Open house tips for homebuyers
Get the most from your open house visits
Open houses are a great way to find your next home. You can go to open houses when you are thinking about buying a new home, to help you decide what you want and understand prices.
When you are ready to buy, open houses can help you find homes on the market and make the right offer for you. Think about these tips when you are searching for your next home!
1. Research the home online first
Most homes for sale these days have web listings which describe the house’s features including price, estimated monthly payment, number of square feet, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, lot size, age, and more. Use these listings to identify open houses that make sense for you to visit.
2. Make a good impression on the seller’s agent
Open houses are often run by real estate agents who represent the seller. These agents usually help the seller choose whose offer to accept. Making a good impression can help persuade the agent to recommend yours. So be reasonably well dressed, well organized, well informed, and serious.
The agent will probably ask you to sign into the open house and may have requests like removing your shoes to keep floors and carpets clean. Agreeing to these requests also helps make a good impression.
3. Ask the agent questions
Open houses are an opportunity to ask why the homeowner is selling, how long the home has been on the market, about repairs and upgrades , about the neighborhood and schools, and more. These questions can also show you are a serious buyer.
4. Don’t answer the agent’s questions
Remember, the agent at open houses usually represents the seller and the seller’s interests. You don’t want to give the agent information that could be useful during negotiations later such as the price you are willing to pay for a home and when you want to buy. Be polite but vague with your answers. When you love a home, keep a straight face and keep this information to yourself.
5. Ask to see the property tax and disclosures documents
The agent running the open house often has current property tax information. Knowing this will help you understand the total cost of buying the home.
The agent might also have the home’s real estate disclosures, which can include information such as significant repairs made to the home or other issues that may not be easy to see during the open house.
6. Bring a tape measure and flashlight
A tape measure will help you judge the size of rooms and decide if they are large enough to fit your needs. A flashlight can help you inspect the plumbing under kitchen and bathroom cabinets as well as attics, basements, garages, and more.
7. Perform a low-key home inspection
During the open house, you’ll want to look for obvious signs of maintenance or repair issues with the roof, foundation, and other structures of the house. Cracks in walls or ceilings, obvious repairs, and water stains can be signs the home has on-going problems. Inspect the windows and doors and test if they open and close easily. Also test if they provide a good seal against heat and cold by holding out your hand and feeling for drafts.
Turn on faucets to test the water pressure, turn lights on and off, look under sinks for signs of leaks or mold. Test the appliances and determine their age, particularly the heating and cooling system. Also look for problems the seller might be trying to hide. An oddly placed picture or piece of furniture might be hiding a problem. Rugs can be used to hide damaged floors. Strongly scented candles or potpourri might be trying to cover up the smell of a problem with the house.
8. Make notes, take photos and videos
Don’t trust your memory. Instead take notes about everything you like and don’t like. Taking photos and videos are a good idea too but ask permission first since these are pictures of the seller’s private home.
9. Check out the other homebuyers
Other people at the open house may be your competitors if you make an offer on the house. So check them out but do it discreetly. It’s particularly useful to know how many buyers have attended an open house. Lots of visitors often mean lots of competing bids. Few visitors can mean the seller will have fewer offers, which might give you an advantage. Be sure to treat the other buyers politely.
10. Don’t bring pets, food, or drinks
Most sellers work hard to clean their homes and make them ready for open houses. Respect them by treating their homes the way you would want a visitor to treat yours. If you bring children to an open house, make sure they behave in the way you would want children behaving in your home.