Most of us are familiar with the idea of window-shopping—browsing and peering in the hopes we’ll spot that perfect piece. But when you’re looking to buy something as expensive as a home, every opportunity to comparison shop is important and that means attending open houses.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like a visit to an open house will suddenly highlight some diamond in the rough that every other buyer is going to miss. But by visiting open houses you start to get a better idea of what you like and want, what is currently on the market and a ballpark budget for your ideal home.
For instance, I’ve met families who were dead-set on an open-concept kitchen/dining room until they saw how much clean-up is required to make the kitchen look presentable to guests. I’ve also had clients complain about how small houses are on paper, before completely changing their mind after seeing how another family can live in that same space.
Open houses are also great in trying to establish benchmarks. If you saw a home before it’s sold and then find out the list and sale price from your real estate agent, you get a better idea for how much homes are selling for in a particular area. Do this often enough and you can also establish a neighbourhood’s pattern: Are homes listed low only to be bid up $100,000 or more above that price? Do homes sit a bit longer than in other neighbourhoods? When you establish a neighbourhood pattern it becomes easier to appreciate how and when to react to a new listing on the market.
Another advantage of visiting an open house is that you get to ask questions of the listing agent. Asking questions, and getting answers, helps you get a better feel for a house, the sellers and the neighbourhood. Remember, each piece of information in the real estate market can help you get the right home at the right price.