Making the most of your time at an open house is incredibly important in this market where houses & condos are selling quickly. There are things you can do before the open house to help you make up your mind if this is the home for you. One of those things would be to drive around the neighborhood, see how quiet or busy it is, are there people outside, stores close by etc. Get a real feel for the neighborhood you are thinking about moving into. If you see people outside don't be afraid to ask them how they like the neighborhood, what are the pro's and con's, would they recommend the neighborhood to friends? Knowing these things before the open house can not only give you a great sense of the neighborhood you are considering but may also help with questions at the open house.
Once you are at the open house it is important to remember that the agent who is there is most often not the listing agent. If that is the case you may want to ask some questions about the listing agent to understand who they are and who you will be working with if you want to make an offer. If the person is the listing agent then it is definitely appropriate to ask them some questions about how their agency works, how they work, etc. This is becoming a common practice at open houses so don't feel awkward about it at all.
We recommend taking your agent with you when attending open houses you are interested in. Your agent can help you ask questions, look for any issues, figure out what the right offer is and make it when you are ready. Seattle is a competitive market so having your agent with you can help you make an offer you feel great about quickly so you don't lose the house of your dreams. At the Warmack Group we are very knowledgeable about the neighborhoods around Seattle so we can help you with a better understanding of the neighborhood, and the value of properties in the area. This can be vital to making the right offer.
If you don't have an agent, or yours can't attend the open house with you then don't be shy about asking the questions you need answer to. Don't be afraid to ask if you can take pictures and always take notes about answers you get at the open house.
These are a list of the top questions you should ask about a home at an open house:
1. Are you the listing agent? Having the listing agent at the open house can offer you a deeper knowledge of the property and the seller. They are more familiar with the sellers and can give you more insight. However, having a different representative of the agency at the open house may mean a little more transparency since they don't have the same attachment to the owner and the property. Understanding who you are talking to can help you to understand what questions need to be clarified later on if you feel you need more in depth answers.
2. Have any offers been received on the property? If there are other offers, or expected offers coming, it means you have to think carefully about your offer since you are now in a competition. Understanding the demand for the property and the neighborhood can help guide you in the offer you make or on the popularity of the neighborhood.
3. Do you know why the sellers have listed the house? While this isn't always known it is worth it to find out if you can. It can give you insight into the neighborhood or the home. If you find out there was a lot of maintenance required, or the HOA fees were too high, or the neighborhood has issues it is great to know these ahead of time so you can factor that into your decision.
4. How long has this property been on the market? This question is important for two reasons. One is to give you and insight on how hot the neighborhood and property is and two because it can help you when you are making an offer. If the house has been on the market for a while you may be able to negotiate a lower price than if the house went on the market that day.
5. Is there an available Sellers Disclosure document you can send me? When you are buying a house or condo it is important to know if there are any structural issues, major repairs or code violations. A Sellers Disclosure document reveals any known issues with the house, appliances etc. While it is not a warranty it is extremely helpful when you are considering whether or not to make an offer. It is possible an agent may tell you some of the issues, if there are any, or repairs that have been made, while you are at the open house. Listen carefully, and inspect the areas afterwards. It is important to know what you are getting yourself into before you make an offer, it can also help you negotiate your offer as well.
6. Have any updates been made to the house? This is a great question to understand what investments you may have to make within the first years of owning the house or condo. It is also important to know while you are in the house so that you can look closely at any remodeling that has been done and make sure it is up to your standards. There are some updates which are obvious and some which are not so ask about the ones which are not specifically, such as the wiring, the electrical, plumbing, roof, etc. These can often be the most costly things to fix so find out as much as you can about the age and condition.
7. What is most important to the sellers & what is their timeline? Knowing when a seller needs to sell their home can give you a great insight into what kind of offer to make. If a seller is in a hurry you can use that to your advantage, but if a seller has time then you might want to structure your offer differently, offer them a longer closing time or other options that could allow them to stay in their house longer. Understanding what it is that the seller wants or needs can help to set up a great experience when buying your home or investment property.
8. Where would you recommend we get a cup of coffee, a meal or shop? While this may seem like a strange question to ask at an open house it can accomplish 2 things. The first is to get a sense of what the neighborhood has to offer and if it is inline with what you are looking for. The second is to give you a chance to talk to other people in the neighborhood to find out more about where you are thinking about living, or investing, and even about the house itself.
9. Is there a Homeowners Association or any extra fees? It is extremely important to understand all of the costs associated with living in the home. If there are other fees you did not expect it can be really tough on your budget. It never feels good to get surprises like that so make sure you understand all of the costs associated with the property.
10. Is there anything unique about the property or the neighborhood? Knowing the history of a home or any outstanding features which may not be obvious can make your experience better. What if there is a weekly farmers market down the street which blocks off the street every Sunday morning. This may be great for you or it may be a source of frustration, the more you know the less likely you are to be completely happy with your decision.
At the Warmack Group we believe it is our job as a buyers agent to be with you every step of the way. We believe in attending open houses with you so that we can help you get all the answers you want, and to help you make the best offer. We feel great about our jobs when we have helped you find the right home, or investment for you long term. Contact us to talk about how we can work together, or to ask us these questions to help you get started looking for the right home for you. You can also check out our listings and local listings here, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up with us, Real Estate news and all things Seattle Real Estate.