Whether you're intent on buying a home or just curious, hitting up open houses is probably the most fun part of house hunting. It can help you get the lay of the land, too.
Every weekend, hundreds of homes for sale open their doors so prospective buyers can pop in and check them out.
But how do you find them? And aside from ooohing and ahhing over backyard pools and walk-in closets, what should you do while there?
Keep these tips in mind to make the most of your open house visiting spree.
How to find open houses
Try any or all of these techniques to zero in on your dream home:
- Do an online search. We have to toot our own horn here! Not only can you peruse listings on realtor.com, you can find info on upcoming open houses, too. Just click the "open house" box under the More Filters tab, where you can select the size and type of home you'd like to visit, and even whether it has a pool or other amenities you can't do without.
- Find them on your phone. Yep, realtor.com has an app for that, too. Filter your search for open houses, and you'll get an actual map of properties in your area with upcoming open houses. Tap on each one for times and other specifics.
- Use Instagram and other social media. Simply search #openhouse plus your city on Instagram, and you'll find plenty of listings with gorgeous pictures. "I also like to keep an eye on Realtor signs in my area and find their personal Instagram accounts," says Alexander Ali, founder of The Society Group PR firm, who has put on some memorable open houses. "Most agents have personal accounts, and they're great to use as a communication tool. Follow and direct message them! It's faster than an email, and they check their social constantly."
- Look for the signs. Even in today's digital world, actual "open house" signs are still put up in front of properties for sale in hopes of attracting potential buyers. Try driving by or walking around a neighborhood you like, and see if there are signs or posters about upcoming open houses. Make a note of the date and time so you can plan your route. Also check your mail for open house mailers, and keep an eye out for fliers in local establishments.
- Visit local real estate offices. If you're not ready to commit to working with one buyer's agent, consider popping in to a few offices in your target area and asking what open houses they have coming up. It can be a great way to find listings and get a feel for which agent you might want to work with in the future.
How to make the most of open houses
It's easy to wander aimlessly through home after home, but if you arrive at an open house with a game plan, you'll get much more out of it. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your visits.
- Plan your path. Open houses tend to congregate on the weekend, so if you want to hit many of them or just cut down on running back and forth, it's best to plot them out on a map, with the times they're open, to visualize the best order to tackle them. If you're walking from one to the other, be sure to wear comfortable shoes!
- Take photos. After seeing lots of houses, they might start to blur together. Therefore it's a great idea to "chronicle" your open house journey with a series of photos from each house, plus notes, so when you're reviewing them later you can remember what you liked and disliked about each property. At each house, start with a photo of the exterior and a flier, so you can identify it easily when you're reviewing the pictures later.
- Think beyond the home you're in. Chat with the Realtor about the neighborhood, not just the house. "If the home isn't something you like, they probably have others they could show you," says Ali. "If you don't like that house but you like the Realtor and aren't working with anyone yet, tell them so and ask what else they have. Try not to leave an open house without at least one new phone number or listing idea, and soon you'll find the right place for you." But beware of engaging anyone as a dual agent.
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