Many people, whether they're in the market for a home or simply curious, enjoy attending Sunday afternoon open houses. If you've ever wondered about proper open house etiquette or have questions about the role of the agent hosting the open house, here are some suggestions to help make your open house visit productive.
If You Already Have an Agent
If you are already working with an agent, check with them to see if it's appropriate for you to attend open houses unaccompanied by him or her. I always give our clients that like to go to open houses a stack of my cards and tell them to hand my card to the open house agent so they know they are being representing by me. Agents will appreciate this gesture and know that you have your own representation.
The agent hosting the open house really should be asking prospective buyers if they are working with another agent, but this doesn't always happen. The hosting agent is often the listing agent, Remember that the hosting agent is not the enemy, and there is no imminent danger in making eye contact! This agent is there to do a job for their client - sell the home. Exchanging pleasantries will not cause the hosting agent to run after you as their client, especially if they know you already have your own agent.
New Home Subdivision Open House Protocol
Each state may handle new home open houses differently. In my state, AZ, it is a wise practice to NOT look at new homes without first discussing it with your agent. Agents know that either they MUST accompany you on your 1st visit to a new home subdivision and/or register you on each builders site before you go to ANY open houses. Why is this? To be 100% sure who is representing who's best interests. If you walk into a subdivision with no agent representing you, be aware that the selling agent holding the open house is working for the builder/developers and you can bet she/he is looking after the sellers best interests, as they should. Now don't get me wrong, the sales people at new home subdivisions are good folks and are just doing their job!
The new home subdivision agent may be a good source of information about the home. Yes, they want to sell you a home - that's why they're there. But they also have information that can be an important part of your decision-making process. Be friendly and engage them in conversation. But it is a WISE idea to hire your own buyers agent that will represent YOUR best interests and is not working for the seller.
If You Do Not Yet Have an Agent
If you have not yet hired an agent to represent you, it really makes sense to do so before you even begin the house buying or even just looking at homes process. Personal recommendations are a good source of finding an experienced and dedicated real estate agent. By selecting an agent to represent you early in the process, you will have the benefit of a coordinated plan that allows you to operate from a position of strength. And remember YOUR agent works for you - not the seller.
If You Stop by an Open House on a Whim
Some home shoppers drop by an open house simply because it's open. Maybe it's a home you've admired for a long time and you're curious to see what it looks like inside. If that's your situation, just tell the agent you have no intention of buying. They will still allow you to tour the home. And who knows? More than one person has decided to buy a home because they unexpectedly and immediately fell in love with the house. This isn't recommended because you almost always wind up paying more for it - but it does happen.
Neighbors Who Visit Open Houses
Many agents welcome the neighbors and look forward to the opportunity to show the home and get their feedback. Neighbors are also a great source of information about the house and the neighborhood. And who knows who you know? You could have a friend or coworker who might be interested in the home. So don't feel embarrassed to admit to the agent that you are "a neighbor from down the street."
What is Open House Protocol