Top 5 Open House Tips for Buyers

The average home buyer attends three open houses, according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report. Seventy-one percent of buyers go to at least open house. And first-time buyers are even more likely to go (77 percent attend one open house or more). Clearly, open houses still play an important role in real estate. Here are five open house tips for buyers, so you can make the most of your visits.

1. Go to open houses to learn about 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.

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, you can start to get a feel for pricing and the market before committing to an agent.

2. You don’t have to sign in

Some buyers fear that a real estate agent at an open house will be all over them, asking for their contact information, and then they’ll harass them for weeks. It happens, of course, but not nearly as much as you’d think. Also, it’s common courtesy to at least 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’s coming and going. It’s polite to say hello and introduce yourself to the agent, but you can also politely decline to sign in.

If you’re an active buyer, you should make yourself 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. Observe the other buyers

You can tell a lot about the activity and marketability of a home by watching other people at an open house. 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 “hot” listing. If you’re interested, too, observing other buyers at the open house could help you learn about the competition.

4. Ask the agent questions

Ask the seller’s agent questions. He’s a direct line to the seller. He should know more than anyone about the property and the seller. 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.

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. Not true for real estate agents. Some of the best buyer/seller/real estate relationships begin at open houses.

A good agent wears two hats at the 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.

Face to face, informal and relevant, the interaction with an agent at an open house is important. You can get a feel for a person just from a brief meeting. If you sense the agent could be someone you could work with, ask some open-ended questions, such as “How’s the market?” and “What areas do you cover?”

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