It’s October! Time for pumpkin-spice lattes, attic diving for sweaters, and “earning” one more hour of sleep thanks to DST; but more importantly, it’s time to find that new home you’ve been searching for!
With summer gone, most real estate markets will shift from the fast-paced seller’s market towards being buyer-friendly as inventory starts to pile up, and that spells perfect timing for those buyers unable to find the right deal during the past few months. As a buyer, you may see more and more “Open House” offerings and price reductions as the year draws to a close; this is a great opportunity to shop without the pressure of scheduling showings or competing with multiple offers.
Maybe you’ve never given Open House shopping a shot for fear of being cornered into making offers as on a used car lot, or maybe you’re worried about “showing your cards” and exposing your housing needs to potential sellers- real estate agents can be extremely scary after all, ha! Remember, though, Open Houses are the seller’s way of generating interest in their property; it’s very possible this is their 2nd or 3rd attempt at marketing their home, and it’s likely that they are anxiously awaiting ANY and ALL offers. You should take Open House signs as your queue to motivated sellers; after all, why would the owner go through all of the trouble in setting up these viewings if not to sell the home?
The advantage you have is that the listing brokers/sales associates present for these showings are going to be extremely focused on this particular property and will typically have more detailed information on its history, features, and any neighborhood characteristics. If nothing else, attending Open Houses will help you get a feel for your desired neighborhood, market conditions, and may help you find an agent (like me!) to aid you in locking up the sale.
With that in mind, here are some things to keep in mind as you shop:
OPEN HOUSE ETIQUETTE
- Follow the House Rules
This means abiding by any instructions left by the owner or agent on duty to help preserve the state of the home/viewing so that all potential buyers can enjoy the same experience. Take note of and respect any requests to leave shoes at the door, not enter certain rooms, or refrain from jumping in the pool!
- Leave Kiddos and Canines Behind
Yes, it can be difficult to find sitters for children and pets alike, but it will benefit both you and the seller to view the home “unencumbered.” If you simply can’t find a sitter during the Open House period, take turns with your spouse watching your furry/non-furry offspring outside or in the car. It can actually be a fun way to see if you both notice the same positive/negative attributes of a potential property!
- Introduce Yourself
Find the listing agent and introduce yourself/your spouse; you may be tempted to “sneak” in and take a look around without the risk of being shadowed, but more than likely you’ll end up missing important details about the home and any special offers/considerations the seller is making. Some Open Houses will have a sign-in sheet, which provides a great opportunity to be fed new leads on similar homes.
- Provide Feedback
The best thing you can do for “your neighbor” and the market at large is provide honest feedback about the property. What did you like? What was the home missing from your “must-have” list? Were there aspects of the Open House setting that you liked or disliked?
QUESTIONS TO ASK
- What do people love about the home? (custom cabinetry, natural light, new roof, etc.)
- What problems are present? (dated wiring/plumbing, older HVAC, liens)
- How long has the property been on the market?
- Are there any offers on the table? Any financing restrictions?
- Have their been any price changes? Recent improvements?
- “Good” Smells
Everyone loves the smell of fresh baked cookies or freshly laundered clothes, but beware homes that blast you in the face with “Spring Fresh Flowers” as soon as you open the door. These smells may be indicative of pet/smoke damage.
- Signs of Neglect
Overgrown yards, algae-filled pools, and stained carpets are all indicators that the owner is not as concerned with routine maintenance as they should be; if the lesser items like mowing and vacuuming are too much of a hassle, how do you think the owner feels about bigger ticket items like changing furnace filters, fixing leaks, and remedying pest infestations?
- Abundance of Inventory
If you notice ten “For Sale” signs on the same street as your subject property, you might want to consider what is causing such a large pool of inventory (i.e., nearby industry change, economic recession, recent natural disaster, etc.). It may also be an indicator that the market has not yet responded to the increase in supply and decrease in demand.
- Unfinished Projects
While upgrades/updates are nice, seeing a home in transition may signal that the owner/seller (or their contractor) ran out of money prior to finishing a particular project or cut corners in order to save on cost; furthermore, unfinished improvements may cause complications during financing.
Most importantly, don’t let your preconceived notions of a property, the presence of other buyers, or the Open House process prevent you from landing your dream home; if you see a sign during your search, stop on in and meet a local Realtor! If you have a agent helping you, invite them to join you. Who knows – today might be the day your offer is accepted!