Open houses are the best way to see if space matches your needs by providing time for you to explore and give insight into the neighborhood and the types of people drawn to the area. Whether you are just starting your search or have been in the market for a while, these open house viewing tips and strategies for buyers will help ensure a positive experience so that you can find your dream home.
We frequently espouse the benefits of an exclusive buyer’s agent. However, this does not mean you need your agent’s presence to attend an open house in New York City. Open houses may seem passé in the digital age, but there is nothing like a personal experience. You can likely tour the property online, but this cannot replicate physically walking through the lobby and the unit. For instance, you won’t see the condition of the building or experience a slow and outdated elevator online.
Visiting an Open House AloneVisiting an Open House Alone
Your agent may have a scheduling conflict, or you are comfortable looking at properties by yourself since it is only your initial foray. Perhaps you do not have your own buyer’s agent at this point. While that is fine at first, try to find your own representation as soon as you can. You want a buyer’s agent’s expertise working on your behalf asap, finding out information, and helping you navigate the process. A listing agent is happy to represent you; however, this creates a dual agency. Dual Agency is a complicated relationship, and we suggest buyers should avoid this situation.
Open House Etiquette for Home BuyersOpen House Etiquette for Home Buyers
If you have a buyer’s agent, let them know which open houses you plan on attending. If there is a way to register ahead of time, your agent can handle this for you. Walk-ins are usually welcome since the seller is trying to drum up interest. You should make sure it is fine, though, since there are instances when you must have an appointment. These are usually restricted to luxury listings, however.
There is typically a sign-in sheet. The listing agent is likely to engage you at some point, and we suggest being upfront and letting the listing agent know you have representation if that is the case. You should include your agent’s contact details when you sign in.
The seller’s agent cannot make misleading statements, although you should not expect them to impart any information that will help you to the detriment of their client. A listing agent owes their fiduciary duty to the seller.
Tips for what to expect during the open houseTips for what to expect during the open house
The listing agent is trying to weed out serious buyers from casual lookers and even the merely curious. If you have a buyer’s agent already, this could show the seller’s agent that you are indeed qualified and looking to make a purchase reasonably soon. Having an agent could separate you from someone who is not ready to decide or perhaps not as qualified, indicated by a lack of representation.
Once you have completed the tour, let your buyer’s agent know. If you are interested, they can take steps to follow up. You may want to make an offer or schedule another visit. Your agent can help with the next stage, no matter which direction you choose. Even if you are not interested, you should still communicate this to your agent. That way, they have more information to help you find the right home.
Tips For When Visiting an Open HouseTips For When Visiting an Open House
Create a Game PlanCreate a Game Plan
First, research properties online and compile a list of your must-sees while making sure to note specific facts such as rates, fees, etc. The key is to ensure that all open houses you plan to attend on a given day are in the same area, as timing is crucial. Make sure that you allow enough time to look around while taking travel time into account adequately. Also, make sure that you arrive at open houses during the beginning of the allotted time to ensure a smaller crowd and more time with the agent. Finally, dress appropriately; usually, business casual is critical.
Focus on the PropertyFocus on the Property
Well-maintained landscaping, common areas, and exteriors show how well-kept the building is and indicate repairs that you may need. When inside, look all around to make sure that there are no visible holes or damages. Also, note square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms, and special features in addition to looking through all the storage spaces. Ask about appliances and make sure paperwork on warranties is kept. Lastly, when walking through, visualize yourself living there.
Ask Questions and Listen IntentlyAsk Questions and Listen Intently
Ask probing questions about the seller’s motivation, neighborhood reputation, and nearby amenities—your chance to get to know the property. Also, take advantage of the crowd by politely listening to conversations.
While they are your competition, they can provide insight into something you may not have noticed or asked.
Keep a Poker FaceKeep a Poker Face
If interested, discuss with your buyer’s agent soon after you leave. When talking to the agent, don’t disclose personal information such as your current housing situation, financial status, or moving timeframe. Remember that the agent works for the seller, and anything you say will be reported back. Forming a positive relationship is important, but keep your topic focused on the property while keeping your interest at bay. If you seem too eager and excited, you may lose all leverage as a buyer.
Evaluating the PropertyEvaluating the Property
Avoid any criticism about the property until you are in the privacy of your car or back on the street. If the agent or others overhear negative comments, it can come back to haunt you.
Do and Don’t, Tips for Visiting Open Houses.Do and Don’t, Tips for Visiting Open Houses.
There are many tips for buyers visiting open houses to follow. Here are just a few of the dos and Don’ts to keep in mind when attending an Open House.
For the Buyer DoFor the Buyer Do
Attend the viewing with your buyer’s agent. This way, you have your representative there with you. Your agent most likely has attended countless Open Houses over their career so that you can avoid any guesswork on your part with your agent on hand. Since your agent will most likely be handling any negotiation for you, they’re your first line of defense. So, why not have them there upfront? If your agent is not available to attend with you, put their name and phone number on the sign-in sheet so then the listing broker does not assume you are unrepresented.
Greet the broker immediately. If you don’t see one right away upon entrance, say hello and wait for an answer. Perhaps the agent is busy with another potential buyer; wait until they are free before going through the house on your own. If you’ve arrived at a super busy time, the broker should be aware of this and give group tours of the home if everyone is amenable to that.
Be respectful and treat the home as you’d like other visitors to respect your own home. It can include asking about taking off your shoes to walk through the house, shutting doors gently, asking before turning on any lights or faucets, and not going off in unknown areas alone. Also, if you’ve brought children along, keep them close at hand and well-behaved.
Keep your ears open. While you’re here to ask your questions, you might hear some answers you didn’t know you needed by merely listening to other prospective buyers and their subjects. You might also hear some additional information about the home you didn’t know.
For the Buyer Don’tsFor the Buyer Don’ts
Take photos or videos without asking. Before you take out that phone camera to snap photos of the space, keep in mind that this home you’re viewing is, in fact, someone’s home. So, err on the side of caution; ask the homeowner or the agent if it’s OK to take photos/video. It’s also helpful to share your reasoning for footage with them—it will help put them at ease. Most likely, your given permission. But it’s always the best bet to ask first. You don’t want to be on anyone’s wrong side regarding a possible home purchase.
Open any doors that are closed without asking the broker. There may be a personal reason the door to a room is closed. A broker will usually put a sign-up or tape across a door, letting you know the designated area is off-limits.
Touch personal things in the home. While you’ll want to touch and feel as much as you can regarding the home’s foundation, again, keep in mind that this is someone’s home filled with personal belongings. You don’t want to be held accountable if anything breaks or disappears from the home during the Open House. You’ll be doing both the homeowner and yourself a favor by going in with a hands-off personal belongings policy.
Use any disparaging or derogatory language about the appearance or condition of the home. Someone’s house is a reflection of themselves, and nobody wants to hear negativity. Any home furnishings and décor decisions are all up to opinion. And that opinion isn’t yours to make until you’re the homeowner yourself. So, keep it classy and save your views until you’re safely in the car and out of earshot of others who your remarks might influence.