Feeling a little wet behind the ears while shopping for your first home? Well, instead of looking listings up online, why not spend the day out and about visiting open houses in your target neighbourhoods? Even if you’re still in the window shopping phase, open houses are a great place to learn the ins and outs of your local market, refine your first time home buyer wish list, and get realistic about what you can afford based on a mortgage pre-approval.
Five Simple Things to Do at an Open House
To get the most out of your open house experience, follow these five simple tips:
1) Sign in (Or Don’t)
One of the first things that you’re expected to do when you visit an open house is sign in via a visitors information sheet. More often than not, it’s located on the kitchen or dining room table. The host of the open house uses this sheet to keep track of visitors, and most importantly, to follow-up with shoppers who seemed interested in the property. If you want to know more about the property you’re looking at, place your name and contact information on the sheet. Don’t want to bothered with phone calls and emails from the listing agent? Then politely decline. Open houses are open to the public, so don’t feel like you have to provide your information.
2) Introduce Yourself to the Host or Hostess
Open houses are normally hosted by the listing or selling agent. Sometimes it’s a junior associate at the brokerage, (commonly referred to as “show-ers”). And sometimes, it’s even the homeowners themselves. Whoever it is, this is the person you’ll need to go to with any questions. What’s more, if you’re thinking about buying or selling a home, open houses are the perfect opportunity to audition potential agents. Are they kind, courteous and knowledgeable? Do they have what it takes to represent your best interests?
3) Don’t Get Overwhelmed
First time homebuyers can often become overwhelmed when comparing condos and homes. If you feel lost during your visits, try this simple tip: always walk through properties in the same order. If you begin in the kitchen in one house, make sure to always start there in subsequent properties. This will help you feel more organized and in control of your tour. It will also make it easier to remember features from previous properties that you’ve toured.
4) Give Each Property a Quirky Nickname
Lots of first time homebuyers try to take copious notes when touring through properties. At the end of the day, all you’re left with is a pile of scribbled notes and a sense of confusion. Instead, as you walk through a space, refer to it using a memorable handle: “the one with the fantastic fireplace” or “the one next to the park.” During your tour, snap some pictures using your smartphone and label them using your handle. It will make it easier to compare property pros and cons later on.
5) Ask For an Honest Opinion
As a first time home buyer, you might not know what you’re looking for. By asking the listing agent host for their honest opinion on the best and worst features of a home, you’ll begin to learn what to look for. It will also teach you what to avoid while on the hunt. Just remember to do this after you’ve done your walk through as this will allow you to form your own impressions first.