First-time Homebuyer’s Guide to Open Houses
Instead of calling around to find a real estate agent you like, you can go out on your own, see some of the homes that are for sale and meet the agents in person.
“You don’t have to be nervous,” Pozek says. “It can be fun. If there is a sign there, they want you to go in and they expect you to look around.”
The best way to find out about open houses in the area is to search real estate listing websites like www.LongIslandHomeConnection.com. You can also get this information from real estate websites, newspaper ads or by driving around your target neighborhood any weekend.
Even though the house is open to the public, you’ll still probably have to give the agent your name and contact information to be allowed inside, says Wendy English, sales manager at Century 21 Commonwealth in Medfield, Mass.
“We have a responsibility to know who was in the house for the security of the seller’s property,” she explains.
Do’s and don’t’s
An open house is “your time to look at the property,” says Renee White, a broker associate at Keller Williams Realty East Bay in Walnut Creek, Calif.
That means it’s fine to walk into all the rooms, open closets or even take a seat and stay a while if you’re genuinely interested.
It’s not okay to snoop.
“Sellers are advised to put away valuables and medications. You don’t want to be opening their furnishings, wardrobe or drawers. Kitchen cabinets, closets — it’s expected that people will look there,” English says.
Nor is it OK to let your children smear cookie on the walls or touch toys that belong to the seller’s children.
That, English warns, “is a definite no-no.”
If you want to take pictures, you should get permission from the agent first.
And don’t block a neighbor’s driveway when you park your car.
A super-busy open house “can get a little annoying for the neighbors,” English says. “Those people could be your future neighbors, so you want to be respectful.”
Sometimes houses that were scheduled to be open aren’t, English adds. That happens because some houses sell quickly and the information posted online isn’t always current.
If you’re disappointed about a particular house, that might be a sign you’re ready to commit to a Realtor so you’ll be able to get the most up-to-date information, she suggests.
What to ask
A good agent should be knowledgeable about much more than the color of carpeting.
Here are some suggested questions you should ask at an open house:
- Have the sellers received any offers?
- How well is this home priced?
- What are the comps — prices of similar homes recently sold in the area?
- What school district is this and what is it ranked?
- Are there any disclosures?
- What other for-sale homes should I see besides this one?
- Who do you recommend for a lender?
Agents hold open houses not only to market homes, but also to meet people who are ready, willing and well-qualified to buy, says Shantee Haynes, a Realtor at Prudential PenFed Realty in Washington, D.C.
“The agent tries to get to know people and figure out what their motivation is not just for being there, but whether they have the motivation to buy at all,” she says.
If you’re open to buying a house, a house that’s open might be a grand place to start. Click here to see what’s open this weekend.