A Guide to Open Houses for Buyers

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On your home buying journey, attending open houses is part of the information-gathering phase. As you prepare to make one of the most significant investments of your life, open houses allow you to visit different neighborhoods and observe other prospective buyers reacting to the properties. You will also have the rare opportunity to speak directly with the listing agent. Therefore, developing a list of questions and a strategy for gleaning as much information as possible prior to visiting open houses will help to make this a valuable step in the buying process.

As you embark on the weekend ritual of attending open houses, here are some tips to make the most of your experience:

Bring supplies. If you are visiting multiple properties, it will be helpful to have a way to organize information. Consider bringing a notebook in which to record your observations of each home and a folder for storing flyers. You may also want to bring a tape measure to help determine whether the rooms in a particular home will accommodate your furniture.

Focus on features that cannot be easily changed. Does the home have tacky paint colors or an unkempt yard? If so, these issues should not necessarily repel you as they can be rectified with a minimal investment of time and money. Instead, look for attributes that you will not be able to change easily, if at all. Examples include the home’s location, lot size, and floor plan. In addition, try to observe the structural condition of the property. Do elements such as the roof, walls, or foundation show signs of disrepair? If so, this could be a red flag that the property would require a substantial investment.

Ask about the home’s price history and number of days it has been on the market. If the property has been on the market for a long time or the sellers have lowered the price more than once, there is a greater likelihood that they would accept a lower offer.This information may help you formulate a purchase strategy.

Investigate the neighborhood. There is a reason that “location, location, location” is a central tenet of real estate: the location of a property is one of its only immutable features and will have a significant impact on your happiness as a homeowner. Take the time to drive or walk around the area. Does it seem quiet or busy? Are the properties well-maintained? Is the neighborhood family friendly? Are there schools, restaurants, and grocery stores nearby? If you encounter any residents, try talking to them to glean their opinions of the neighborhood.

Do not volunteer too much information about yourself. While the goal of any real estate transaction is to achieve positive outcomes for both the buyer and seller, it may be advantageous to approach the home buying process as an adversarial situation. If you end up liking a home you visit well enough that you decide to make an offer, remember that the agent at the open house will be representing the seller’s best interests. Therefore, refrain from volunteering any information that could harm you in negotiations, such as the fact that the property is the best you have seen or that you need to buy a home as soon as possible due to time constraints.

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