Home Buying Tips July 7, 2023

Top 5 Reasons to Love Open Houses

As a real estate agent, I love open houses. Playing hostess, telling people all the wonderful things about the listing, and singing in empty houses, are incredibly fulfilling. Meeting new buyers and agents is exciting. Going to open houses, with clients, or just to see what’s on the market, is incredibly enjoyable.

Top 5 Reasons for You to Love Open Houses

Whether you’re a nosy neighbor or a serious shopper, open houses are great for you, too. Here are my top reasons why you should start your home shopping journey with open houses.

Reality Check

Shopping for houses on Zillow is a fun game, but pictures lie. A professional photographer can make a 1200 sqft. cape look like a mansion.  Open houses let you see a house as it is, not as it’s advertised.

Visiting a house in person, you’ll understand what that 1200 sq ft cape feels like. You’ll see if it will fit your sectional, or if you need to shop for a bigger house (or a smaller couch).

Another reality check is pricing. If the listing agent is savvy, the asking price is the starting bid, not what you should offer.

Real estate agents hold open houses to get as many views and bids as quickly as possible. So, if you like that refurbished ranch walking distance from the park, chances are pretty good at least 5 others will too.

To put your bid on the top of the pile, be prepared to offer 5%-10% over the asking price, have as big a down payment as you can muster, and be flexible on your contingencies. Or better yet, offer cash with no inspection.

Refine Your Location

Mortgage agents have a saying: “Drive until you qualify.” That 2000 sqf.t colonial on a dead end with an acre of property “in the country” may be out of reach. But that same house on a quarter of an acre, in a more suburban setting, may be a better fit for your budget. This pricing difference isn’t just about the amount of land. It’s because areas with lower taxes tend to have higher property values, and vice versa.

As you can see, where you buy your house has a lot to do with the market value. Open houses will tell you if the size and style house you want matches where you are looking.

Must-Haves, Dealbreakers, Compromises & Surprises

You have a list of things you “must have” in your next home – number of bedrooms, bathrooms, cul-de-sac, 2-car garage, pool, good schools, maximum commute distance, quiet neighborhood, water view, etc.

You also have a list of dealbreakers – corner or flagpole lots, noise and light pollution, power lines and cell towers, etc.

What most buyers don’t have is a list of compromises. That list isn’t created until you’ve been looking longer than feels enjoyable, a.k.a., “a long time.” You don’t have to give up everything you want; maybe settle for 80% of your wish list.

Surprises are the best. You thought you were looking for a bungalow by the beach and end up with a modern colonial in the woods. There’s just something about that house that makes you say, “This is it; I don’t care about anything else.”

Open houses allow you the space to practice your flexibility and open you up to possibilities.

Get Creative

There is so much “old stock” housing that needs updating. That 1960’s cape with the 1990’s kitchen is likely to be priced $50,000 less than a comparable house that looks like a 2023 Pinterest board.

Move-in ready is great, but an older home in need of “TLC” that’s livable… that gives you the opportunity to get creative, make a space your own, and stretch your house-buying budget.

Open houses show you great examples of before-and-afters, and can fuel your renovation imagination.

Interview Your Guide

If you’re 6-12 months from buying a house, browse and have fun (and work on your credit).

Just know, the open house hosting agent is working for the seller. When you’re ready to buy, you’ll want your own agent to protect your interests.

That protection begins with booking a showing BEFORE the open house. An experienced and responsive agent will work quickly to give you that tour. And, if you like the house, they’ll immediately help you put in a strong offer.

How do you find that agent?

Open houses are great opportunities to meet and chat with real estate agents. You can ask them questions about the property, the market, and the neighborhood. Pump them for information about the buying process. You’ll get a sense of their personality and style and know if they’re someone you would want to work with.

After your visit make a note of how well you liked the host agent, and how they presented the property. When you’re ready to shop, give your favorite agent a call.

Similarly, if you’re getting ready to sell your house, you can use open houses to see your potential listing agent in action.

Go See Some Open Houses

Open houses are a fun and informative way to find your dream home. They help you refine and prioritize your criteria. You might discover a hidden gem or rule out options you thought you would love. Just be open to the experience.

Just remember, in today’s low-inventory market, if there were a lot of cars at the open house, be prepared to pay a premium to have your offer accepted. If you’re a serious shopper and seeing open houses isn’t working, focus on houses that have been on the market more than a week.  Consider refining your lists, expectations, and/or your budget, and you’ll find the home you’ve been looking for.

I’d love to be your guide! Contact me to set up you open house tour, or to list your home (and host an open house) at (203) 812-9654.

Browse This Weekend’s Open Houses in New Haven County (or search for your area)


About Marj Clark, Realtor & Housing Guide

Marj Clark, CT Realtor & Housing Guide with Coldwell Banker North Haven, CTMarj is a lifelong resident of Connecticut, and an active member of the Hamden Regional Chamber of Commerce. She knows local and State markets well, and all the treasures Connecticut has to offer.

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