By Anita Newhouse
As with any big life decision, buying a home can be stressful. Stacks of paperwork, unfamiliar lingo, the fear of ending up with a smarmy real estate agent who’s auditioning in their own mind for the role of a villainous character on Million Dollar Listing. It’s a lot to process!
Know what can help ease some of that stress? Snacks. Really delicious snacks. Think fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, little crudités cups with hummus for dipping, saucy meatballs served with fancy toothpicks, and those rolled-up wrap things that are stuffed with all kinds of meats and cheeses. Mmm … meats and cheeses.
I’m talking about open houses, of course, a modern-day mecca of free food, and a milestone in your quest to find a home you love.
There are typically two ways to see a house before you buy it. You can make an appointment through the listing agent to take a private tour (no snacks) or you can attend a public open house (snacks!).
The former is something you’ll probably want to save for when you’re really, truly ready to purchase a home. Private tours are best reserved for when you know your budget — go get that pre-underwriting, baby! — and are prepared to make an offer.
You’re welcome to tour a home earlier than that, and Flyhomes makes it easy to request a same-day tour from the app or any home listing, but remember there’s a risk that you’ll fall in love with a home you’re not quite ready to offer on.
A public open house, though, is something you can partake in early and often. Consider them learning missions. They’re a great way to figure out what you really want for yourself and find out if your budget matches your wishlist.
Not only will attending at least a few open houses help you better understand the kind of home you can get for your money in the current housing market, but they’re also fantastic low-pressure opportunities to explore options outside of your home-buying comfort zone. Stop by an open house in an unexpected neighborhood and you might surprise yourself by loving it and widening your search area.
And did I mention the snacks? Because there are very often snacks! Like, there are whole articles on real estate blogs dedicated to all the different kinds of inviting munchies hosts should have on hand for a successful event. Slow-cooker chicken chili, finger sandwiches with cucumber and dill cream cheese, toffee brownies… *Insert Homer Simpson drool noise here*
While open houses are casual affairs, there are a few guidelines to consider. If you’re just beginning your house search and are more interested in gathering information than you are in buying anything, be honest with the host (generally the listing agent or someone who works with the listing agent). Let them know you’re just there to look. You’ll still be welcome to tour the property. Because an open house is a common way for agents to connect with potential clients, you should also be upfront if you’re already working with a buying agent. It’ll save the agent some time and spare you from the unnecessary solicitation.
If the home is currently unoccupied or staged for sale, feel free to explore and take photos — open cupboards and closets, turn on faucets, flush toilets, really get in there! — but if someone is still living there, even if they aren’t present at the open house, ask the host before you start opening drawers and snapping pics. Would you want people taking photos of your medicine cabinet? Probably not!
Be mindful of other visitors while you wander around, too. Don’t crowd into a room someone else is already exploring, and don’t expect the host to be able to answer a barrage of questions on the spot. In a busy housing market, hundreds of people could come through an open house over the span of a few hours, so if you like what you see, grab a business card or brochure on your way out so your agent can get in touch on your behalf.
Many homebuyers spend several weekends a month visiting open house events in and around their desired neighborhood. Make a day of it! After checking out a home, grab lunch at a nearby cafe or visit some local shops. Wander around the area and check out nearby parks or greenways. Imagine what your days would look like if you lived there — you might even discover a new, unexplored area to add to your search! At the very least you’ll get a few free cookies.
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