Top 5 Tips for Visiting Open Houses

Tracy Elsen
December 19, 2016

Top 5 Tips for Visiting Open Houses

You’ve clicked through listing after listing, trying to figure out what you want in your new home. How did you really feel about those formica tabletops you saw? And is the backyard big enough for both your pups? Well, there’s only one way to find out. Enter: the open house.

Open houses are a great way for first time home buyers to step inside their potential first home and figure out exactly what they want—and don’t want—in their humble abode. Approach your first few open houses armed with the information you need to make your dream home a reality. Here are a few open house tips to get started:

Get Open House Prepared

Practice makes perfect. Try going to a few open houses even before you’re ready to buy to get a feel for what you’re looking for and what to expect. After a few practice runs, it’s time to get serious. Start by mapping out a couple of homes you want to see in the same area. That way, you’ll get a feel for the neighborhood while seeing a few potential homes in one day.

Open house pros wear slip on shoes and socks, making their entrance into various homes that much easier when removing footwear is required. If square footage is important to you, make sure to bring a tape measure along—perfect for making sure your grandmother’s antique dresser will fit in the master bedroom. You can also prepare a list of questions to bring after looking at pictures and descriptions in each listing. You don’t want to forget in the moment to look at dimensions, the laundry room, or other details that are important to you.

Make Like Inspector Gadget

When you walk into an open house, the selling agent will typically be present. He or she may ask for your name and number, or may ask you to sign a guest book.  “It’s a very good idea to introduce yourself to the listing agent,” says Patrick Carlisle, chief market analyst at Paragon Real Estate in San Francisco, California. “If the homebuyer decides to go forward and make an offer on the home, establishing some sort of relationship with the listing agent can play a big role in getting your offer negotiated well.”

So be friendly, but keep in mind that the agent is working for the homeowner—you’ll want to keep some details about your move under wraps. For example, it’s not necessary at this point to tell them about your exact price range, or exactly when you want to move. Revealing those details could impact your negotiations later if you decide to make an offer.

After introductions and formalities, it’s finally your time to explore. Walk through the home, open closets, even take a seat! See if you can imagine coming here after a long day at work. See if you can imagine coming home here. Feel free to take pictures (after asking permission, of course). And don’t forget the little details: check out the width of the closets, find out how many windows are in the bedroom. During the typical two-hour time period of an open house, feel free to ask the realtor or seller as many questions as you want. That’s what they’re there for!

Pay Attention to More than Just the House

If this is your first open house, other buyers can be your best insider tip when it comes to the quality of the home, cluing you into things you might not be seeing on the first go-around. Are they walking out of the home quickly after entering the master bedroom? Bad sign. Or are they crowded around the selling agent, jostling for a chance to make a good impression? Very good sign.

Stay clued in to the neighborhood around you, too. Is that group of twenty-something boys going to be a problem next door? Can you put up with the incessant barking of the dog across the street? And our favorite tip: find a good lunch spot in the neighborhood to treat yourself after a long day of house hunting. It’s one of the best ways to get a peek at what your new neighborhood will have to offer.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

At an open house, the selling agent is going to be your best resource. From them, you can find out how long the house has been on the market, if the seller has received any offers on the property, and how stable the pricing has been. You might also inquire about the cost of other homes in the area, as well as the seller’s motivation for putting the house on the market.

Ask about the hot tub out back, or that outdoor shed; it’s important to know if things like appliances and other amenities are included in the sale. The selling agent can also help answer questions you may have about things that can’t be seen with the naked eye, like whether or not the house comes with any repair issues or when the interiors were last updated.  Legally, the selling agent is required to answer these questions, and asking them can prevent you from making an offer on a house that needs a roof repair in your first year of ownership.

Okay, I Like It. What’s Next?

Call up your real estate agent and set up a second viewing. “Bring any other people who will play a role in the decision making back with you, whether that’s a parent who might be contributing to the purchase, or a child who’s opinion is important, or anyone else’s opinion who the buyer considers important,” says Mr. Carlisle. It’s important to bring your agent real estate agent along on this visit as well. If you’re still interested after your second viewing, your next move is to contact the selling agent and let them know, asking if they have a disclosure package for your review. And just like that, you’re one step closer to your dream home.

Before deciding on a loan and a house, use our tips to make the most of your open house visit.

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