Even if you are a first-time home buyer in the Waterloo Region, it's likely that you have heard the term "open house." An open house is what, though? What benefits and drawbacks does an open house have? Whether you're buying or selling a property, check out this guide below to learn everything there is to know about open houses and decide if it's time for you to host - or attend - one.
What Does 'Open House' Mean in Real Estate Terms?
One of the many phases in buying or selling a Waterloo Region property is holding open houses. These events are a terrific way for buyers to view possible homes and for sellers to build interest in their properties.
They are open to the public and are held by the listing agent, who is the real estate agent representing the home seller. Potential buyers can come by at any time to view the home during the open house, which typically lasts a few hours and are usually staged at weekends.
How Do Open Houses Usually Work?
The listing agent will welcome you when you arrive at an open house. They might ask for your name, email, and possibly phone number to sign you in. After that, you are free to look around the house and explore every room. Water and snacks will usually be on offer too and the agent will be available to answer any of your questions.
The seller will almost never attend the open house because doing so might make it difficult for potential buyers to see themselves living there.
Using the information you supplied on their sign-in page, the listing agent may contact you after the open house to inquire about how you liked the home. At that time, you can say that you're no longer interested in the house. Alternatively, you can arrange a private tour before you leave the open house.
Open House Vs. Private Home Tour
The seller or selling agent can show the property to numerous people at once during open houses, which makes them rather unique. Additionally, you don't need to make an appointment to visit the house as a potential buyer.
During the open house's scheduled hours, you can just drop by. When a buyer schedules a private home tour, also known as a private showing, they do it with the listing agent one-on-one, which ensures that you are the only person viewing the home at that time.
You might want to see more of the house after an open house if you attended. Or perhaps you're still uncertain about making an offer because you have some unanswered inquiries regarding the property.
Even if you've already been to an open house, you can schedule a private viewing with the listing agent in this scenario. This will provide you more one-on-one time with the listing agent and the home, and it may help you more easily visualize yourself living there when not surrounded by a large group of people.
What Waterloo Region Homebuyers Can Expect From an Open House
Open houses can get busy with lots of foot traffic coming through the door, and there are some rules you should know before attending your first one.
Head to an Open House Prepared
There are a number of etiquette guidelines when it comes to open houses. And if you are serious about buying a house, you want to make sure you are prepared to look like a great buyer for any home you visit. Make sure to know what to look for when touring homes, and come prepared to the open house with the following:
Basic background info about the home
A list of questions to ask the listing agent
A tape measure if you want to make sure your furniture fits in the home
A way to take notes, such as a notebook and pen or using a smartphone to take videos, pictures, and even your own commentary on each room
When you attend an open house, avoid bringing:
Children, unless they are older and can help ask questions
The reason you don’t want to bring the above to an open house is that they may disrupt other visitors’ viewing of the home, distract you from seeing the home’s full potential, or even damage the home.
Open House Etiquette For Homebuyers
Respect the homeowners’ privacy. Don’t look in their medicine cabinet or their dresser. But, it is ok to open their pantry or towel closet to see what kind of storage the home offers.
In general, it’s best not to hold the listing agent hostage as you tour the home. Make sure they are available to chat with other people too. On the flip side, if you are interested in the home, make an effort to introduce yourself to the listing agent. And, of course, try to leave room for other people to tour the home. So, avoid blocking doorways and talking too loudly so that other people can experience the home too.
Following these basic rules will help your case as a buyer and will allow other people to picture themselves in the home as well.
Benefits and Downsides of Open Houses for Homebuyers
Especially for first-time homebuyers, there are tons of benefits to attending open houses. Sure, you can see specific houses you like in person to see if they’re “the one.” And, you can also create a list of must-haves, wants, and other things you care about in a home even if you don't like the home you see when attending an open house.
