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Open houses are one of the best ways to get a sense for whether a house is really going to fit your needs. A picture may speak a thousand words, but there’s no substitute for walking through homes to get a real feel for the space. Even though open houses are great, they consume a lot of time, and you don’t want to have to give up too many weekends to house-hunting.
In this guide, we will cover the basics about open houses — how to find them, and some best practices for attending them — to make your search easier.
Open houses: The basics
Sellers host open houses to entice qualified buyers to walk through their house at a specific date and time — and, ideally, make an offer. They are usually held on weekends, but some sellers in hot markets might host an open house on a weeknight if there’s a lot of interest in the area.
Open houses are different from home showings. They are usually not private, and you can expect to see the house presented at its very best. You can also expect to encounter a lot of other potential buyers checking out the same properties at the same time as you.
How do I find open houses?
The internet is your friend.
There is a growing interest and reliance on online search in all aspects of daily life, and home-hunting is no different. You have access to websites and apps that let you search for homes by location and include virtual tours so you can preview potential homes and narrow down their search.
Joe Epifanio, a top-selling Naples, Florida, real estate agent who has sold more than 86% more properties in Naples than the average agent, told us that for buyers, knowledge is power, and a great way to learn a lot about a property you are interested in online is to attend open houses.
Below are several ways in which you can utilize the powers of the internet in your search.
Search the MLS
The MLS — multiple listing service — has the most accurate and comprehensive database of home sales. Brokers share information about their listings so that other brokers with qualified buyers can see what’s available.
The MLS is the perfect place to start your search; you’ll need to start working with a real estate agent to get access to MLS listings, which often include open houses.
Simply type “How do I find open houses near me”? into the search bar on Google or any other web browser on your computer. Generally, your computer will know your location from previous searches and provide a list of options for you to explore. If you are on a different or new computer, simply add the ZIP code in which you would like to search.
Search #openhouse and your city’s name on Instagram, and you’ll find some real estate listings with pictures of homes that will be open for your viewing pleasure. Depending on where you live, you may see a few listings or many — but it’s worth a shot.
In the search bar type in “open houses (your city).” Many cities have open house groups that you can easily join with the click of a button. Once you join the group, you can keep tabs on new open houses that pop up daily.
There’s an app for that
There are quite a few companies with apps to help make your house-hunting experience a little easier. You may have heard of Redfin, Trulia, and Zillow, but there are a ton more out there, such as HomeSnap and Xome.
Digital Trends created a comprehensive list to help you on your homebuying journey. Simply download the apps that you like and start exploring the options.
Once you’ve gotten to the end of the internet on your search, there are still a few other ways to achieve some insight into open houses near you.
Ask your agent
Choosing a buyer’s agent is an essential part of the homebuying process, as the right agent will be a serious asset throughout every step of the purchasing process. A good agent will be able to help you navigate the competitive nature of the real estate market.
Look for signs
While looking online is becoming increasingly popular, people are still doing things IRL (in real life). There are plenty of real estate agents who still stake “Open House” signs in front of properties for sale, so have a drive around and see if you can spot some.
Check the local newspaper
Many agencies still use the newspaper to advertise open houses. So swing by the corner store and grab a good old-fashioned newspaper.
Visit local real estate offices
If you haven’t chosen a buyer’s agent, you can stop by local real estate offices in your target area and ask what open houses they have coming up.
You found some open houses! Now, plan your day
Try to give yourself at least 30 minutes to walk through each house — ideally closer to 45; it might be crowded, and you want to get a good look. When factoring in driving time, you can probably plan on visiting five open houses at most.
Make sure to look at the timeframes for the open houses you’d like to attend so you know when the earliest starts and the last one ends. If you find yourself short on time, refine your list:
- Do you need to eliminate any houses?
- Which houses don’t quite meet your needs?
- Which houses have been on the market the longest and might be willing to accommodate a private showing later in the week?
- Which houses are you most excited about seeing in person?
Once you have your final choices for the day, make a list of the addresses. It’s helpful to give each house a nickname so that you can keep them straight in your head.
Green shutters: 123 Main Street, Smalltown, PA 19125
Favorite Kitchen: 456 Second Street, Smalltown, PA 19125
Next, plot the addresses to create the most efficient route. You can do this easily with Google Maps. On your phone, open the app, or on your computer go to www.maps.google.com and follow these instructions:
- Tap the blue “Directions” button in the lower-right corner.
- Select the “Choose destination” textbox.
- Add your starting point. By default on the app, Maps will use your current location as the starting point. You can edit this by selecting the “Your location” field. If you are on the computer, you’ll need to input your starting point.
- Enter your first stop in the text field. After entering the destination, you will see a blue line appear with the route from point A to point B.
- Add the next stop. If you are using the app, tap the action overflow button (the three vertical dots) on the top-right corner of the screen, then select “Add stop.” On the computer you’ll see a little plus sign below the destination bar; click that to add the next stop.
- As soon as you enter the second destination, a new line will be automatically added underneath, giving you the option to add another stop.
- On the app and website, you can rearrange stops easily by dragging the three horizontal lines next to the location names. You can also clear a destination by selecting the X icon to the right.
- This is where the website leaves you. You can print out your route and take it with you. If you are using the phone app, tap “Done.”
- You’ll see an overview of your trip, as well as all the stops and the overall time.
- Tap the “Start” button in the lower right corner to start navigation to your first stop.
How to make the most of your open house visits
Epifanio recommends “taking a little time before venturing out to write down some questions that are important to you in regard to finding the right house. Also, make a list of questions about the neighborhood.” Ask about whether there is an HOA, too.
Taking notes while you are looking through the homes on the pros and cons of each property will allow you to see how it lines up with others you’ll be seeing. Epifanio also suggested asking the person running the open house if it’s OK to take photos, which is a great way to jog your memory later after you’ve seen a lot of homes.
Open houses can take up quite a bit of time, but hopefully, these tips will let you take part of your weekend back. It’s time to make those lists, download those apps, and hit the open road. Happy house-hunting!
Header Image Source: (Francesca Tosolini / Unsplash)