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Make The Most Of Your Open House Visits
Dated: August 27 2019
When you’re beginning a home search, open houses are a great way to see what’s available in an area you’re considering, without starting an official house hunt. Many people tend to shy away from the host instead of taking full advantage of the services they have to offer. We’ve put together some do’s and don'ts to consider during your next open house tour in order to maximize the experience in your favor!
Introduce yourself to the host, sign in, and provide contact information so that you can be contacted if the price changes, the seller adds any new upgrades, or an incentive like a closing costs credit is added. Wouldn’t you like to have that information? It’s part of an agent’s job to communicate updates with each prospect that’s viewed the home. In addition, most sellers want the agent to know how many people visited and who was in their home for security and safety purposes. If you prefer not to be contacted about the house, communicate that with the host at the time.
If you’re already working with another agent, make sure to include your agent’s name and phone number on the sign-in sheet for updates. It’s ok, you’re not cheating on them. Do give your agent a heads up, however, on which houses you toured so they can also watch for updates.
Ask the host if they represent the sellers. Some listing agents will host open houses in their seller clients’ homes, while others will enlist colleagues as hosts because they’re uncomfortable with dual agency. (Note: Dual agency IS allowed in Texas as long as it is disclosed to all parties. Click here for more information about each type of representation.) The agent representing the seller is going to know a lot more about the house, their colleagues will have to find out and follow up with you later.
Ask questions. No matter who the host is representing, they’ll be happy to tell you how many square feet are in the home, when it was built, etc. Ask them about the neighborhood and things like schools or grocery stores, if you’re unfamiliar with the area, too. They’re a resource, feel free to use them as such! If they don’t know the answer, or can’t answer a question due to fair housing rules, they still may be able to direct you to a reliable source.
Be honest! Tell the agent what you think about the house. Sharing what you like and don’t like about the house could help the seller discover changes they need to make to the home or their price. The host agent is not going to take it personally if you hate the house, since they’re a professional that recognizes not every house is right for each person.
Ask permission before taking photos or videos of the home. It’s quite understandable that you might want to do so to remember the house later, after touring all the open houses in the neighborhood, but always ask. The seller may not be comfortable with visitors photographing or videoing their home, and the host would know if that’s the case.
Treat the open house like a working interview, if you don’t yet have an agent. Seeing someone in action is a great way to determine whether or not they’ll be a good fit for you. If you hit it off, but the house isn’t a fit, ask the host agent to show you some others in the area later on.
Enjoy treats provided by the host, but only in the designated area (usually the kitchen). You can gauge where that area is by the location of the plate, but if you aren’t sure, ask. The seller wouldn’t be too happy to come home and find that the house they spent all morning cleaning is now full of crumbs, or worse, frosting stains in their new carpet!
Look beyond the decor. When you’re looking for a home, you’ll be buying an empty home, so focus on the size, layout, location, and lot. These things won’t change. If the layout is great, but you don’t love the decor, try to picture what the house will look like empty, and remember that paint is relatively easy to change.
Look at the corners around the ceilings, air intakes, appliances, etc. for signs of structural issues or neglect over time that could indicate problems. A home inspection will be part of the buying process to discover any issues that even the seller may not have been aware of, but if you see large cracks or other obvious signs, you can negotiate them up front or decide if the house is even worth the repair expense before making an offer.
Consider your budget. Ideally, get prequalified with a loan officer prior to looking at ANY homes. If you haven’t done that yet, use online mortgage calculators to figure out what you can likely afford, then stick to the budget.
Ask about special financing options. Some brokerages have partnerships or ownership in loan companies and therefore offer financing options that you may not have been aware of through traditional banks. These can mean big savings!
Look at a variety of homes, especially if you’ve never owned one before, to get a feel for what kind of layouts you like or don’t like, how much space you’ll need, and what area you’d like to live in.
Chat with neighbors. If you’re thinking of living there, might as well get to know them up front and make sure they’re someone you won’t mind living next door or across the street from for several years! You don’t have to be best friends, but if you can’t stand them from the first meeting, that might be a red flag to consider.
Revisit the areas you’re considering at various times. Drive your daily commute, whenever possible, and check out the neighborhood at night. This way you’ll find out if there’s any concerns with traffic, neighbors, or the general area that you may have missed during the open house.
Leave fake contact information. Not only is it just plain rude, but you’re doing yourself a disservice since no one would be able to share updates about the listing, let you know if you’ve left something behind at the open house, or contact you if an urgent hazard is later discovered in the home (this is rare, but can happen).
Share details about your financing, how much you’re willing to pay, or your motivation to buy. Anything you tell an agent that isn’t representing you as a buyer is information that the host agent is supposed to share with the seller in most cases. Only an agent that is representing you via a signed buyer representation agreement is obligated to keep your information confidential.
Act interested if you’re not. It may feel natural to say positive and encouraging things about the house to the host, but it’s not helpful. Selling a home is a tough, emotional roller coaster for many sellers, so a possible interested buyer that never amounts to anything just adds unnecessary stress.
Bad-mouth the house. Feedback is helpful, even if it’s negative, but insults are not. And in today’s technology-driven world, the seller is likely to have devices in the home that could record your comments. While the host agent might not be offended, the seller might be. And what if they’re someone you know and you didn’t realize that was their house? That could get pretty awkward.
Discuss offer strategies in the home, even if you’re talking about a different house. Again, if the seller has active surveillance devices, they could easily hear your conversation and have an advantage over you or their competitors.
Look at houses in price ranges higher than you can realistically afford. If you do, and then you discover you can’t afford to spend that much, you’re likely to want the expensive house and be disappointed when those within your budget don’t stack up. It’s like test driving a Mercedes when you can only afford a Ford. Will the Ford getting you around just fine? Of course! But will you be as excited about it after driving a Mercedes?
Disturb the seller’s belongings. It should go without saying, but some open house visitors do look in drawers or move things. Looking in closets to see their size is perfectly fine and encouraged, but you shouldn’t be going through any personal belongings.
Feel obligated to work with the host, if they’re not a good fit. If you love the house, but didn’t quite connect with the agent you met there, feel free to choose someone else to represent you in the purchase. It’s important that you work with someone you can trust!
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