Attending an open house is still the best way for prospective homebuyers to get a handle on a property before seriously considering an offer. It can even help to attend open houses without much intent to buy that specific home – first time buyers are often encouraged to visit homes in the general neighborhood where they might actually make a purchase, if only to get the inside scoop from sellers and real estate professionals. No matter when or where buyers are looking at open house listings, it's wise to come into the process with a strategy in mind.
Trust the process
The typical routine of open house visits might be strange to novice buyers, but it doesn't need to be stressful. At any given open house, there may be dozens of people at every stage of the buying process walking through the doors in just a few hours. That includes people casually perusing as well as agents working with clients who may be on their second or third visits.
Many real estate professionals recommend first time homebuyers find a weekend to casually browse an open house here or there. This affords the opportunity to learn how it all works, what kinds of questions people ask and much more. There's even a chance that buyers will meet an agent at the event who is interested in helping them find homes to consider more seriously, if they haven't already signed up for representation. Overall, buyers should approach the open house with an open mind, especially during the early stages of their search.
Know your 'red flags'
As buyers become more serious and focused in their home search, the open house may play a bigger role. It's rare that the formal open house is the first or last time that anyone will see the property before putting in an offer, so it's not always a make-or-break situation for buyers. However, through process of elimination, it may be wise to focus on definitive red flags in an open house and then looking for the characteristics that add value.
According to Realtor.com, some of the most universal red flags in an open house are related to the home's structural integrity. Many of these can be spotted by a trained home inspector anyway, but they should give buyers if they are obvious during the open house.
For example, problems with the foundation are notoriously expensive and difficult to spot, but there are some hallmarks that open house guests might notice: uneven floors or doors and windows that stick are two lesser-known signs of an uneven foundation. A nearby body of water is another possible warning sign that's easier to spot – even if it's just a small stream or creek, nearby water could increase the risk of flooding and water damage.
Open houses are also yet another opportunity to speak more with the current owners and their listing agent. In many cases, buyers who are represented by their own agent can rely on them to talk shop with the seller's agent. Leaving the more technical details and negotiation to them can take some stress of the minds of the buyers, allowing more freedom to feel out the house and imagine themselves living in it.
Coming to the open house with a smart strategy only maximizes the chances of ending up with a great home at the right price.