Open House Etiquette For Home Buyers: Top 6 Tips

in Financial Planning by

KEY POINTS
  • Treat each house as a chance to hone your homebuying skills.
  • Learn what you like, what you don’t, and what you can afford.
  • Get ready to commit to the biggest purchase of your life.

Spring ’tis the season for… open houses! Flowers are sprouting and so are available properties. In many housing markets, spring is the time when the bulk of houses for sale are listed. If you’re toying with the idea of buying a home in the near (or even not-so-near) future, do yourself a favor and spend a few spring weekends cruising open houses. According to Freddie Mac, March marks the beginning of spring home buying season, and around 40% of home sales happen between March and June. Thus, now is definitely the time to hit the open house circuit!

Frequenting open houses is a great way to get a handle on your local real estate market, and it’ll give you a sense of what to expect in your price range. My husband and I visited more than 270 open houses before buying our Cambridge, MA home, which turned out to be an excellent strategy. We learned what to look for, what price to expect, and—perhaps most critical—what we wanted in our eventual home.

Why To Take Advantage Of Open Houses

1) Date Before You Commit

I like to think of open houses as the dating phase of real estate. There’s no pressure to solidify anything long-term, and you can learn about the house-buying process in a low-stress environment. Attending an open house doesn’t put you on the hook for purchase. Anyone can waltz in, as that’s exactly what they’re intended for: to generate foot traffic through homes for sale.

Since you don’t need to work with a real estate agent in order to visit an open house, it’s an opportunity to go at your own pace and conduct your own research. Once you’re signed up with an agent, they’ll work hard to get you paired off with a house, which is helpful if you know what you want, but daunting if you’re uncertain about your housing needs and priorities.

2) Hone Your Real Estate Savvy

Going to a plethora of open houses enabled my husband and me to hone our eye for what to expect in our price range and also clued us into what constituted a good deal in our housing market. Enfranchising ourselves before we bought made us confident negotiators and decision-makers when the time came to put in an offer. We knew we wanted our current home within minutes of touring it—we’d seen enough properties to know it was the one.

3) Free Entertainment

I’ll admit it, another reason I adore open houses is that they provide terrific free entertainment. Who doesn’t want to snoop around other people’s homes? Ok maybe that’s just me… but I do find it’s valuable to make the experience an enjoyable pursuit, rather than drudgery. After all, there’s no need to fear buying a home! It can be fun, I swear!

How To Be An Open House Pro

1) Ask Questions

Once you’ve decided to commit the time to open-housing (oh yes, it’s a verb), make sure you’re taking full advantage of everything this wonderful springtime pursuit offers. Since open houses are often shown by the listing agent, this is your chance to ask a real estate professional any burning questions you have about the home, or the market in general. My husband and I developed a fairly standard set of questions that we asked at just about every open house we attended, including:

  • Is there a homeowners or condo association fee?
  • How old is the roof? (always good knowledge to have)
  • Does a parking spot come with the property? (especially key if you’re looking in a city, as we were)

2) Gather Ample Data

In addition to asking questions, take a listing sheet, which contains photos of the home, details on the floor plan, square footage, and of course, the asking price. Avail yourself of all the fantastic information that’s available online as well. And, crucially, take a look a few months later at what the homes you’ve toured actually sell for. The asking price is one useful data point, but the sales price is an even more telling indicator of the type of market you’re in. Are homes routinely selling for over or under asking? This is a salient tidbit when considering what you’ll be able to afford.

3) Pretend To Buy A House

This was our favorite part of any day spent touring open houses. My husband and I made it a habit to pore over the listing sheets of every house we’d seen and discuss them in great detail—as if we were in fact going to purchase one of them. By considering each house as a case study, we had ample opportunity to explore our likes, dislikes, neighborhood preferences, and more.

When we started doing this, we were still years out from actually pulling the trigger on home ownership, but this exercise taught us what we value in a given property, what our deal breakers are, and what we could conceivably afford one day. Most importantly of all, this routine helped us get on the same page with the concept of our dream house. Over the years, we developed a knack for knowing what the other person would think of a property and, we aligned our vision of what we wanted to purchase. If you’re planning to buy a home with another person, this is absolutely vital.

