First time home buyers, those experienced with the housing market, curious neighbors and window shoppers. These are just a few of the people you’ll see at an open house. The truth is, it doesn’t matter where you are in the process of moving to a new home; you can always attend an open house. Whether you just started saving for a down payment, you’re working with a real estate agent or you’re the kind of person who is ready to fall in love with a home at an open house and spontaneously make an offer, open houses are a great way to learn about the market, meet agents or at the very least, enjoy some free cookies.
Don’t be intimidated by that open house sign. Walk through that door with confidence and start your home buying journey with these tips for attending an open house:
Before you go to an open house, have a list of what you want in a home. This should include your budget range, the number of bedrooms you’d like and anything else that’s a must for you. Can’t live without a pool? Want a big backyard for your dog? Crazy about open floor plans? Write it down and bring it with you. Jot down impressions during and after the visit to see how the house stacks up.
An open house will typically take place on a weekend for about three or four hours. It’s always smart to show up closer to the start of that range than towards the end. If you’re hoping to ask the agent or host questions, showing up before the crowds do will land you more face time.
Realtors really, really want open house attendees to sign in—so why do so many of us try to avoid it? Maybe it’s the fear of getting hounded with emails and calls the next day, maybe it’s just the feeling of not being ready to commit.
Here’s the thing though. Yes, real estate agents do want your contact information so that they can follow up, but the sign-in sheet is also a safety precaution for the current homeowners so that there’s a record of who has been in their home. So sign in. If you don’t want to deal with follow up emails and calls after the open house, politely say so.
That brings us to our next point. You’re a potential home buyer, but you are still in someone else’s current home. Practice good etiquette. Don’t open drawers, ask before taking photos and leave small children at home. If the agent asks you to take your shoes off or put booties over your shoes, do so.
For some reason, a lot of people who attend open houses feel like they need to be coy about whether or not they’re already working with an agent. If you have one, share that information with the seller’s agent. Have their card ready to hand over if you are interested in the house. If you don’t have an agent, be aware that part of the point of an open house is for the agent to pick you up as a client, so this is a great opportunity to potentially find someone you like to help you discover your new home—even if it’s not the one at the open house.
After you’ve walked through the home with your checklist, chatted with the agent and eaten way too much free cheese, walk around the neighborhood. Location matters. A great home in a not so great neighborhood is...well...not actually that great. Even if your current home is in the same city, it’s still worthwhile to walk around. Chat with neighbors about how they like living there, look for parks, restaurants, grocery stores and other amenities that matter to you. All of this will factor into your moving and home buying decisions, so take notes, be observant and don’t hesitate to attend as many open houses as you like.