When searching for a new house, going to open houses is an experience that is both fun and enlightening.
There is no better way for first time home buyers to immerse themselves in the home-buying journey than going to open houses. Whether you are eager on making that purchase, or just plainly starting out, exploring different homes in your target location is an interesting and important step in shortlisting potential homes to bid for and purchase.
Admit it, we all get curious and a little bit excited in checking out different houses. This is actually the most engaging and fun part of searching for a new home. Not only that but going to open houses is also a learning experience for home buyers like you, to know more about:
- Houses that are for sale and where to find that dream home
- Important things to watch out for when choosing a house
- The overall community or neighborhood that you are buying into
1. Knowing Your Options
As first time home buyers, you may not feel 100% prepared and maybe a little reluctant in going to open houses. We understand how you feel since as potential new buyers, you’re still not familiar with what goes on in the process and you don’t know what to expect. You might also be wondering what should be done in open houses and how you should behave. Others might be afraid of being pressured into buying or making hurried decisions.
Relax. Don’t worry. We’ll lay down some details to help remove any doubts or hesitations that you might have in going to open houses.
Do your own research
Once you decide that you want to purchase a new home, how do you then find out what’s out there and where these open houses are? It would be good to do some research first on your own. There are various ways of doing so.
Real estate listing websites
You can check out websites such as zillow.com for listings on open houses. You just need to indicate the location (address, neighborhood, or ZIP code) and your requirements, and several options will be provided for you. You can also narrow down your search to zoom in on your specific area of interest.
Newspapers (broadsheet ads or online publications)
Newspapers such as The New York Times or its online publication contains open house advertising which you can easily browse through. You can check out open house schedules on the present day or the coming weekend, whichever is more convenient for you.
Word of mouth
Ask around. Ask friends if they know of any properties for sale. Check out social media platforms and search for listings on those hosting open houses.
Drive around your desired neighborhood
Sometimes, going on a road trip and checking out different houses and designs can be a nice past time. Interestingly enough, you might just get lucky, and stumble upon an open house along the way.
Consult Real Estate Professionals
As a first time home buyer, agents can help you with the ins and outs of the home buying process and notify you about properties that are for sale. They can provide you with a detailed list of bank-owned properties, newly built houses, and resale houses within your area of choice They will gladly inform you of open house schedules which you can check out for yourself or with them. And they can set up a private viewing so that you can take all the time you need in exploring a potential home.
Moreover, seeking the help of a friendly buyer’s agent gives you the advantage of learning about the benefits for first time home buyers. The partnership will also give you the upper hand on some relevant information regarding a property that a seller’s agent won’t readily divulge, such as:
- Are there any offers already made on the property?
- How competitive is the pricing of this home?
- What are the prices of other homes that are sold in the area recently?
2. Explore and see what’s out there
Going to open houses is your hands-on experience in the search for a new home. Prior to checking out several properties, it is always a good idea to list down your must-haves or if you have a partner or spouse, discuss your needs and wants. Also, keep in mind your budget and know how much house you can afford. Balance your expectations vs what’s in the market for your budget.
Get a feel of the type of homes that are up for sale. Do some trend spotting when it comes to newly built or newly renovated houses. See the latest designs and maybe you’ll get inspired in terms of your desired home arrangements. You can also try to ask the seller for contact details of their designer or contractor if you’re really interested.
Going to open houses also gives you the opportunity to check out parts of the home which works and doesn’t work for you and your needs. Seeing fixer-upper properties first hand can give you an idea or a ballpark figure on renovation costs. It is also much better to see a house for yourself since certain flaws can be edited when posted online.
The fun is in the exploration. Try to soak it in and enjoy the experience of going to open houses. Take note of the things you like and those that inspire you. The seller and the agents expect you to look around. Don’t be shy to ask questions to help you decide on whether it is the right home for you.
3. What to expect and what is expected from you
When you go to an open house, keep in mind that it is another family’s home that has been opened up for others to see. There are certain open house etiquette that guests need to observe. These are just simple reminders and things we know that you already practice in your daily lives.
Sign-in and introduce yourself
When you go to open houses, the seller’s agent usually has a sign-in sheet where you enter personal details to help them track visitors and potential customers. Other agents make use of an open house app. This is the information that they will most likely ask you:
- Your name
- Your contact number
- Your e-mail address
- If you have an agent and if so, his or her name
The reason why seller’s agents ask if you already have an agent is that open houses are a great place to find home buying clients for them. If you already have an agent, you should enter his/her name and contact information so they can course questions and follow-ups through your agent. What’s more, if you do not enter your agent’s details, they may not get paid if you buy that home.
