Open houses are awesome. Before I became a real estate agent I made visiting open houses an art form. I dragged my poor husband to open houses all over this city because I’m a real estate nerd, and that’s what I like to do in my spare time.
Now that I’m a Realtor I’ve gotten to see the other side of the curtain after housing dozens of open houses. And I am on a mission to help correct some misunderstandings about open houses so that visitors have a better idea of what to expect.
CURIOSITY IS WELCOME
It is completely fine to go to an open house even if you’re not in the market to buy a home. I have been bored out of my skull sitting in an empty house just wishing someone, anyone, would walk through that door and talk to me. There is no rule about who can and cannot go to an open house – it’s truly open to everyone.
DO NOT MAKE UP STORIES
Don’t lie. I can’t tell you how many older women have told me while I’m hosting an open house for a large family home in West Lake Hills that they are looking for a house for their son.
Their sons aren’t buying these houses. The women are just curious. (I admit: I have made up stories at open houses before I was an agent). It’s fine to just be curious! There is no need to lie or creative a CIA-worthy back story to the agent. Just say you’re curious and not in the market to buy or sell a home right now.
OPEN DOORS, BE NOSY
Go ahead and open closet doors and poke your head into rooms. That’s what an open house is for! Don’t be shy about it, feel free to look around and ask questions of the real estate agent. Just stay out of medicine cabinets and laundry hampers, please.
Feel free to eat the food if the agent brought snacks. I hate dragging home un-eaten food after an open house.
THE PURPOSE OF SIGNING IN
An open house really serves two purposes: it helps spotlight the home for sale and draw extra attention from buyers and it helps the agent meet potential buyers. That’s why so many agents ask for visitors’ contact information when hosting open houses.
If you are genuinely just curious and have no intention of buying or selling a home any time soon, you might want to politely decline the sign-in sheet. But if you actually intend to buy or sell a home in the next year or so, fill out the sign-in sheet and make a note if you are already working with an agent.
If you are NOT working with a real estate agent and are interested in buying or selling a home, the agent WILL be calling or texting or e-mailing to follow up with you. It’s a key way real estate agents prospect for new business. If you don’t want the agent at the open house to contact you, don’t fill out the sign-in sheet.
IF YOU ARE SERIOUS, SPEAK UP!
If you are not only interested in buying a house, but are seriously interested in the house you’re standing in during the open house, you might want to indicate your interest to the agent. It’s not giving away too much to say you’re considering making an offer. And tell them which Realtor you are working with. (It’s also more than OK to bring your agent to an open house.)
This is so the agent can keep you informed about whether there have been any offers received or if there is an offer deadline. And it’s so the listing agent can follow up with your Realtor about your intentions.
LISTING AGENT vs. OPEN HOUSE AGENT
Frequently the real estate agent doing the open house is not the same as the listing agent, the person who is hired to market and sell the property and whose name is on the sign. It’s really common in our market for listing agents to ask less-seasoned agents in their office to host the open house for them.
They do this because open houses can be time-consuming and the busier agents sometimes don’t have time to cater to all their clients and host open houses.
That doesn’t mean the agent hosting the open house isn’t informed, however. They may not have as much information as the listing agent, but I can tell you that I spend HOURS before an open house understanding the neighborhood, reading up on recent sales and other market data, and memorizing facts or interesting features about the house.
Got any more questions about open houses? Or do you need help searching for a home in Austin? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 512.413.1975. I’d love to help!
Lilly Rockwell is a licensed real estate agent in Austin, TX, and a former journalist.