Open House Tips
While open houses seem pretty casual, savvy buyers know that checking out a home isn't just about aesthetics or a quick view. In today's hot market, you might not get another look before making an offer.
If you aren’t totally sure about how the open-house process works, you aren’t alone. Sometimes homebuyers visit an open house to window shop instead of taking full advantage of the opportunity to get important details about the home. When you visit an open house, you should have several questions prepared for the seller’s agent and you should have already conducted some research, too. You want to leave this process feeling that you have enough information to make a well-informed decision.
Here’s what you need to know about the open-house process:
Know which questions to ask.
You should have several questions prepared, as the open house might be the only chance you get to ask them. If the home is a hot commodity, then other potential buyers might be looking to put in an offer soon.
1. How many offers have been made?
You should always ask the real estate agent if any offers have already been made. If there are multiple offers on the home, it could indicate that the property might sell quickly. If there aren’t any offers yet, then the opposite might be true. Real estate agents hope that multiple offers will push up the sales price of the home. Keep your budget in mind -- even if you love the home, you don’t want to get into a bidding war with other prospective buyers if the result is an unaffordable price.
2. Why are the sellers moving?
The sellers could be moving because one of the owners got a new job across the country. Or they could be moving because the home’s maintenance is unaffordable and the repairs are getting more burdensome. Always make sure to ask the real estate agent why the sellers are moving. If they give a strange or off-putting reason, take note. The last thing you want to do is move into a house the owners sold because of bad neighbors, rising crime or failing schools.
3. How long has the property been on the market? Why?
Learning how long a property has been on the market will allow you to make a knowledgeable offer. Make sure to ask the agent, but also verify their claim with a listing service. It could have been on the market for a while because a previous buyer’s financing didn’t come through. Or maybe the property just went on the market this month and there are plenty of suitors. The context will provide you with useful information that gives you a better idea of how fast you’ll need to take action and how competitive the offer process might be.
4. When was the house built? Has it ever gotten any updates?
You want to make sure that you know when the home was built and if there have been any updates or renovations. Check on key features of the home, such as the roof, piping or electrical wiring. If you are purchasing an older home and there have been no recent updates of these features, you should be wary -- you might have to make those repairs at significant cost in the near future.
5. What are the costs of utilities?
Too often, utilities are an afterthought in the home-buying process. But this is a property you are thinking about living in, and that means you’ll need lights, running water, heat, air conditioning and working sewer pipes. Ask the agent if he or she knows a ballpark of what utilities cost. You don’t want to get further into the process just to find out that the utilities on the property will have a significantly adverse effect on your budget.
6. How eager is the seller to sell the property? Is it an urgent sale or can it happen at any time?
Just as it is important to know why the seller is moving, it is also important to know how eager they are to sell and what their timeline looks like. If the seller needs to offload the house in a hurry, then perhaps they might be willing to consider a lower offer. But if the seller isn’t motivated, then the process might not move very quickly.
7. What are the neighbors like? Have there ever been any issues?
You aren’t just buying a property. You are also going to be spending the majority of your time in a new neighborhood. Even if you like the property, do you really want to live in a neighborhood you don’t feel comfortable in? Ask the real estate agent about the neighbors and make sure there haven’t been any issues. You’ll also want to check online and look at the local shops and eateries. Visit a few and see if they match your lifestyle and meet your needs.
8. What/where are the schools? How are they rated?
Schools are a huge issue for homebuyers. You can check how the local school district is rated online, but nothing beats asking people in person. How do they feel the local schools are serving the students? Even if kids aren't in your near future, the quality of your school district will eventually impact your home's resell value.
POST WRITTEN BY
Forbes Real Estate Council