When you're shopping for a home, make it a point to attend at least a few open houses before you start touring with an agent. This is a good way to start getting a feel for what you want in a home before you start working with an agent. Make sure you read our open house dos and don'ts below to avoid committing yourself to an agent by accident!
You don't need to make any arrangements to attend an open house -- just show up at the right time and place, and walk right in.
The open house will be hosted by the listing agent (or an associate). The home's owner will usually not be present, though for-sale-by-owner homes may be hosted by the owner.
Open House Do's and Don'ts
Procuring cause is basically the real estate agent's version of calling dibs. If you interact with another agent about a home without your own agent present and don't make it clear that you are represented by another, it can lead to multiple agents making claim on the buyer's agent commission upon purchase of the home. Because buyers often attend open houses unaccompanied by their agent, we assembled a simple list of dos and don'ts to help avoid any confusion.
DO indicate on the open house sign-in sheet if you are (or expect to be) represented by your own agent. This can prevent any misunderstandings if you have further interest in the home.
DO NOT schedule and attend a follow-up appointment directly with the listing or showing agent without your own agent (if you already have an agent). If you do, the agent who shows you the home may have a claim on the buyer's agent commission, which could make it more difficult for you to work with an agent of your choice.
DO have your own agent schedule and attend any follow-up showing.
DO NOT believe a listing agent when he or she says you must work with him or her because you didn't indicate you already have representation when you attended the open house. This doesn't happen often. Most agents don't try this trick, but some occasionally do.
DO NOT attend a new construction open house or visit a new home sales center before your agent confirms it is okay that they don't accompany you. Since many new construction projects are not part of the local MLS and its cooperating brokerage offering, the builder may not be required to honor your agent's representation of you. A first visit to a new home community is usually the point at which the builder needs to confirm that you're represented or not.
During the open house, you'll generally be free to walk around the property, though the listing agent may request that you stay out of certain rooms or areas (such as locked storage compartments). You can spend as much time as you'd like looking around the home as long as the open house is running, though most buyers find a few minutes to half-an-hour to be enough time.
If you want to spend time in the home taking detailed measurements and scrutinizing every square inch, you may be better served by booking a private tour with your agent.
Goals for an Open House
If you're early in your home-buying process, attending several open houses can help you get an idea about your likes and dislikes. Size, age, location, number of bedrooms & bathrooms, and amenities are a few of the major factors to keep track of.
Here are just some of the many other factors you can consider when imagining your perfect home:
Number/location of bedrooms
Number/location of bathrooms
Size of rooms
Presence of basement, attic, and storage
Number of floors
Number of bedrooms on each floor
Presence of master bedroom
Sight lines through home
Age of electrical and plumbing
Amount of natural light
Age/type of heating systems
Proximity to mass transit
Open vs. traditional floorplan
Home size (square footage)
Property (land) size
Noise levels (inside and outside home)
Proximity to neighboring homes
Proximity to schools or parks
Outdoor pools and tubs
Porches and decks
Source of drinking water
Public sewage or septic system?
Presence of radon, asbestos, or lead paint
The purchase of real estate represents a large financial commitment on your part. It’s important for you to have representation during the process.
When working with a buyer’s agent, remember:
Typically there is no compensation required from you to have representation
Your agent can get you information / show you any listed property
You can search for properties on your own, but you should involve your agent once you’ve found a property of interest
You can attend open houses without your agent, but be sure to quickly identify your agency relationship to the agent at the open house
A buyer agency agreement details the working agreement between you and your buyer’s agent
“Dual agency” is an option; be sure you understand the differences between traditional buyer agency and dual agency
If you have any questions regarding purchasing a home or would like me to be your agent, please give me a call. I want your home buying experience to be as easy and enjoyable as possible and will do everything I can to ensure you find the home that is right for you.