There are a lot of articles and resources out there for sellers who are holding an open house, but rarely do you find one that gives some tips for the buyers attending open houses. And yet, when you’re in the buyer’s seat, attending an open house can be one of the key steps towards finding your next dream home!
Here are some quick tips if you’re attending an open house this weekend:
Do A Bit of Research
Whether you heard about an open house in the newspaper, through a friend, or simply driving past a “for sale” house, it pays to do a bit of research ahead of time. Look up the house on MLS or (if you’re working with a buying agent) ask your agent to give you the listing details so you can ensure that the home meets your minimum specifications (number of beds and baths, parking for cars, etc). Then on your way to the open house, take a quick drive around the neighborhood and make note of the things that are important to your family – access to schools, the local convenience store, the ambiance of the neighborhood.
Curb appeal is the first step – does the house appeal to you as you drive up? Can you see yourself coming home with a sigh of satisfaction in the future? Can you see your kids playing in the front lawn?
Curb appeal is also your first indication to how well the home has been maintained. Are the shingles in need of repair? Are the windows up-to-date? Is the yard well-maintained and tidy? Often, indications of poor repair on the outside are a good predictor of what you might find inside.
Walking in the Door
As you go inside the home, you’re probably going to want to look in 100 directions at once, take off your shoes , and meet the listing agent, all at the same time. Take a moment to stand in the foyer and get a sense of the layout of the home. Is there room for your coat and boots (and if not, can you live with clutter in the front hall)? Does the house smell pleasant, with no musty or distracting odors that might indicate poor air circulation?
Meeting the Listing Agent
Chances are, you’ll be meeting the listing agent for the home right away. A good agent will greet you near the door, give you their name and a quick list of the particulars of the home to ensure that you’re at the right open house (you’d be surprised how many people think they’re going to a 4-bedroom home and walk out when they find out that the home only has 2-bedrooms to offer!).
Touring the Home
Every home is different, just as every family. One of the key questions you need to ask yourself is simply this – can you see yourself living here? Does the home’s flow from room to room work for your family’s needs? If you have a number of small children or you’re near retirement, a lot of stairs may be a problem. If you’re an outdoorsy family, easy access to a large backyard is a selling feature. Consider if the home is right for you.
Also look for signs of a well-maintained house. Flooring should be in good condition, appliances updated or in good repair. Pay special attention to the kitchen and baths, which show poor maintenance first. Look for water damage, loose handles, crumbling grout, and poor tiling or paint jobs – all signs that the previous homeowners may not have had the time, money or inclination to have pride of ownership, which may be reflected in the major systems of the house.
On Your Way Out
If the home still interests you, ask the selling agent a few pertinent questions – How recently were the HVAC, windows and roofing updated? Why is the owner selling? What kind of closing timeline is the owner looking for? How long as the house been on the market?
It helps to get the selling agent’s business card or leave your name and number if you think you may be interested in a second private showing or making an offer.
The Follow Up
Open houses are great, but it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the excitement of seeing a home for the first time. Before you put in an offer, be sure to arrange a second viewing, either through the listing agent or your buying agent. Often, you’ll find that your memories of the space and condition of the home are less appealing the second time around. There’s a saying amongst realtors – Buyers should find that the home appeals to their heart on the first showing, and appeal to their head on the second showing. Both are important!