Buyers new to the housing market often don't know where to start their search. In fact, sometimes they don't even know for certain in which community they want to make their home. Even knowing the type of house-style they want is a mystery. If they're the first in their family to own property, narrowing down choices seems monumental.
A great way to start is viewing homes in magazines and online, wandering through Pinterest boards, and visiting open houses.
Two Types of Open House Events
Open house events are not equal. One kind of open house is a builder's model. Model homes operate more like retail showrooms in that the builder typically sets up an office in the garage of one of the models and then stages one or more homes for buyers to view. The models display options from flooring to appliances and cabinetry, allowing potential buyers to choose what fits their aesthetic or their budget. Builder-grade is the base model, and all other features are optional add-ons.
The salesperson overseeing the builder's model open house typically works directly for the builder or developer and sells directly to the consumer, just as a retail store does. While the selling agent may appear to champion the buyer, ultimately their employer is the developer, so take that into consideration. This type of open house conforms to typical retail business hours for the housing industry.
The second type of open house is hosted by a selling agent that represents a homeowner. These are one-time planned events with defined hours where the homeowner typically vacates the premises while the seller's agent shows the home to prospective buyers.
When visiting a builder open house, treat the furnishing the way you would those in a furniture store—look and touch, but be respectful. When attending a private home open house, follow this list of do's and don'ts for bests results.
- DO sign in. If you already have a buyer's agent, make sure to inform the hosting agent. Remember, real estate agents make their living buying or selling homes so be respectful of and value their time with your honesty.
- DO give yourself plenty of time. Plan not to rush through the home and even set aside a few minutes to walk around the neighborhood afterward.
- DO make a list of questions for your agent to ask the seller's agent.
- DO have a list of must-haves or likes but remember to be flexible too.
- DO NOT bring children to an open house. You have no way to know ahead if the home is childproofed or the degree to which the sellers have staged or emptied the home.
- DO NOT bring pets to an open house.
- DO NOT look in cupboards, drawers, or closets that the agent indicates as off-limits. If you're genuinely interested in the home, your agent can schedule a private viewing at a later date.
- DO NOT let making odors such as freshly-baked cookies or candles fool you. Air fresheners may merely mask a hastily removed litterbox, but they might indicate a deeper problem with pet urine in the carpet or mold in the walls.
- DO NOT arrange with the host for a follow-up visit. That is the job of your agent.
- DO collect the selling agent's business card to pass on to your agent.
If you're interested in presenting an offer on a home after an open house or have questions that need answering before you can prepare an offer, DO contact your agent immediately.