Though open houses are fairly relaxed, and generally allow unscheduled drop-ins by definition, they also represent a crucial step in the buying process—and may seem stressful as a result. But there’s nothing to fear. Open houses present a great opportunity to get up close and personal with real homes on the market. With that in mind, we’ve answered a few common questions that will help simplify the process—and allow fresh-faced buyers to feel like experts.
1. Should I bring my agent?
As a buyer, it’s up to you whether you choose to bring your agent along. You may do so if you feel they’ll be helpful or if the home is promising. But even non-buyers will occasionally find themselves wandering into a weekend open house purely out of curiosity, and it’s a good idea to view less promising homes, too, to familiarize yourself with the process and local market.
If you do decide to go it alone, make sure you’re upfront about whether or not you’re currently working with an agent. At most open houses, the agent, and not the seller, will be present. You may also be asked to complete a sign-in sheet. Either way, the agent present at the sale may be planning to solicit buyers, so it’s considered proper “etiquette” to inform them if you’re already represented.
2. What should I look for at an open house?
The open house is your first opportunity to inspect the home, property, and neighborhood, and should give you a good idea of whether or not the home meets your standards.
Whether or not you’ve developed a clear picture of what you’re searching for yet, you can confirm basic attributes of the home, including the number of rooms and the size of each room. There are many other important considerations (some of which you may take in without necessarily thinking of them), including floor plan, the presence or absence of natural light, plumbing and electrical systems, garages, attics, and basements—and, of course, the look and feel of both the home and neighborhood.
You should also consider general signs about the market and how the home fits into it, including whether it’s overpriced and underpriced and how long it’s been on the market (usually listed in DOM, or days on market).
3. What about the other buyers?
For the most part, you probably won’t interact with other prospective buyers, though it’s fine to chit-chat (and it may be rude not to in some cases. You may sometimes find yourself alone at the home, anyway. However, if the open house is crowded, you can use other buyers to get some idea of the home’s value. Pay attention to how closely others examine the home, how long they stick around, and how many questions they ask—if other buyers seem especially interested, it’s probably a sign that the home is a good deal or especially desirable, which means it may sell quickly, too.