An Open House Guide for Buyers

Starting in March and continuing through July we will have about 100 open houses every weekend in Greenwich. The record for most open houses in a weekend that I have seen is around 168, which considering that we peek around 600 single family homes is quite a lot. Over the last couple of years more sellers are having more open houses at more different price ranges. We will now have open houses for houses over $10,000,000 when historically we would rarely see open houses much over four or five million. We also have open houses for rentals, condos, co-ops and even land.

Check out the Neighborhood First

What most people initially do when they go to look for a house is to look at a bunch of pictures online and go see what house looks nice. The better plan is to narrow it down to the neighborhoods you’d like to live in. The odds that you’re going to walk into the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood is low if you don’t plan ahead.

The first time you go out to look at open houses you want to put your phone down and look at the houses in the neighborhood as you approach the open house. Is this a place that would work for you and your family? Check out the traffic in the neighborhood and the number of kids around. Are there basketball goals facing the street meaning that it’s a slow traffic area?

Bargains with Poor Curb Appeal

As you approach the house see what you’re feeling is from the street, the so called curb appeal. It’s great to have a house that everybody likes, however if you’re looking for a bargain one of the things you want to look for is negative curb appeal, because it means that other people have come in decided that they don’t like the house before they’ve even gotten inside the house.

Verify the House Number, Not Just the Sign

Another important factor is to make sure that you’re at the right house. If you’ve done your homework you have the list of open houses with the street address. Many years ago when I was getting started as a Realtor, there were two driveways right next to each other with a Realtor open house sign in the middle. I went down the wrong driveway, parked, walked up to the house, stepped inside the front door and said hello. I quickly realized that the open house was actually the next house. So, check the number on the mailbox and on the front door to make sure that you’re at 44 and not 46.

Check-in with the Agent, Get More Info

Once you get to the open house there is no need to ring the front bell, go ahead and walk in and announce yourself by simply saying hello. Usually the agent will be right there, unless they’re showing the house too another perspective buyer. Most times, the sign up sheet is in the kitchen so head over there sign in and say hello to the agent. The agent wants to sell the house and is usually a font of information about the house. If the agent has food don’t take it now. You don’t want to walk around the house dropping chocolate chip cookie crumbs all over the house. This is particularly true if your children are with you.

What you do want to do is to get the listing sheet that has all of the stats on the house. Also, if you’re touring the open house for a spouse or a child in a remote location who wants photos and videos, ask before you take any pictures to send them. Last week, I had a couple that had a small dog in a shoulder bag and that’s fine, however you don’t want to walk around with your pets or small inquisitive children who are opening every drawer and touching every little knickknack on the table.

Good Touches, Bad Touches & Coronavirus

Ideally, the owner should have put away many of their small items, however that’s not always the case. If it is something that you’ll be buying; i.e., the realty and fixtures feel free to take a look, however if it is personal property, (those items that can be picked up) do not touch. So free to open closets and kitchen cabinets, do not open drawers in the furniture. In this age of the Coronavirus you may want to bring a packet of Kleenex to open door knobs and a baggie to deposit them in.

Dressing for Open Houses

You want to dress for what you are planning to look at. If it’s a rainy day you probably need to take off your shoes or wear booties at each house. This is not the time to wear the knee high boots with a dozen buttons. Also, you may be going up type spiral staircases or looking under various parts of the house so dress appropriately.

Look Beyond the Staging and the Paint

Staging is a huge benefit for sellers and can give you a feel of what the house could look like when you move your stuff in. However, it does not sell with the house. At an open house, ignore the furniture., pictures and throw rugs. Do try to imagine your stuff in the house.

If you like the house, swing back to the kitchen and picture and pick up the brochure and talk to the agent. Make notes and head out to the next house. Now is good time to pick up the cookies and candy. Searching for the perfect house can work up quite an appetite.

During the week, I often don’t have time to get to the realtor open houses since I have my own client/s open houses, so on a weekend when I’m free I’ll go out to the public open houses. I still remember the comment I heard as as I was walking down the hall of lady who said “Harvey we can’t live here the bedroom is blood red”. She was correct the bedroom had been painted in oxblood red, a short lived phenomenon  last decade. Once you own the house you can paint walls and even take out entire walls to make the house accommodate your family and the way you want to live.

How is Your Competition

Some other things to check out at an open house is just how busy it is. Are you one of four groups touring the house at the same time? You can often look at the sign up sheet , particularly if it’s later in the open house and see whether you’re looking at three or four or 20 or 30 groups that have come through.

Looking at Land Listings

You want to wear the right the clothes for the property that you are looking at. Last year we were showing a land listing and the male showed up with a large, punguent cigar and the female showed up with pencil pants and high heels. For most open houses this was fine, but this was 4 acres of raw land with no house and no trails. The poor woman followed behind the cigar on tip toes.  I have co-listed 4 acres at 5 Greenfield Place with Carline Martin. We are having hosting on open house there this Sunday. It is a new development across from the Chieftans on Sherwood Avenue. It is beautiful land, but boots work better than high heels.

Bad can be Good for Bargains

If you are looking for a bargain go for the bad, that has an underlying good. We do have listings where the agent took the photos with an iPhone rather than professional photos. A key give away is when all you see of the bedroom or bathroom is the opposite corner due to the narrow angle of the iPhone. This may well be a horrible teardown, but it may just be poorly photographed. If you are looking for a good deal, look for poor photography, apparent poor curb appeal, fixable issues like mold, asbestos and cramped floor plans. See the potential that other buyers can’t see. Call your agent about these properties, she, or he, can give you better a much better feel about these “poorly marketed” properties.

Also, don’t go see what you can’t afford. You can get some ideas of what you might do with your new home, but if your budget is for 3,000 s.f. and you look at 6,000 s.f. house, your properties is going to look dwarfed. Focus on reality, which is what the vast majority of buyers do.

High-End Sellers

At the high-end, I would say the majority of sellers think that people are going to come see their house just see what an $8 million house looks like. I can truthfully say that I have never had a buyer show up to see a high-end house they couldn’t afford it. Buyers self-filter, they don’t do high-end tourism. If you have a $10 million open house, you are only going to get a handful of buyers, most of which are qualified buyers, who likely would not come otherwise.

 

Open houses are a great way to find both a house and a neighborhood where you want to live. With a little planning you can get a lot out of your time and have a good time. If you are looking in Greenwich Connecticut and would like to subscribe to my weekly open house list and market reports feel free to send me an email at mark@bhhsne.com and let me to add you to the list. Good luck with your house hunting.

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