For example, you may go to an open house where the home has tons of built-ins, and you may love them but not the rest of the home. Add “built-ins” to your want list for your future home. Or, maybe you find a home with eight-foot ceilings or small, cramped spaces that just don’t work for you — add them to your “no-go” list.
There are a few downsides to open houses though. Sometimes, it’s difficult to view yourself in a home with lots of other people there, which is common at open houses. And, you may not get as much time with the listing agent as you would like to ask questions. One more downside is that open houses usually create lots of interest in a home. So, if you want to make an offer, you may have more competition after an open house.
Open Houses for First-time Homesellers
If you haven’t sold a home before, an open house can be intimidating. There is a good amount of work that goes into an open house. Read on to find out how to prepare your home for an open house and what the benefits and downsides are from the seller’s point of view.
How to Prepare Your Home for an Open House
Preparing your home for an open house can be a lot of work, but it can also drum up a lot of interest in your home. The goal of an open house is for prospective buyers to be able to see themselves in your home.
Below is a checklist of tasks to prepare your home for sale you may want to consider doing before having an open house:
Complete any repairs you may have been putting off
Remove excess furniture
Remove personal photos
Remove children’s artwork and projects
Remove pet accessories, dishes, and toys
Add flowers throughout your home
Make up beds in the home with fresh sheets
Make sure there are no foul or mouldy smells in your home
Additionally, it can be useful to add a special staging touch to your open house. Potential buyers may go to multiple open houses in one day. And at the end of the day, you want them to remember your house best. For example, if you want to feature your gorgeous backyard, you could set up your barbecue and outdoor furniture in a staged 'tableau' for potential buyers to show off the space.
Lastly, you should make sure that you and your family members and pets have somewhere else to be for the entire duration of the open house.
Benefits and Downsides of Open Houses for Homesellers
Open houses allow people to get a feel for your home. And they can do it in a way that allows them to ask the listing agent questions without the pressure of having the listing agent hovering over them for the whole tour. This can lead to offers on your home. Plus, your agent only has to be at your home for a few hours instead of scheduling tons of individual home tours. And that means you only have to clean up your home once.
There are some downsides to open houses though. Although it is extremely uncommon, some sellers worry that visitors will steal from or damage their home. If you are especially concerned about this, it’s best to have minimal valuable objects in your home and ask your agent to monitor guests closely.
Another downside is that some guests may not be qualified to buy your home. Or, maybe they are just curious neighbors who just want to see what the inside of your home looks like. Nevertheless, most people at your open house will be interested in buying. So, all the effort you put into tidying your home will almost certainly be worth it.
When should you have an open house and for how long?
The best time for an open house is off-peak times when people are less likely to be working or attending their kids’ activities. Most real estate agents will host open houses on Saturdays and Sundays and very occasionally on weekday evenings.
Most listing agents recommend having an open house shortly after your home hits the market, but later open houses can help generate interest too. You can also host an open house after a price decrease in order to find new people interested in your home.
You may wonder: how long is an open house? Most open houses are one hour to three hours long, depending on when they are. For example, evening open houses may only be an hour. Weekend open houses maybe three or even four hours long. Remember that your open house can only be as long as you and your family (and your pets) can stay out of the house and as long as your real estate agent’s schedule allows.
What is a good turnout for an open house?
Because every home is a unique home on the market, it is hard to say what a good turnout for an open house is. Sometimes, you may get fewer people at an open house if your home is at a particularly high price point. Or, you may get more people touring your home but they could just be curious neighbors, or people that are not serious buyers. Most listing agents aim to have about 10-20 people visit a home at an open house. But, the real way to see if an open house is a well-executed event is to see how many people submit offers or request individual tours afterward.
Do open houses actually help sell a home?
Although open houses can be a lot of work to put on, they are a great tool for Waterloo Region homesellers. And, they are an accessible, non-intimidating way for homebuyers to get to know the housing market. If you are considering attending or hosting an open house, chat with your real estate agent to see what they think and if they have any tips to offer.
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