How to Make the Most of an Open House in 2020, According to Real Estate Agents

published Mar 6, 2020
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Homebuyers: Grab your refillable water bottle and lace up your tennis shoes. It’s time to hit the weekend open house circuit, which, in 2020, admittedly feels a lot like an extreme sport. Housing inventory is at historic lows and mortgage rates are favorable, which means buyers face stiff competition when it comes to finding starter homes and locking into low rates.

While you could browse homes online and do virtual tours, a good ol’ fashioned open house still has plenty of merits and is an efficient way to browse properties that are for sale in your area. At an open house, you can get a feel for the neighborhood, observe how much sunlight comes into the living room, and gauge whether the master bedroom is actually spacious or just looked that way in photos.

But because homes are getting snapped up quickly (especially in competitive markets!), you’ll want to make the most of the open houses you hit. 

Ready to get this right? Huddle up, here are open house tips from real estate agents when it comes to touring in a competitive 2020 real estate market.

Keep your poker face on

When inventory is low, sellers have the power. “If you walk into an open house and it’s ‘the one,’ don’t let the agent showing the property know,” says Jessica Fisher, an associate at RE/MAX Professionals in Cottage Grove, Minnesota. “Keep your cool until you leave. Then, call your agent and gush about the house.” If the sellers’ agent knows you love the house, you lose some of your negotiating power in the deal.

Hold your tongue

Yes, absolutely ask questions while you’re touring an open house. Is there a homeowner’s association? What year was the house built? How old are the appliances? But, reserve your commentary—good or bad—for later, advises Brandon Marianne Lee, a real estate agent with Triplemint in New York City. “At the risk of sounding like I’m wearing a tin hat, several buyers have nanny cams and smart home devices that can be used to listen in on what’s going on in their home,” she says. Sneaky! If you love a home, you don’t want to let the buyers overhear that because you want negotiating leverage, Lee says. Or, if you want to bid on the home and plan on getting rid of the red paint in the bathroom ASAP, you might not want to offend the owners.

Get pre-approved for a loan

Want to set yourself apart from the looky-loos? Have a pre-qualified letter in hand before you head out house hunting. By making sure your finances are in order, and having that initial green light from a reliable lender, you’ll be able to submit an offer if you come across a home that you love, points out Angela Carrasco, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker based in Los Feliz, California. Here’s the difference between being pre-qualified and pre-approved.

Stop looking for the perfect home

Because it doesn’t exist, Carrasco says. Homes will have shortcomings. Some are just aesthetics, like a paint color that makes you shudder or kitchen hardware that’s dated. These are easy fixes. But, you might also need to compromise on your wish list items, whether that’s the location of a laundry room, a spacious backyard, or a newly renovated kitchen. 

Bring a tape measure

With homes flying off the market in a flash, you may not have an opportunity to request a second showing. So, come prepared and bring a tape measure, recommends Michelle Amodeo, another agent with Triplemint. “It comes in handy when you’re visualizing your queen-sized bed in a smaller bedroom,” she says. “Measure out the 80 inches in length and you’ll be amazed how your mind’s eye opens once you know where that bed ends.”

Ready to begin touring open houses this weekend? Here are 11 open house mistakes to avoid