Being an informaed buyer means collecting as much information as you can about the market in which you are going to take part in........there's no room for guilt here.
Be up front and make this declaration to the agent doing the open house. I'm sure they will provide the same level of information and enthusiasm.
Great to see someone id planning for the future...........
The "Eckler Team"
Jon - in addition to Open Houses, get out to some of the Neighborhood Home tours to see how poeple live, how they decorate and to get to know the neighbors in the neighborhoods that interest you. Go to neighborhood association meetings - many neighborhoods, especially Intown, hold monthly gatherings where politicians, real estate developers the local police officers who work the beats and the active, caring people who live in the area gather to make progress and deal with things that needs to be dealt with.
For instance, the South Atlantans for Neighborhood Development hold their tour of Ormewood Park/EATL area homes on 10/18-19. Come to the super cool East Atlanta Strut on 9/20. See some beautiful older homes on the Grant Park tour on 9/27-28.(see web reference)
Otherwise, Joshua and Deryk are right - get your money lined up and know your purchasing power.
One more thing - you'll meet hundreds of real estate agents while attending Open Houses. Just remember the good ones - give them permission to follow up with you - interview a short list and you'll have one terrific agent on your side when the time to purchase actually comes.
Get your real estate on.
Go for it!!!! This is a perfect opportunity to see what is out there right now for the money. Just be honest to the agent holding the Open House so that they can give the seller "true" feedback.. If the home owner is holding the open house than you might want to limit the conversation about the actual time frame. But I think this is a great start for you! :) Valerie Corpora-Ellis 770-262-8480
Everyone is welcome at open houses, that is why they are "open"! Go satisfy your curiousity, define your wants and needs in a home...and use them as further motivation to get into your first place.
Be honest with the agents at the homes that you are not in the market at the moment, but also ask them lots of questions! It may also be a way to identify a potential agent that knows the market in which you are looking to buy. To build on Lee's advice, get thier cards and stay in touch with them over the course of the year.
Additionally, if you do find an agent you like you can ask them to set up a "hot sheet" of new listings that meet your potential criteria via e-mail.
Go see 'em! Especially open houses. In fact, you might even contact a good Realtor now. A lot of the buying process comes down to strategy and market knowledge. With a year under your belt looking you'll have a good grasp of the market and what you can get for your money without getting sellers excited about a "showing."
The only downside of open houses is that you tend to spend time looking at homes that don't match your criteria. A good Realtor can send you a list that matches your criteria more specifically.