Open houses are the best way to see if space matches your needs by providing time for you to explore and giving insight into the neighborhood and types of people who are 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.
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Open House Viewing Tips for Home Buyers
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 For instance, you won’t see the condition of the building or experience a slow and outdated elevator online.
Why go 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, try to find your representation as soon as you can. You want his or her expertise working on your behalf, finding out information and helping you navigate the process. A listing agent is happy to represent you, but this creates a dual agency. It is a complicated relationship, and we have suggested buyers should avoid this situation.
Open House Etiquette for Home Buyers
If you have a buyer’s agent, let her or him 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 him or her to impart any information that will help you to the detriment of his or her client. A listing agent owes his or her fiduciary duty to the seller.
Tips 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 that is not ready to make a decision 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, he or she 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, he or she has more information to help you find the right home.
Essential Tips When Visiting
Create 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 make sure that all open houses you plan to attend in 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, as that will ensure a smaller crowd and more time with the agent. Finally, dress appropriately, usually business causal is critical.
Focus on the Property
Well-maintained landscaping, common areas, and exteriors show how well-kept the building is as well as indicating repairs that may be needed. 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 has been kept. Lastly, when walking through, visualize yourself living there.
Ask Questions and Listen Intently
Ask probing questions about the seller’s motivation, the reputation of the neighborhood, and nearby amenities. This is 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 that you may not have noticed or asked.
Keep a Poker Face
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. If interested, make sure to call your buyers agent soon after you leave.
Evaluating the Property
Avoid any criticism about the property until you are in the privacy of your car of 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
There are many tips for buyers visiting open houses to follow. Here are just a few of the Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind when attending an Open House.
For 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 any guesswork on your part can be avoided 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 up front? 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. 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 don’t go 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’ts
Take photos or video 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 and 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, you’ll be given permission. But it’s always the best bet to ask first. You don’t want to be on anyone’s wrong side when it comes to 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 home 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 opinions until you’re safely in the car and out of earshot of others who might be influenced by your remarks.