Thinking of Attending an Open House? Here’s What You Need to Know

Posted by Mike Brown Group on Thursday, May 1st, 2014 at 3:50pm.

If you’re thinking of attending an open house, there are a few things to keep in mind, especially if you’re serious about buying. However, even if you’re only attending because you’ve always wanted to see the inside of Neighbor Bob’s place, you should still be prepared. Although you wouldn’t think of a new home as an impulse buy, it’s been known to happen.

Can I Bring My Own Agent to an Open House?

You can bring your agent. Of course, the common rules of etiquette apply. Introduce your agent to the hosting agent – “I’m pleased to meet you, Danny, and I’d like you to meet my agent, Sophie.” If you have an agent but he or she is not able to attend, you should tell the hosting agent. Realtors are supposed to ask you if you’re already working with an agent, but they don’t always remember to do this. If you don’t have an agent, you might find you like the host agent well enough to work with him or her – this won’t be possible, however, if the host agent is also the listing agent.

What Should I Ask About the Home?

If you’re looking at a single-family home, you’re going to want to know about recent upgrades and improvements. Has the insulation been upgraded? What about the plumbing? You’re basically getting information on features of the home that you’re not able to see. Ask if there’s a disclosure that you can look at, because in most areas, homeowners are required to inform potential buyers of any serious defects like leaky roofs or cracked foundations. Inquire about the age of the windows and the roof – these are features that, at some point over the life of the home, will almost certainly have to be replaced, so if you’re thinking of buying, you’re going to want to have some idea of the remaining “shelf life.”

If it’s a condo you’re looking at, find out what you’re going to be allowed to do with the unit once you buy it. There could be restrictions you’re not comfortable with. For example, if you like to garden, but the rule is no more than two potted plants on your balcony, this is not a living situation that’s going to make you happy. If you have pets, and the rules permit only one dog no taller than the average person’s knee, you need to know that. There’s not going to be much joy in finding out after you move in that your four English mastiffs aren’t welcome. Also, ask about funds available for repairs and maintenance.

What Should I Ask About the Neighborhood?

You probably need to know a fair bit. You can ask about churches, schools, recreational facilities, etc., but you can’t ask about the ethnic composition of the neighborhood. Agents probably won’t answer questions like that, and in fact, could be in trouble if they did. They also won’t tell you about the crime rate, not because they’re afraid of losing the sale, but because doing so could be a violation of the Fair Housing Act. Crime statistics can easily be looked up on line, so you really don’t need to ask.

Can I Just Look Around?

Sure. Maybe you’re not in the market to buy right now, but you could be down the road. It doesn’t hurt to visit open houses and get an idea of the features you’d like when you’re ready to buy. Go and enjoy!


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