So you’re house hunting and think an open house is a good way to check out a property you’re interested in. There are tons of article on the web advising sellers about how to stage their homes to their best advantage, but here are some tips for you, as a potential buyer:
- Be polite. This is someone’s cherished home and no one wants to overhear that you think it’s tackily decorated or “What were they thinking with that carpet?” You never know who’s listening, and you don't want to antagonize a seller you may be negotiating with. Save the snark for the car ride home.
- If you’re there as a lookie-loo, let the agent know up-front. It’s common courtesy, and a good agent knows that word of mouth is a great selling tool. For example: A blighted building on our block underwent a lengthy rehab after a developer bought it, and the neighbors were desperate to see the transformation when it was all done. At the first open house, the place was jam-packed with people ... all of whom lived on the block. The agent was gracious and gave us a thorough tour. Smart lady – because we all went home and told our friends about the snazzy new units. Within a month, all six condos in the building were sold.
- Look up. Hopefully the seller has taken his agent’s advice and cleared out the clutter before putting the place on the market. It’s hard for you, the buyer, to see what the room sizes are like if there are books piled everywhere or there’s too much furniture in there. If you do come across a cluttered home, a good trick for figuring out the room sizes is to look up. If you raise your eyes to the ceiling, you can see how big the room really is.
- Take a peek out of the blinds and curtains. Make sure you know what’s next to your potential back yard or across the street. The seller will want to draw your attention into the house, but you’ll need to know if there’s a cell phone tower, a brick wall, or an abandoned lot right in your line of sight.
- Try to wander about on your own, without an agent at your elbow. A good agent will point out the features he wants you to see, and steer your attention away from the less desirable aspects of the home. Listening to the agent, you may become enchanted by the idea of a Jacuzzi tub, original woodwork, or 42" kitchen cabinets, and you’ll forget to notice that there are no laundry facilities in the place, or that there are room air conditioners when you can’t stand the idea of living without central air.
- Ask permission first, but do try to take photos or videotape of the home as you tour it. This serves two purposes: it helps you remember the home (you’ll probably see so many that they all run together in your mind) and it gives you something to show friends or relatives so that they can give their opinions and insights.
Here are a couple websites to help you know what to look for when you attend an open house: