Every buyer-to-be approaches open houses differently. For some, they offer a rich looky-loo experience at the very beginning of a house hunt. This empowers you to learn exactly what sort of place you can get at your price point and in which neighborhoods around town. It also helps first-time buyers see how online photos translate into real-world, brick-and-mortar (and stucco-and-hardwood) properties.
At the other end of the spectrum, experienced buyers often use open houses as a convenient way to meet with their agent. It’s much less hassle to tour a large number of homes with your agent over a weekend instead of setting appointments with every single listing agent.
Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned buyer, below are some tricks to help you supercharge your open-house tours.
1. Prep yourself
Sure, you could hop in the car, drive around, and just look for signs. If your market is active, you may even find an interesting house or two that way. But to maximize your time and conserve your energy, create a power-packed open-house viewing tour.
On the Trulia app, you can look at any point on the map and see a bird’s-eye view of the properties for sale, their list prices, and an open-house schedule. Tap on any property’s flag to see a 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 house image again and you’ll see all of its relevant stats and more pictures.
If a home isn’t checking enough of your “must-have” boxes, cross it off your open-house list and pat yourself on the back for saving some serious time. If it looks like it could be a contender, add it to your calendar right from the app.
Tired of driving around 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?
You can use the Trulia app to do the work for you. Simply apply a number of helpful lenses, like where schools and restaurants are located, or where crime rates are lowest, and the map will show just what you’re looking for. With these tools at your disposal, you’ll spend less time pounding the pavement and more time visiting qualified houses.
2. Align with your agent to create an open-house viewing list
Check in with your agent so they can lay out a plan of attack, research your property-specific questions, and make sure all your favorites are on the list. If you do the prep work in advance, it will make your two hours of open-house hunting as productive as possible.
Also, make sure your agent knows if you have a particular interest in a property so they can call the listing agent and give them a heads-up. Then, if an offer comes in before the open house, you will most likely be notified, preventing a surprise come open-house time.
3. Take notes, and compare them
After viewing a home, spend a moment to take some notes to help you remember particular property features. Once you’ve seen five or 10 homes, they begin to blur. Reference notes will be handy for later conversations. Include notes on your initial impressions, questions, concerns, likes, and dislikes about each property so you’ll have a clear picture in your head.
Ideally, after each viewing, compare your notes on all the homes you’ve seen. 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.
The goal here is threefold:
- Compare properties without relying 100% on memory.
- Give substantive feedback to your agent that will help them help you prioritize new listings and learn what you are looking for at a nuanced level.
- Compare detailed pros, cons, and takeaways of each house substantively, rather than just saying you liked or disliked it.
4. Use open houses as a screening tool
Excellent viewing notes also allow you to narrow down all the places you’ve seen to a short list for second takes. Good notes, organized by “great,” “good,” “bad,” and “ugly,” can especially help if you were at first 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.
Do you have any tricks for taking away the most value possible out of open-house viewings? Share in the comments below.