As you begin your search for a new home you may enjoy going to open houses in your area. An open house is a block of time where the public can tour a home that has recently been listed for sale. The seller agent will typically be in attendance and there may be other people touring the home at the same time as you. An open house is a great time to get into a home without calling an agent to schedule an appointment. You can get a look at the property and also get some questions answered about the home.
In certain situations an agent can take on the role of dual agency and represent the seller and the buyer. However, in order to be well represented while buying a home it is recommended that you find a buyer agent who is there to assist you exclusively. When you are at an open house with a seller agent you don’t want to give away too much about yourself and your home search. Instead turn the tables and ask the agent the hard questions. It will give you a chance to learn more about the property and find out if you want a second look with your own buyer agent present.
Questions to Ask at an Open House
1. Why are the owners selling the house? – This is a great question to get the ball rolling while you tour the house. If they are relocating that can tell you they may be in a rush to sell or they may already be gone making them more eager to sell. Additionally, if they have found another home locally it may mean that this house no longer worked for them. Are there things you can see that may become difficult over time? For example only one bathroom or only 2 bedrooms, a small yard? Understanding the seller can help you envision your future in the home.
2. How long have they owned the home? – Data about past sales of the home are public record and something you can also find out for yourself. Finding out how long the sellers have lived in the home can give you an idea of their frame of mind and also their flexibility on price. For example if the sellers have been there for 20 years and bought the home for a low price compared to today’s values, they may have more flexibility on price then someone who bought just a couple years ago for a high price. But don’t make any assumptions and keep an open mind.
3. How long has it been on the market? – An open house can be held at anytime but they are most common shortly after the home is listed or after a drop in price. Understanding how long it’s been on the market can be very helpful but don’t assume that a house that has been on the market for a long time won’t sell quickly.
4. Are there issues with the home? – Part of a home sale is a disclosure statement. This document gives you a lot of information including the age of the roof, heating system and any issues with leaks or water in the basement. Disclosures gives the seller the opportunity to be up front about any issues before they get an offer. The issues that are disclosed cannot be brought up during the inspection negotiations unless they are worse then originally explained.
5. Have they gotten any offers? – This might not be something the agent is going to share with you but if they do it will give you an idea of the interest in the property as well as the sellers willingness to negotiate.
6. How much are utilities? – If the home you are looking at is at the top of the budget it may not be the best choice if it is expensive to heat or racks up a large electric bill each month. These costs add up and change the monthly expenditure you may have budgeted for.
7. What school district is the home in? – If you have kids or plan to have them in the future, you’re going to want to know the school district that the home is in.
8. Does the neighborhood have an association? – Learn what you can from the agent about the neighborhood you’d be living in. Do they have rules about paint colors or holiday decorations? Understand any limitations you may have on your own property because of the neighborhood.
Going to an open house can be a great introduction to a home you love. Just remember that when things get serious you want to be represented by your own buyer agent before talking details. You may think going to an open house is a casual thing but we encourage you to reach out to the Loan Officers at Title Mortgage for your pre qualification before you even start attending open houses. This will ensure you’re ready to act if you walk into the home of your dreams.