One of the most exciting parts about being a buyer is getting to go to all sorts of open houses. However, when you’re actually thinking about making a purchase, these outings take on a much different flavor than when you’re just visiting one for something to do on a Sunday afternoon. All of a sudden, there’s a new level of seriousness involved. After all, the next house you see could end up being the one.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of tips on how to make an open house work for you. Read them over and keep them in mind for the next time that you find yourself taking a tour.
Focus on functionality
Sometimes at open houses, buyers have a tendency to get hung up on aesthetics. It’s understandable. If the homeowner’s personal tastes really don’t match your own, it can be a struggle to look beyond bad wallpaper or loud furniture. However, if you let yourself get caught up on those items, you’re only doing yourself a disservice because you’re not really looking at all the house has to offer.
Instead, it’s important to focus on the property’s functionality, or how it will hold up in your day-to-day life. Think about things like how the home’s location will impact your commute to work; if there are enough bedrooms and bathrooms for your whole family; and if the overall layout makes sense to you. While aesthetics can easily be changed once you own the home, these factors cannot. You’ll want to make sure that you find a home that functions well for you from the start.
Yes, I really mean everywhere. While it may seem a little improper to be opening up someone else’s closets and peeking in their cabinets, doing so is what will really give you a sense of how user-friendly the home will be. After all, no one wants to buy a home only to find out that there’s no storage to be found. With that in mind, make sure you take a tour of the whole house—including its nooks and crannies—before you leave.
That said, look, but don’t touch. Since the current homeowners likely haven’t moved out of the home yet, you’ll likely see a lot of personal belongings as you walk through the home. Leave those alone. It’s just bad form to touch something that doesn’t belong to you or to flop down on someone else’s bed. As a rule of thumb, you want to respect that home the same way that you’d hope others would respect your own.
This tip is especially crucial if you plan on visiting multiple open houses on the same day. Often, since you only have a small chunk of time to view each property, it’s easy to forget important details or to have the distinctions between each one become muddled in your memory. The last thing that you want to have happen is to miss out on the perfect property for you because you’ve accidentally confused it with another.
That’s why I recommend jotting a few notes down about each one. If you’re shopping with a partner, try to do it separately so you can compare thoughts later. The notes don’t have to be lengthy or extensive. A few keywords that will jog your memory will do. Then, when you’re done viewing the open houses, you have a guide to help you recap your experiences. You’ll also know right away which properties warrant a second look.
Finally, open houses have one big benefit over a traditional showing. The listing agent is there and available to answer any questions that you might have about the property. If you think you might be interested in the home, do yourself a favor and ask away. The listing agent may be privy to information that could help you make the decision to submit an offer. Odds are, he or she will be more than happy to share any info that might make your decision easier.
Keep in mind, however, that there are some things a listing agent can’t answer for you. While all factual info about the house—like what school district it’s in or how much you can expect to pay in property taxes—is fair game, subjective information is not. The listing agent legally cannot speak to the quality of the neighborhood or the school district. You’ll have to do that research on your own.