Even if you start your house hunt on Trulia, traditional home-buying methods like open houses are still important, especially in hot markets like New York, NY, Chicago, IL, and San Francisco, CA. In areas where inventory is low and demand is high, even a weekday morning open house can draw a crowd. Want to make an offer that won’t get lost in the shuffle? Follow these tips from real estate experts on how to conquer the open-house hordes and come out with an accepted offer in hand.
1. Request a private home tour before the open house
Private showings are good for buyers who want to take their time and inspect a property without the seller’s agent hovering. Ask your agent to snag an appointment before crowds of other buyers get in the front door. This tactic worked well for real estate investor Nathan Miller when he bought his first home in 2005. “I believe my success in being at the top of the stack was very helpful, because I set the bar for all other offers,” says Miller, founder of Rentec Direct in Grants Pass, OR.
“You should demand to get in,” advises Bruce Ailion, a real estate agent and attorney with RE/MAX Town and Country in Atlanta, GA. “The agent may hem and haw, but make it clear you are going to make an offer on another home now if you can’t get in to see this house. The seller risks losing a hot, qualified, and motivated buyer.”
To capitalize on your private showing, be sure to make a compelling offer on the home. That way, the seller will compare all other offers against your benchmark.
2. Get friendly with the seller’s agent
Whether you hit up an open house or schedule a private showing, if you’re really interested in a property, use your time on-site to create a sincere rapport with the seller’s agent. It could give you an edge in scoring the home. “Real estate is still about relationships,” says Rachel Hillman Foy, owner of Hillman Homes in Newton, MA. Hillman Foy even invites the listing agent to her private showings. “I have found by taking my clients to a private showing when the listing agent attends, I have the opportunity to build rapport with the agent and learn what I can about the sellers — for example, an ideal closing date and their ideal buyer.” Chatting up the listing agent at the open house can get you the same info, but it may be a little harder to get access if there are large crowds or other serious buyers.
3. Get to the open house first
To gather those all-important insights and establish rapport with the listing agent, get to the open house first. You may not have the listing agent’s undivided attention, but you can still get some face time and a chance to make a good impression. Arriving promptly is a great way to show that you’re serious about a home. Bonus: You’ll also improve your chances of seeing the house without a big crowd.
4. Take advantage of open houses on weekdays
When you’re interested in a property, attending the open house — especially if it’s midday or during happy hour on a workday — can give you even more important clues. “The best part of midweek open houses is, they are usually during lunchtime,” says Greg Beckman, an agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Annapolis, MD. “If you can use your lunch break to tour a home before everyone else gets to see it on the weekend, it certainly could give you an advantage.”
Even head start of a day or two before a weekend open house can give you a chance to get your offer in before the crowds have even seen it — a huge advantage. “Inventory levels are so low, it doesn’t take much time to sell a home, and buyers need every opportunity to get access,” adds John Lyons, a real estate agent with Baird & Warner in Chicago.
5. Explore the neighborhood around the home
Since you’re not just buying a home — you’re buying a neighborhood too — you should plan to explore the surroundings as well. Plan a drive-by on a weekday morning or evening. Visit the home during rush hour or drive there from your office to find out what the commute is really like. Take in the neighborhood vibes during the evening. Are there local stores and restaurants you see yourself walking to after work? Park the car nearby and get out to walk around. Note if there are any parks nearby. If you realize the neighborhood isn’t the right fit for you, you might be able to cross the house off your list. If you love the neighborhood, you’ll be one big step closer to submitting your best offer.
6. Keep excitement about the home for sale to a minimum
It’s important to realize that buyers will be there to scope out their competition and get a read on the level of interest in the house. Be sure to keep your excitement under wraps and save the celebrating for when your offer gets accepted. On the other hand, you can pay attention to what other people are doing. Do they look serious? Are they examining the details? Are they asking the agent questions about the home?