Adults only, please
When possible, leave the kids or your pets behind when you go to open houses. This way, you’ll be able to appreciate the activity and give your full attention to the house details. If your spouse or partner can’t be with you and you want them to see the house you like, ask permission from the seller’s agent if you can take pictures to share with your partner or if you can schedule a private showing later on.
Be mindful of the neighbors. Soon, they might be your neighbors too
Don’t block driveways. Be friendly and respectful. Avoid being nosy with the neighbor’s property. It’s not their house that is up for sale.
Follow the rules that the seller’s agent might mention prior to the house tour
Always give a good impression. Though you are free to roam around, be mindful of limitations and of personal space. Avoid overcrowding certain areas with other prospective buyers.
Feel free to look at the property
Walk into the rooms. Open the closets. Check sinks. Take a seat at the living room (when permitted). Check out the backyard, and stay a while if you are truly interested.
Be tactful in mentioning problem areas to the seller’s agent
No house is perfect. When you go to open houses, you’ll see certain repairs needed here or there. But it is best to discuss certain concerns privately with your partner or with your agent. If there are damages, you can take this into account when sending an offer with your price.
4. Important details to watch out for
When you go to open houses, there are certain things that you might want to ask the seller’s agent. But try to keep it casual. Reserve the more pertinent questions for your own agent and they will gladly get all the information for you. It is important to remember that though the listing agent may answer most of your questions, he or she has the seller’s best interest in mind.
There are certain things though that you can ask the seller’s agent straight up so you will know a little bit more about the property and provide you with details to help you decide whether to bid or not.
Why are the owners selling the house?
It might be because of a new job opportunity or a change in the family lifestyle. You can also ask when the seller is planning to move. If it’s a rush sale then you might get the chance to bid at a lower cost.
Sometimes the seller agent may not be able to give you all the information to protect his clients’ confidentiality. For example, if the sellers are getting a divorce and this is why they are selling, the agent may not want you to know as this means clients could potentially accept a lower price to move faster in the process, and if you know this information, you may offer that lower price first.
When is the seller looking to close?
When you see a house and want to buy it, you can strengthen your offer with a competitive settlement date. In most markets, the standard closing is 60-90 days. Certain sellers might need more time if they’re still in the process of finding or purchasing their next home.
How long has the property been on the market?
You can actually get this information online but the seller’s agent can provide you with more information why this is so. When the house has been very long in the market, it may be because there are problems with the property. Perhaps there’s a tenant who doesn’t want to move out, or the price is too high. Just be cautious when the property has been in the market for too long.
Any issues, repairs or renovations?
It is important to check home features like the roof, electrical wiring, as well as the piping. If you’re looking at a relatively old property and no recent updates have been done, then this might set you up for some costly upgrades or renovations.
If you are very interested in the property, you can place an offer that is contingent on a property inspection, so you don’t commit to buying the property until you know exactly its condition. This is really common and is a very good practice!
Is the seller flexible on the price?
There is no harm in asking as some sellers give their agents the authority to make price negotiations. If the price dropped, then the agent can also tell you the reasons why.
How many offers have been made?
If there are already multiple offers, then the property might sell fast. But do not forget to stay within your budget. You don’t want to get into a bidding competition with a cost that’s way above your comfort zone.
Side note: Try to be memorable. Make an effort and a good impression so the agent will remember you. This might give you an advantage when you bid for the house that you really like.
5. What kind of neighborhood are you buying into?
The advantage of going to open houses is that you get a feel of the neighborhood – the kind of neighbors, establishments, and schools that are in the area of the property you would like to check out. Observe the community and try to talk to the people there. This is one of the best ways you’ll get first-hand information. Better to know about certain details early on rather than finding things out the hard way. You wouldn’t want to move in a community with a rising crime rate or schools with low ratings, now would you?
What are the neighbors like?
You need to take into account the type of people you’ll be interacting with on a daily basis. It is important that you live in a community that you feel comfortable in.
What are the schools like?
Schools have always been a major consideration for families moving into a new home. You can check online for local school district ratings. However, it is best to ask around how the people there feel about the local schools. The quality of the school district would also have a huge impact on the resale value of your future home.
Are there establishments close by that fit my needs?
It’s not just the property you’ll eventually be buying, it’s a lifestyle. When going to open houses, it is also a good idea to go to the commercial areas and check out the local shops, groceries, and eating places. Hospitals and police stations are other important service facilities that should be accessible.
Ready or not, going to open houses is always a good idea
Going to open houses is a good learning experience, not to mention fun too. If it’s your first time, there is no need to get intimidated. Think that it’s also the first time for other people. And don’t worry about agents being too pushy. The majority of agents know when to give you space and let you explore a property at your own pace. An open house is always a good starting point and it gives you the opportunity to unfold certain questions you might have as a first time home buyer. So get out there and explore!