Last weekend was the Spring Preview of Homes and hundreds of potential buyers turned out to see what Anchorage’s builders are creating in 2018. I started my real estate career by working open houses and I still do four or five a month because it helps me better understand the housing needs of buyers. I teach classes for new realtors on how to do opens but it occurred to me last weekend that visitors may also need some helpful hints in order to benefit more by attending. Most hosts have material on the home and community that is probably not available through the local MLS or Zillow so don’t hesitate to stock up on the information that is provided. You’ve taken time out of your personal schedule to visit the open so make the most of it. Walk the rooms. Maybe more than once. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Spec homes are in short supply but most builders will have provided plans for future builds that may better suit your needs so ask what else is being planned by the builder or what new lots may be opening up.

Some visitors walk in and out of a home in less than five minutes. I think they’re afraid they’re going to be bombarded by the realtor. You do not need to sign a guest book. You do not need to give your name or your contact information unless you want to. Most realtors hosting are there to help buyers and although they are knowledgeable about the home they are sitting in, most do not represent the seller so they are there to assist buyers. If you want to know what the realtor’s relationship is to the property, just ask. You may take photos of the home and some visitors do FaceTime with an absent family member or friend.  

If you visit an open house and are interested in the home, take time to walk the lot. Yes, its muddy out there right now but it’s a good idea to understand the side yard setbacks and how big the backyard actually is. Almost all new homes are built with a four foot crawl space so don’t hesitate to open the door and step down.  

Some open houses will have information available about how the home can be financed. That information is generic and although accurate may not be applicable to your particular financial situation. The best source for qualifying for a mortgage is a mortgage originator. In today’s market, all offers should be accompanied by a 90% letter. If you’re seriously shopping for a new home, do get pre-qualified before seriously looking for a home. 

Today’s visitors have almostalways seen the property online before they come to an open. Like the celebrities on magazine covers, home photos can be deceiving and are sometimes Photoshopped or taken with wide angle lens to make the rooms look larger. If you’re interested in the home, visit the neighborhood during off hours. Time how long it takes you to go from work to home during rush hour. See what’s happening in the neighborhood on a Saturday morning. Are homeowners getting their yards ready for summer? 

Buyers need to educate themselves about the market and one way to do that is to visit homes that are below and above your designated purchase point. Open houses are a better way to get that knowledge about the market than online. Try not to reject a home online due to the poor quality of photos or because it doesn’t check all your boxes of wants and needs.