Prepare For The Biggest Purchase Of Your Life

Since a home is the largest purchase most of us will ever make, doing extensive research—through the very enjoyable process of perusing open houses—is a worthy investment. My husband and I don’t regret purchasing the home we did (for the price we did) in large part because we did our homework ahead of time. Having dozens of open houses filed away in your brain will help you move quickly when you do find your ideal abode—an attribute that’s essential in hot real estate markets where properties sell in mere days. Good luck!

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Mrs. Frugalwoods

Mrs. Frugalwoods

Mrs. Frugalwoods writes at www.frugalwoods.com about her journey to financial inde-pendence by age 33 and a homestead in the woods with her husband, daughter, and greyhound Frugal Hound.

13 comments

  1. Anonymous

    O

    Reply
  2. emily bennette

    This is some good suggestions to know about if you want to go to a lot of open houses. I like that you talked about how you should get the right amount of data before leaving. That way, you don’t have to waste your time and you can know if you want to pursue the home more.

    Reply
  3. Sarah Smith

    My husband and I are looking to sell our home this winter. Honing your real estate savvy is a smart idea so that you can now the home you want when you see it. Another thing to consider is to get help from a real estate agent that you like and get along with.

    Reply
  4. Luke Smith

    Your advice to use open houses as an opportunity to go at your own pace and conduct your own research made a lot of sense. I know that a real estate agent is trying to do a good job by helping get you paired with a house as quickly as possible, but I can also see your point about how that could be intimidating when you’re still not sure what you want. Taking advantage of open houses to find out what you’re looking for in a property before going to an agent to find one to buy would probably make it easier for them to do their job.

    Reply
  5. Leviticus Bennett

    I like your tip to ask questions like the age of the roof when you’re visiting homes. I think it’s also a good idea to ask about other things like smart technology. It’d be nice to find a home with some smart technology pre-installed.

    Reply
  6. John Mahoney

    I loved how you said that attending open houses can help you do your own research and find the style you like best in a house. It makes sense that visiting open houses can help you have a feel for what houses are supposed to be like and set you on the right path to buy. Personally, I would want to make sure I start this process well in advance and make sure the agent I choose has my best interests in mind.

    Reply
  7. Nick Tait

    Before involving in the buying and selling process of a home, we should first learn some basic things about the process and legal things. Apart from these, we should also take the support of real estate to get a good money for our home, but before that, we need to do some kind of renovation and remodeling to give our home a perfect look to sell. In the case of buying, we should follow the instructions present here in this article, thanks for such a wonderful post.

    Reply
  8. Ernest London

    Thanks for the tips for going to open houses! My wife and I are going to buy a home this year, and we are having trouble choosing the right home. I like that you mentioned to ask plenty of questions. That way, you can get the first hand information you need.

    Reply
  9. Arish

    Thank you for sharing great information. Nice post. I enjoyed reading this. The whole blog is very nice found some good stuff and good information here Thanks.

    Reply
  10. Ridley Fitzgerald

    We are hoping to buy a new home before the year’s end, and I know open houses will be a big part of that process. I like how you said that going to these can be fun, instead of a chore. When my wife and I start searching, I’ll be sure to keep a positive attitude!

    Reply
  11. Keith Gumbinger

    That you started this process years out from your actual purchase is a small but important fact. Visiting homes, reviewing floor plans and more is key to developing a sense of what you like and what you don’t like. Later, when you are actively searching for a home to buy, this can eliminate needless browsing or visiting properties that won’t be acceptable to you.

    This sharpening and narrowing of focus on what you need and don’t need, want and don’t want can also facilitate critical comparisons among similar properties and allow you to move decisively when the right house presents itself. If two homes may have similar property sizes, number of rooms, bathrooms and more, other items can gain more weight in the decision (i.e. laundry room on the same floor versus basement, more windows versus fewer, etc.), and by having a relative sense of value of these items already developed, you’ll spend less time considering and deciding and more time executing and moving forward.

    Reply
  12. Harper Campbell

    It’s good to know that when it comes to going to an open house that there are somethings that we need to do so that we are able to make it a successful. I am glad that you pointed out that we need to ask questions about the place to help us get a better idea about the place. This is something that we will have to remember when we start looking for our new place.

    Reply
  13. Finley Moreira

    My wife and I are looking at buying a home, and we have a couple of open houses we’d like to go to. I thought your suggestion to ask plenty of questions about the home is a great idea to get the most out of the open house. I tend to be forgetful, so I’ll write most of my questions down before attending the open house.

    Reply

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