Open houses are the gold standard in real estate. They’ve been around for decades and will be ingrained in the buying and selling of homes for years to come. But as a buyer, are you making the most of your open house visits?
To get the most out of an open house visit, follow these guidelines:
Use the open house to learn about the market without committing
Even if you’re not serious about moving, viewing a few properties in a neighbourhood you like is a great way to get a sense of the market. Who knows? You might stumble upon your next dream home!
New buyers should leverage the open house opportunity to get a feel for the market. Most open houses will have a handout available containing the list price and other property information. Be sure to keep a copy.
Ask the agent questions
Explore the entire property, including the backyard. Don’t be shy about asking the listing agent questions about the property and the neighbourhood.
• Ask about the area. Are there schools nearby? Where is the nearest park or playground located?
• Ask about potential required repairs and renovations. For example, if the furnace is more than 15 years old, it may need to be replaced soon.
• If it’s a competitive market, ask questions such as: “Why is the seller selling?” “Is there a certain day to review offers or have you had a lot of showings?” In a slow market, ask how long the property has been on the market and what the seller’s motivations are. A good agent will engage you because it’s good for his seller.
Many agents are eager to quiz open house attendees about their home-buying plans. "How long have you been looking for a home? Are you working with an agent? Are you pre-qualified for a mortgage?" they ask. Why not turn the tables? An open house can be an opportunity for you to pump a local agent for some information about for-sale homes and the housing market.
Watch the other buyers
You can tell a lot about the activity and marketability of a home by watching the other buyers. If you observe a lot of people walking in and out quickly, the home probably has some issues. Are the buyers hanging around, asking questions of the listing agent and huddling in the corner talking to their spouses or partners? If so, it could be a sign this is a well-priced and “hot” listing. If you’re interested too, observing other buyers at the open house could help you learn about the competition.
Finally, walk around the neighbourhood. Try to get a sense of what it’s like to live there. If possible, chat with a neighbour.
If you become interested in the home, be sure to advise the listing agent that your own REALTOR® will be following up. Otherwise, the listing agent might assume that he or she will be representing you.