What Is an Open House: A Buyer’s Guide

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Open house
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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Point2.

An open house presents a unique opportunity for buyers to get up close and personal with their potential future home. It also gives them a chance to ask direct questions about the property.

If done correctly, open houses can be beneficial to everyone involved.

But what exactly is an open house, and how can you get the most out of one as a buyer? Let’s find out.

Open House Basics

open house home for sale
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In a nutshell, an open house is exactly what it sounds like. Sellers will set a day (or several) in which they open up the doors for members of the public, normally prospective buyers, to come into the home and look around.

The seller or their real estate agent will generally host the event. Guests can then walk around the property to get a feel for what it would be like to live there, while asking questions for more information.

Benefits of Attending an Open House

A young couple talks to a real estate agent
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As a potential buyer, there are many reasons why it’s a great idea to attend an open house:

  • Even the best photos or video tour can’t compete with seeing a home in person.
  • You can see if the advertised quality matches reality.
  • A house tour also enables you to check out the neighborhood and neighbors.
  • You can ask the host or their real estate agent questions and usually get an immediate answer.

Getting the Most Out of an Open House Visit

A couple at an open house
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If you’ve never attended an open house, you might be worried about what you can and can’t do. Here are a few pointers for first-timers.

1. Open Every Door

Home with wide doorway
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The purpose of an open house is to sell the home to serious buyers. As such, even if a door is closed, feel free to open it and look around.

Most of the time, the host will try to ensure all doors are open anyway, but occasionally other guests may close them out of habit.

2. Visit With Your Agent

A real estate agent shows a couple a home
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It’s a good idea to bring your agent to a house viewing. They’ll know what to look for and the right questions to ask, and you can also bounce ideas off them.

And, if the home you’re visiting isn’t quite right, you can give your feedback directly to your agent to help them find something more suitable next time.

3. Help Yourself to Fliers and Brochures

Homebuyers talk to agent
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They’re there to be taken and often contain more in-depth information about recent renovations and stand-out features, so help yourself.

Plus, if you’ve visited several homes over one weekend, they can be invaluable for helping you differentiate each property later on.

4. Bring the Kids

Real estate agent talking with a family
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Your new home will also be home for your kids, so it’s only fair to bring them along to see how they feel about any property you’re prospecting.

Just keep them with you and ensure they behave, and you’ll find that the entire family is more than welcome.

5. Ask Questions

Real estate agent
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Home tours give you a fantastic opportunity to discuss the property with the selling agent directly. With the right questions, you can obtain detailed information about the property you’re looking at. Here are a few ideas:

  • Are there any issues with the property? Sellers are required by law to disclose any problems they know about, so be sure to ask.
  • Have you had many offers? Many listing agents will gladly reveal this to you, so be sure to find out. Then, you can make an informed offer that’s more likely to be accepted.
  • How much are utilities? Utilities can significantly impact your monthly budget, so it helps to know what to expect.
  • What is the neighborhood like? Find out about nearby amenities, walkability, and anything important to you.
  • Has the house been on the market long? A house that has been on the market for a long time is usually either overpriced or has issues that have caused previous offers to be withdrawn.
  • What’s your ideal timeline? Knowing whether the seller is in a rush to move can help you make an offer that gets you the most bang for your buck.

Don’t be shy about asking questions, this is one of the few opportunities you’ll have to do so face-to-face, and it can help you make an attractive offer.

What to Avoid Doing at an Open House

Home with Open House sign in yard.
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As well as knowing what you should do during house tours, it’s good to know what not to do. For the most part, this boils down to common sense, and if you’re courteous, you won’t have any problems.

1. Don’t Go Through Drawers or Closets

Chest of drawers
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Opening closed doors is fine, but there’s no need to go through personal items like medicine cabinets or toy chests.

Having said that, there’s no harm in looking at plumbing that might be contained in a cabinet under the kitchen or bathroom sink. This can be a great way to get an idea of the quality of the work that’s gone into the home.

2. Don’t Influence Other Guests

Skeptical couple talking to a salesman about renovating their kitchen
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If you’re not a huge fan of the house you’re viewing, it’s best to keep it to yourself. After all, everyone has their own opinion, and one person’s dream home can be another’s nightmare.

3. Don’t Make a Mess

Older couple in front of a house for sale
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Treat an open home like your own, or even better. For example, wipe your feet when entering, and don’t leave trash around.

4. Don’t Argue About Signing In

Woman with a clipboard
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Signing in when visiting an open home is normal, and it’s just a simple security procedure.

However, arguing with the host about this isn’t a great start and can ruin your chances of having your offer accepted, especially in a hot market.

What to Look For During an Open House

Realtor helping couple with home for sale
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Before you visit an open home, it’s well worth figuring out what you want to get from the visit. Knowing what to look for as you tour the property is a great start.

1. Look Beneath the Surface

Woman looking at kitchen
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Many open homes are staged to look their best, so be sure to look past the eye candy. Instead, look for signs of water damage, cracked walls, faulty pipework, and other signs that indicate regular maintenance hasn’t been carried out.

2. Use All of Your Senses

Man holding his nose to avoid a bad smell in his home
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Don’t just look around when you’re doing a home tour. Pay attention to odors that might suggest problems with dampness, sewage systems, and even gas leaks.

Also, listen out for squeaky floorboards and squealing doors.

3. Look Outside

Corner of house
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A good look outside can reveal major structural defects, such as roof damage or even foundation problems.

4. Explore the Neighborhood

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While you’re in the area, spend some time in the neighborhood. Check out local amenities, as well as the neighboring homes.

While you might not meet your potential new neighbors, you can often get an idea of what they’re like.

5. Trust Your Gut

Happy senior couple in front of their house
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Look for a place that feels right the moment you walk through the door. Some homes might not be perfect, but they just feel good.

Other times, a visibly ideal house might not feel right at all. While you’ll need to take time with your decision, trust your instincts too.

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