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Tips to an Open House: The Buyer's Side

For first-time home buyers fresh out of pre-approval or just taking a look, open houses are a good tool during the early stages of house hunting to help set expectations on what price points they can afford in the area.

In recent years, nearly 10 percent of homeowners found their perfect-fit via yard signs and open houses. Even if current buyers rely on technology and social media, visiting a property or having a chance to meet with agents in person is just as convenient as ever.

For a winning open house visit, here’s some tips for buyers.

Embrace the Wandering.

If you have no clue what you want in a home, or if you need to get your pre-qualification, open houses are a good time to figure out both.

Oftentimes loan officers are onsite ready to help buyers get prequalified.  Equipped with info sheets and smartphone apps, they can calculate the best on-the-spot estimate for various loan programs like FHA, USDA, or VA.

Bring your agent, or find one there.

By going to open houses, you can meet and screen real estate agents in a no-pressure environment. They’re expecting people who aren’t seriously looking for a home to stop in, such as neighbors or passersby. Feel free to let them know that you’re just browsing or in the early stages of home buying. The listing agent will likely offer their services, but this gives you some time to get to know their business or book private showings of the house.

If you’re already represented by an agent, try to visit open houses together and slip in a few during a weekend of house shopping. You’ll both remain on the same page and can leverage the listing agent to get details on what the seller wants without revealing too much of your situation. This opens up your chances for a stronger deal should you decide to make an offer.

Focus on big-ticket features.

Don’t get too distracted by the cosmetic pieces and focus on parts of the home that are pricier to maintain. A fresh coat of paint is nice around the kitchen, but is the roof dated or leaking? This is your time to ask an agent about the details below the surface and get inside the property.

The bottom line:

An open house is an awesome, low pressure way to home shop and is great in the preliminary stages of buying. If there is a lender onsite, feel free to pick their brain or contact the lender you are working with for questions or estimates. Don’t get distracted by the cosmetics of a home. Finally, understand that an open home draws more attention and possibly more competition!