Every buyer-to-be uses open houses differently. For some, they offer a rich looky-look experience at the very, very beginning of their house hunt. This empowers you to learn exactly what sort of place you can get for the money, at various price points and various spots around town. It also allows brand new buyers to figure out how the photos you see online translate into real world, brick and mortar (and stucco and hardwood) properties.
At the other end of the spectrum, serious buyers often use Open Houses as a convenient opportunity to meet up with their agent and cruise through a large number of interesting homes at one time every week without having to go through the rigmarole of setting appointments with every single seller.
Whether you’ve just decided that buying a home is something you want to do or you are a seasoned, serious buyer waiting for that moment when “the one” hits the market, supercharge your Open House hours. See more properties that are real contenders and minimize time-wasting with these four tactical tricks:
1. Prep yourself. Sure, you can just hop in the car, drive around and look for signs. If your market is very active, you can even find an interesting house or two that way. Or you can maximize your time, conserve your energy and make sure you see as many real contenders as possible in a couple of hours on the weekend by doing a little bit of digital research to create a power-packed Open House viewing session.
On the newly beautified Trulia app, you can take a look at any point on the map and see a birds-eye-view of the properties for sale, their list prices and which of them have an upcoming Open House. Tap on any property’s flag to see the property’s photo and a few of the most important details (price, address, bedrooms, and bathrooms), while still seeing the map view. For even more info, tap the image of the home you’re interested in and browse all of its relevant stats, including more pictures. If a home isn’t checking enough of your “must-have” boxes, cross it off your Open House list for the weekend and pat yourself on the back for saving some serious time. If it is, add it to your calendar right from the app.
Tired of driving around different neighborhoods trying to determine if they’re a good fit for your family? Where’s the nearest grocery store? What’s that shady-looking character doing on the street corner? Now you can do it digitally. View the map of your target areas through a number of helpful lenses, like where schools and restaurants are located, or where crime rates are lowest. With these tools at your disposal, you’ll spend less time pounding the pavement so you can have more of your weekend back.
2. Align with your agent to create an Open House viewing list. Via the app, share the properties that you think you’d like to visit on the weekend with your agent. Ask them to do the same, sharing any properties they think you should view at Open House time with you. Then, check in via phone or email to firm up the list so they can plan out an efficient map, do some deep dive research into any property-specific questions you have in advance, and to make sure you don’t have any surprises in the form of places you really wanted to see that don’t make your agent’s list for whatever reason. Do the prep work and get on the same page with your agent in advance. It’ll make your two hours of Open House Hunting as productive as a less-prepared buyer’s two weeks’ worth of hunting.
One more thing. Making sure your agent knows you are really excited about a particular property at Open House time allows them to touch base with the listing agent and let them know you might have some interest. That way, if they happen to get an offer from another buyer between the time you mention the place to your agent and Open House time, your agent will probably get a call. This prevents you from getting the awful surprise that happens when a great place goes into contract before you can see it.
3. Take notes, and compare them. After every home you see, spend a moment taking down some notes – ideally in writing or on your app – that just help you remember which property features went with which address/price/listing. Once you’ve seen 5 or 10 or 25 homes, they begin to blur, and it often comes up that you’ll want to look back and reference a particular home you visited in a later conversation with your agent or your partner. Having a few notes on your initial impressions, questions, concerns, loves and dislikes about each property prevents you from being frustrated when you later want to have a conversation about it.
Ideally, after each property you see or, at the latest, at the end of your Open House tour on a given day, you’ll also take and compare your notes about the properties you saw that day. I suggest listing out the good (what you liked), the bad (what you disliked), the ugly (any serious deal-killers) and then also the great elements for each property. Think of the great as being akin to clicking the Facebook “Like” button for a property, if that Like button were amped up to “Love.” The Great are those features – or combination of features – so strong that the property is something you’d consider writing an offer on.
The goal here is three-fold:
- to give you the ability to compare properties without relying 100% on memory.
- to allow you to give substantive feedback to your agent that will help them help you prioritize new listings as they come on the market and learn what you are looking for at a nuanced level
- to allow you to compare notes at the end of each Open House Hunting session with your agent or your partner (whoever you’re buying the property with), and to be able to compare pros, cons and takeaways substantively, rather than just saying you liked it or disliked it.
4. Use Open Houses as a screening tool. Here’s the other thing that taking good Open House viewing notes on each property does: it helps you narrow down all the places that looked kind of interesting to a short list for second takes. Good notes, organized by Great, Good, Bad and Ugly can help if you were hypnotized by beautiful staging or turned off unduly by ugly, easily fixable cosmetics. If you love a place, but it still has a lot of bad or ugly line items, or you dislike a place that actually has a lot of “Great” things about it, you can ask your agent to arrange for a private, second viewing before making an offer or totally crossing it off the list.