, or one of their relatives
Over years of open houses, a busy listing agent will surely run into an old seller, or their children or grandkids who grew up in the home. These people come to the open house to see how it looks and to reminisce. Lots of memories happen in a home, and the opportunity to go back in time can be a real treat.
A good listing agent will welcome any and all visitors to an open house. They solicit feedback from buyers and make notes of their comments, reactions and questions.
If you’re attending an open house with no intentions of buying, keep it to yourself. Be as subtle and unobtrusive as possible, and don’t waste the listing agent’s time—unless you have some helpful feedback for the agent or seller.