UPDATED FEBRUARY 10, 2016
If you’re like most buyers, you’ll be visiting open houses as part of your search. How do you maximize your time there and avoid common pitfalls? Read below for open house dos and don’ts.
Things to Do
Get The Scoop
Ask the open house agent plenty of questions about the condition of the property, house features, neighborhood, nearby retail, transportation, etc. This is their job at the open house after all. You could try to get a glimpse into the sellers’ motivation for selling, but good agents will dance around the question, so they don’t jeopardize their client’s negotiating position.
Assess The Sellers and Their Home Maintenance
Check out the overall presentation. This is the sellers’ time to shine. Did they make the house look perfect (sparkling clean, tidy, smelling nice)? If they wouldn’t spend the time and effort to do this, I’d question how serious they are about selling and/or how well they take care of the property.
Try to find out the date of manufacture for the major systems (water heater, HVAC, sump pump) as well as the appliances. If there is a basement, check for a radon mitigation system. Look for signs of water erosion around the yard and driveway. Do all the downspouts have extensions carrying water away from the foundation?
Is This The House for You?
Make sure to look behind every door to assess how much storage is available. Would it be enough for your present and future needs? Also take a look at the kitchen counter space. Can you fit your coffee maker, toaster, etc.? Most sellers will clear out the counters to make them look bigger, but this makes it harder to visualize how much useful space there is. While looking around the closets and kitchen cabinets, do you see a lot of cleaning supplies? This is generally a sign of good homeownership.
See if your furniture will fit. Some might consider it an overkill, but bringing a tape measure is a great idea. Again, think not only about the present stuff you have, but also about what you may acquire going forward.
Things to Avoid
Be very careful what you divulge to the open house agent. Legally, they represent the sellers. So if you accidentally mention you need to move in 30 days because your lease is up or how long you’ve been looking for a house just like this, the agent is contractually obligated to pass this along to the sellers. And agents can have pretty good memory if it will help their client.
There are neutral and unsuspecting ways to get information out of you. They could ask questions like: what’s your current situation like? or how is your search going? Before you know it, you could be telling them things you really shouldn’t.
And apparently some sellers have started utilizing baby cams and other surreptitious methods to sneak up on potential buyers. The legality of these can be a gray area, but something to keep in mind when discussing the house.
Keep It Clean
Oh, and try not to make a mess. It probably won’t help too much if you end up making an offer 🙂
Did you go to an open house recently and had some additional questions? I’ll be happy to get some answers for you. The best way to reach me is by filling out the form below: