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Open House tips for buyers

All the Best Questions to Ask a Realtor at an Open House (Bonus: Open House Etiquette Tips)

Attending an Open House in search of a new home is a lot like playing a game of chess—it involves an incredible amount of strategy and foresight, the likes of which most prospective homebuyers don’t even realize. With so many questions to ask a realtor, not to mention things to take notice of, and all the other prospective homebuyers in attendance, the process of getting in and out of an Open House with answers to all of your questions seems daunting.

The trick is to show up prepared. Prospective homebuyers that are unprepared for an Open House will surely find themselves as pawns in the hands of a selling agent, left to wander about the property unsure of what they’re looking at and how they stand up against the competition. On the other hand, homebuyers who have all their ducks in a row and know all the right questions to ask, typically end up walking away from Open Houses in a better position than the other prospective homebuyers—and in some cases with an offer on the table.

Blue Water Mortgage polled some of the top realtors from New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts on the best Open House tips for buyers and came up with this comprehensive guide on how to get the most out of every Open House; what questions to ask a realtor, and how to act amongst all the others looking at the listing.

Best Open House Tips for Buyers


Open House Etiquette 101

It’s important to look at an Open House as an audition of sorts. The seller and their selling agent may be on hand, and will be looking to work with people who give off the impression that they’re serious about buying a home. The following are some helpful tips on how to present oneself at an Open House:

1. Dress appropriately—Wearing comfortable, yet appropriate clothing is a must for any Open House—no matter the home. Leave the ripped jeans and holey t-shirts at home. Dress to impress. No need to break out the tuxedo and evening gown, but look presentable, if possible. And because you’ll likely be walking around quite a bit, remember to wear comfortable shoes.

2. Be on Your Best Behavior—This goes without saying, but always be sure to be polite and cordial to the host of the Open House. Even if you don’t like dealing with real estate agents, do your best to act appropriately while viewing the house. In a competitive market, sellers can be choosy, especially when there are multiple strong offers, so it is important that you give a good impression.

3. Ask Permission First—If a door to a room is closed, there’s a chance it’s closed for a reason. Be sure to ask what’s OK and what’s not OK before peeking into areas of the home you’re looking at. There’s a chance the house you’re look at is still someone’s home, so be respectful of his or her things. If you are serious about buying, it is important that you see every nook and cranny of the house, but be sure to ask first before getting into cabinets and closets, and opening closed doors.

4. Keep Comments to Yourself—There will be plenty of time to critique the home you’re looking at after you’ve left, so try and keep comments and opinions to yourself while touring the Open House. Also, if the home is owner occupied, try and ignore the taste and decorations of the current owners. Look beyond their design preferences and see the space and its potential.

5. Keep a Poker Face—While it’s good to appear eager, you never want to show your hand until it’s time to throw all your cards on the table. Don’t divulge too much information about yourself or your intentions with the particular piece of property. Keep in mind the real estate agent represents the seller, so you don’t want to give away your bargaining power by telling too much about yourself or your intentions.

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6. Keep Close Tabs on the Competition—Chances are you’re not the only one attending the Open House, so be sure to keep a close eye on your competition and listen to what they have to say. There’s a possibility they may know something you don’t know, or notice something you haven’t noticed.

7. Ask Questions—A truly prepared homebuyer will have a list of questions they want answered before leaving an Open House. A real estate agent representing the seller will respect this, and most certainly expects to answer questions, so be ready to go through your list and get the information you need to make an accurate assessment of the home. If you haven’t already come up with your list, here’s a sample of some of the most important questions to ask when buying a home:

Questions To Ask a Realtor at an Open House

More often than not home buyers who show up for Open House are unprepared and uneducated on what to ask the selling agent. Here are some of the most common questions to ask:

8. Why is the house for sale? A lot of time the answer won’t be anything too groundbreaking, but it’s at least a good idea to find out why the house went on the market.

9. How long has it been on the market? It’s good to know just how long the property in question has been on the market. If the answer is “a while,” then the next obvious questions should be…

10. Are there any issues with the house? A selling agent must be upfront with you about any and all deficiencies to the property in question. Don’t be shy about asking the hard questions.

11. Has there been a fluctuation in price? If a property has been on the market for a while, and includes some issues, then the price will most likely have fluctuated over time. Find out what the property was listed for and how it’s changed over time.

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12. Are any offers on the table? If so, how many? It’s important to know what you’re up against, so don’t be shy about asking what, if any, offers have been made on the property.

13. Do you have an estimate on utilities? Because owning a home is much more than a mortgage payment, it’s a good idea to get as much of an idea of how much utilities costs month-to-month and year-to-year. If no estimates are immediately available at the Open House, they are usually easy to get by calling the utility company.

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But wait, there’s much more to consider. Jeff Levine, a realtor with Bean Group, recommends home buyers should do the following at every Open House they attend:

1. Ask to view a set of the Sellers Property Disclosures—These will tell a buyer all the important structural details, such as age of the roof, condition of heating system, etc. These will also reveal if there are any other issues with the home that might not be easily identified at first glance.

2. Take a close look at the sun exposure—Take note of the time of day and how the house might feel when and where you want the sun. For example if you enjoy coffee in the kitchen in the AM…where is the sun in the morning?

3. Take a look at the lay of the land—Is there room to put snow? Most buyers don’t consider this, especially in the summer months. But after a winter like this past one, it’s a good idea to figure out where you’re going to put all that snow. In the summer months you might also want a garden, so be sure there is adequate space to grow veggies and/or flowers.

4. Ask the selling agent specifics about the surroundings—Is the selling agent aware of any airports, gun ranges or other businesses that might put off unwanted noise. What about any mills or factories that give off unwanted odors? Also, don’t forget about finding out as much as you can about neighbors.

5. Ask what school district the house resides in—If you have a family, or plan on starting one soon, it’s a good idea to find out the school district in which the house is located. Also, get a good idea of just how close you are to the school your child would be attending, as well as any other info related to bus routes and pedestrian friendliness.

6. Ask why the seller is relocating and what their ideal timeline is—The reason a seller is relocating can be very telling. Perhaps they are sick of living in a busy neighborhood, or perhaps they don’t like their neighbors. Maybe they’re just downsizing? Whatever it is, the selling agent should be able to give you a good idea of why the seller is moving, and when exactly that is supposed to happen.

So there you have it. Everything you need to know—and then some—on how to get the most out of every Open House. The team at Blue Water Mortgage understands that buying a home is more than just getting approved for a mortgage, which is why we recommend finding a broker and a realtor who can work together. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any other questions about the home buying process. We’re always happy to talk about the mortgage process, or link you up with one of the many realtors we do business with everyday.

Roger Odoardi

Roger is an owner and licensed Loan Officer at Blue Water Mortgage. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire’s Whittemore School of Business and has been a leader in the mortgage industry for over 20 years. Roger has personally originated over 2500 residential loans and is considered to be in the top 1% of NH Loan Officers by leading national lender United Wholesale Mortgage.