If you are just beginning your home search, the open house process is a very important part of the journey to eventually becoming a home owner. This is a great time to learn the market without committing.
The housing market on the entire Westside is really hot right now, so with limited inventory the days of getting a deal are gone. Where we live, in Culver City, it was just rated one of the most expensive zip codes in Southern California. Many first time buyers tell us all the time, "we want a deal!" Please don't go out shopping thinking you are going to find a deal, because you will be disappointed and frustrated before you even see the first house.
Open houses are just that - open to the public, curious neighbors, window shoppers, and serious buyers. They make it possible for anyone to see a property in a certain time period, without an appointment and without your agent who represents you. Shopping for homes online is very different from shopping in person. Photoshop is a great tool, but it can also be misleading and give you a false sense of room size, condition, and etc. In Culver City this time of year, we typically hold open houses on Sunday from 2-5pm and on Tuesday we have brokers caravan from 11-2pm, which you can attend with your agent. If your schedule doesn't permit, then have your agent schedule an appointment for you instead.
Signing In - Why Do It?
The biggest fear of some new home buyers is that a real estate agent is going to ask for your contact information and then begin harassing them for the next several days or weeks. That does happen sometimes, but it isn't the norm. The main reasons an agent hosting the open house wants you to sign in, is to keep track of the number of people touring the home, and puts faces to names when and if you decide to write an offer. For safety reasons, the agent is looking after their client's home and is keeping a look out for who is coming and going. If you wish to not sign in, you can politely decline. It's always a good idea to be nice and polite to the agent, because you never know if you will cross paths again.
Ask the Agent Questions
Chatting up the agent to get an idea of the area, schools, and etc. is always a good idea, because he/she is a great source of info and if you're serious about a particular property ask questions. The agent represents the seller and is the direct line of communication and knows more about the property than anyone. If they know who you are and you end up writing an offer, it helps put a face to a name. Your agent can funnel your questions to the listing agent, but if you are there in person, don't hesitate to ask questions. Why is the seller selling? Do you have a day that you are reviewing offers and how many showings have you had? This tells you what the motivation is for the seller and how interested other potential buyers are in the property. An agent won't accept offers past the deadline, so be sure to have everything ready to go and work with your agent to submit an offer on time!
Be Open to Meeting Your Future Agent
Some of the best buyer/seller/real estate relationships begin at open houses. If you are just beginning your search and haven't already agreed to work with another agent, then you are getting a chance to meet several agents who for the most part, specialize in your area of interest. Find out if they live and work in the area. Several out of area agents get listings and don't know much at all about the neighborhood, schools, local hot spots, and etc. Face to face conversations are the best way to build a connection and see if this is an agent you would enjoy working with. Do your research as well and check out their reviews on Yelp & Zillow to see what their clients say about them. If you are interested in finding out more, go ahead and book an appointment with the agent at the open house. This will allow you time to share with the agent what you are looking for, your budget, and what's most important to you. If the open house is busy, it's hard for the agent to spend to much time talking to one person. Be courteous of the other people waiting and just book an appointment. If you really aren't interested in speaking with this agent again, don't be shy about saying so up front. This saves everyone time and energy!
Trust is the most important thing when it comes to picking the right agent. We pride ourselves on many of our clients now calling us their friends. We are always a resource and a phone call way beyond each transactions. Buying or selling a home is one of the biggest and most stressful things you will do, so it's a good idea to work with someone who will remind you to breathe and listen to your concerns along the way!