Making the Most of an Open House You Attend...
Open houses are a time-honored tradition in real estate because they give agents a prime opportunity to showcase a for-sale home, meet prospective buyers and schmooze with neighbors who invariably drop by. Many agents are eager to quiz open house attendees about their home-buying plans. "How long have you been looking for a home? Are you working with an agent? Are you pre-qualified for a mortgage?" they ask. Why not turn the tables? An open house can be an opportunity for you to pump a local agent for some information about for-sale homes and the housing market.
Some questions you might want to ask the attending agent:
1. Are you the listing agent for this house? Busy agents sometimes arrange for a partner, colleague or assistant to do the honors at an open house. Don't assume the person on-duty is knowledgeable about the house or has met the sellers. In some states, the person might not even have a real estate license.
2. How long has this home been on the market? Well-priced homes in good condition generally don't last long. Unless the local market is unusually weak, you'll want to know why a particular home has become a "stale listing." Is it overpriced? Are there hidden defects? Was the home involved in an escrow that didn't close?
3. Have the owners received any offers and, if so, why weren't those offers accepted? If the sellers rejected offers that were too low or had onerous contingencies or conditions, you may as well find out before you make the same mistake.
4. Why are the owners selling this house? Understanding their motivations and needs will help you put together a strong offer that takes their priorities and timetable for moving into consideration. Are the owners relocating out of state? Buying a newly built home that's under construction? In escrow to purchase a larger or smaller residence?
5. What furniture and fixtures are being sold with the house? If you're thinking of buying the home, there's no time like the present to ask whether the dining room chandelier, fancy window coverings and appliances are included. Questionable fixtures and furniture should be itemized in the purchase contract, regardless of any prior conversation.
6. Are any special costs of ownership attached to the property? Is there a homeowner's association that levies dues and assessments? If so, who belongs to the association and who manages its affairs? Is the home located in a special property tax assessment district? If so, how much is the annual tax assessment and how is that money used? Is the home in a flood hazard zone? If so, how much are the annual flood insurance premiums? Are there any other hidden costs of ownership?
7. Are you familiar with other homes on this street and, if so, how does this one compare to the others? A sharp agent might be able to tell you about very recent sales in the neighborhood or other homes that might be coming on the market. If the residence is a tract house, the agent might be able to suggest remodeling ideas he or she has seen in neighboring homes.