While many buyers begin their home search online
, websites like Zillow provide limited information about properties’ strengths and limitations. Nothing can compare with viewing homes in person. An open house is a designed period of time when potential buyers can check out a recently listed home. Sunday afternoon is the most popular time for an open house but homes may be available for viewing at other times. At an open house, you’ll have an opportunity to assess the home’s features, layout, and location. While attending an open house is useful, it can be time-consuming. By following these open house tips, you’ll save time and be on your way to home ownership.
1. Conduct research. Use open houses to research the market. See as many homes as you can to understand inventory, neighborhoods and special features that are on your “must have list”. Most open houses are on weekend afternoons. Make time to check out the neighborhood at other times. For example, during the morning commuting hours, after school and early evenings.
2. Make a list and check it twice. Before heading out to an open house, make a list of must-haves and wants. Your must-have list should include the things you cannot live without. For example, the number of bedrooms, parking, and proximity to work or school. Your list of wants is more flexible. You might want a fireplace but could live without it if a home has other features that are more desirable. Writing down your wants and needs will help you stay focused and prevent you from being swayed by a home with a fabulous feature that you may rarely use or might be hard to maintain.
3. Don’t over-schedule. Set a goal of seeing 3 or 4 homes per day. Viewing homes can be overwhelming. Understand your time limitations and try to stick to your goal. If you live in a market like Boston, where homes sell quickly, you may need to submit offers on several homes before one is accepted. In the meantime, continue to see homes that meet your criteria and be happy for the lucky buyers who have had their offers accepted.
4. Organize homes by location. While this may seem like common sense, buyers who are new to an area may not understand distances, neighborhood boundaries and travel times. Group similar homes together so that you can see them quickly and compare features and location.
5. Learn about the pros. An open house is also a good way to see local Realtors in action. How do they interact with clients? Are they organized? Do they seem responsive and helpful? Knowledgeable? Ask a few questions. You’ll be spending a lot of time with your agent. You want someone who is knowledgeable, trustworthy and fun to work with.
6. Check out the marketing materials. Did the agent create a listing sheet that highlights the home’s best features? Are the marketing materials well designed? Is the copy written and error-free? A good agent understands the rational and emotional aspects of buying and selling a home and incorporates both into marketing materials. Well-designed brochures and listing sheets should address common questions and will save you time when comparing homes. Take notes on the marketing materials and review them when you get home. If you are seeing many properties, reviewing the brochure will keep the home front of mind.
7. Treat the home (and homeowners) with respect. Make a good first impression by arriving on-time. Don’t monopolize the agents time or look through the seller’s personal belongings. If you’re attending the open house with a partner, wait until after the open house to discuss any constructive feedback you might have and try to look for the home’s strengths as well as any limitations. If doors to closets or rooms are closed, ask permission before opening. You never know what you might find. Ask before taking pictures and don’t post pictures on social media.
8. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. While it may be helpful to see homes in different price ranges, eventually you’ll want to focus on homes you can actually afford. A mortgage broker will help you understand how much you can afford to pay and will provide a pre-approval letter. And, if you find your dream home at an open house, having a pre-approval means you are one step closer to home ownership.
9. Meet with a Realtor who specializes in the community. An experienced Realtor can help you save time and money by providing an overview of current market conditions and the home buying process. It is never too early to discuss your goals and create a buying strategy. Ask about a complimentary buyer consultation
10. Get organized. It may take some time to find the right home. Consider using an app like Evernote
to organize your notes, clip and save online listing photos, and file the contacts you made during your search. With Evernote Premium you can scan the business cards you collect from Realtors and mortgage brokers and track property features that are really important to you.
Savvy Realtors know their communities block by block and may be aware of off-market homes and properties that will be coming on the market. Tired of searching the web for new listings and open house times? An experienced Realtor will be able to send new listings, open house notifications and price reductions to your inbox.
While it may be difficult to know where to begin, each year thousands of people become homeowners in Jamaica Plain
, West Roxbury
, and throughout Greater Boston. Finding your dream home will require some hard work, market knowledge, and persistence but it will be time well spent! If you have questions about home ownership, don’t hesitate to reach out to us
. We’d love to help you find your dream home this year!