What to Expect During an Open House

It’s home buying season.  Markets are on the move.  Properties are coming and going and buyers are on the hunt for the perfect place to call home.  Whether you’re a buyer or seller, one of the most exciting aspects of the real estate dance is always looking for just the right partner.  One of the key courting rituals in the world of homebuyer and selling is the open house.  Buyers open up their homes for an afternoon.  Agents put some cookies in the oven.  Prospective buyers come through in droves.  Before you know it, a connection is made and poof, the house becomes the home of the new individual or family.

But before you ask your agent to rope off a time or schedule a day of caravanning between listings, there are few particulars you may need to know about the open house process.  So sit back and bust out that pen and paper.  Homegather is about to guide you through Open House 101.

The Benefits of Open Houses

The concept of hosting an open house is a longstanding tradition in real estate.  Instead of scheduling time with an agent, an open house creates a non-committal atmosphere where prospective home buyers feel comfortable and able to come and go at their leisure.  Buyers in the market feel free to inspect the home and analyze its many faults and weaknesses, knowing that many others are doing the same.  Open houses draw a good deal of traffic from both serious buyers who were sent by agents who had other appointments and from random neighbors or passersby that may have been on the fence about engaging in an all-out home search.

Seller Considerations

Call it herd mentality or safety in numbers.  Open houses make people more comfortable to look which leads to potential sales.  Sellers should be prepared for a great deal of foot traffic.  If a residence is still occupied during the selling period, personal items should be locked away from curious buyers.  A thorough cleaning can also be beneficial and will help meet the exacting demands of those imagining themselves in your home.

As with many things in life, it’s often the first impression that counts most.  Cathy Warnet of Terri O’Connor Realty in Northern NJ comments: “I thoroughly enjoy welcoming buyers into my open house.  Generally, the first few minutes watching a potential buyer tell me most of what I need to know about their likelihood to make an offer.  An open house is also a great opportunity to gauge the overall reaction to a property.  I can then take this information back to my buyer and provide feedback on things like price, staging or areas of concern.”

Buyer Beware

Sellers aren’t the only ones that should prepare themselves for the intricacies of an open house jaunt.  As a potential buyer if you are already working with a real estate agent professional courtesy dictates that you should let the selling agent who is hosting the open house know this fact up front.  Ask your agent for business cards that you can leave at the properties you visit as an easy icebreaker and way to announce that you are already represented.

Speaking of those agents, while there is an expectation of honesty and level of disclosure required by law and ethics when it comes to selling a house, it’s important to realize that the realtor at the open home represents the seller and it is their interests that take the front seat during your visit. Cathy opines that “as the agent at an open house, my responsibility is to the homeowner.  I’m there to sell their house.  The interaction I have with the prospective buyer is always to protect that relationship.”

Closing Thoughts

Don’t let our words of caution throw you off the open house game.  Viewing a host of houses on a given Saturday or Sunday is an invaluable part of the home buying and selling experience.  To this point, Cathy Warnet notes that she always asks the visitors’ opinion of the house.  “This feedback helps the seller and I know if we’re hitting or missing on certain points, price and appearance for example.”  Cathy advises that buyers “not be afraid to ask questions and give feedback.  I want informed customers on both sides as buyer and seller.”



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