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What Is an Open House and How Does It Work?

What is an open house?

What Is an Open House and How Do They Work?

Everyone has heard of an open house, whether it’s through word-of-mouth or the vast and all-knowing internet. For the average buyer, attending an open house is critical in the earlier stages of the home buying process. If you’re a first-time homebuyer who is unfamiliar with the process overall, then open houses should be on the top of your to-do list. They are considered a valuable opportunity to make some decisions about your future home.

So, what is an open house? An open house is a public and informal event hosted by a real estate agent (also known as a listing agent) or the seller. During the event, typically lasting between 1-3 hours, essentially everyone and anyone is welcome to stop by the property for sale and browse around at their leisure.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, how do you even find an open house as a potential buyer? What benefits come from attending one, and how can you make the most out of the experience?

How Are Open Houses Beneficial?

Open houses offer a variety of benefits that a first-time home buyer can leverage to get your foot in the door. It is an event that serves you as the audience, giving you a chance to explore your wants and needs in a home and how they factor into deciding on “the one.” The benefits to you attending an open house include:

Getting a sneak peek. Attending an open house is very similar to shopping for clothes. Say you think your closet is getting a little outdated, and maybe you have new fashion preferences since the last time you bought clothes. To find out what those preferences are, you need to try on some options. You spend some time trying out different outfits, pairing certain styles, and asking yourself, “do I like this? Can I see myself wearing this?”

Now put yourself in the same position when attending an open house. Since it is considered a public event, that means you can openly walk into the current resident’s home and look around. Just like with our clothing example, ask yourself, do I like the size of the bedrooms? The setup of the kitchen? Can I see myself watching TV in this living room area? Essentially, you are getting a sneak peek of your potential future home by imagining yourself there in real-time.

No commitment. Many home buyers may assume that attending an open house implies that you are adamant about purchasing it. While there will be some parties at an open house with the full intention of buying it, in reality, everyone will have different levels of interest coming in. The great thing about going to an open house is that no commitment is involved.

You may have to sign in and put down basic contact information, but the realtor will not automatically assume you are a serious buyer. Not only is there no commitment, but there is no pressure to buy either. You are welcome to attend an open house for any reason as there are no prerequisites to attend.

How do open houses work

An educational experience. We all know how overwhelming the home buying journey can be, especially if you have no previous knowledge of what to do during the process. However, if you have questions about the house and the process overall, then attending an open house can provide that educational learning you need. Usually, a realtor is required to be present at an open house and will usually be available for questions.

An open house is not the only time you get to ask questions, but obtaining some answers upfront will serve as an educational ramp-up along your entire journey. Besides, asking questions at an open house is very important and gives you a better idea of your interests and concerns in your ultimate dream home.

For fun. Like we mentioned, you can walk into an open house without having to worry about having a particular reason. The realtor may ask what brings you to the open house, but feel free to say that you’re just looking around. Several people who rent sometimes like to attend an open house to experience the earlier stages of home buying and recognize the differences between their current rental and an owned house. No matter your reason for attending, remember to have fun with the experience and soak in all the beauty of the property you’re looking at.

Open House vs. Open House by Appointment

When looking for open houses, whether it’s online or cruising a neighborhood, you may notice that a few of them distinctly say “Open House by appointment.” What does this mean?

Even though open houses are public events, there are some cases where a realtor is only available for a certain block of time and does not have flexible availability. That realtor may then promote on the property listing that they’re holding an open house by appointment. Instead of being a public event, an open house by appointment means that you will need to contact the realtor to schedule a private showing for you.

Other than scheduling the open house by appointment, most other aspects of it stay the same. Some complex buildings will only have open houses by appointment to not crowd the common areas of that building in respect for other residents.

How to find open houses

How to Find Open Houses

Now that you received a little more information on open houses and how they work, are you ready to start looking? If you are, there are a couple of options you have to look for open houses.

MLS. Searching on an MLS is probably the easiest and fastest way to look for open houses near you. MLS stands for multiple listing services and is an online service that compiles real estate listings, either in a specific area or the entire nation. A few popular and widely known ones are Zillow, Redfin, and Some MLS will have both listings for sale and rent. Also, you may be able to filter by Open House to make your search easier.

Look in your local area. While this may not be the most effective way to look for open houses, just because most services have transitioned to the web, it will not be as overwhelming. If you plan to stay in the same area when looking for a house, taking the traditional route will be valuable to your search. All you need to do is drive around your neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods to look for open houses. You might get a few options or a lot since it all depends on the state of your local market.

Hire an agent. A buyer’s real estate agent is a realtor who makes an offer on a property on your behalf. Finding and hiring a buyer’s agent to work for your best interests will help you with your search. A professional expert in the field can research homes that aligns with your preferences. With a buyer’s agent, discussing your must-haves and dealbreakers in a home will give them a better idea of what open houses are ideal to attend.

Addressing Potential Concerns

We know privacy concerns have been an issue lately and will probably arise when you are encouraged to sign in and input your name and contact info at the open house. Though an open house is public, it might help to remember that you are entering someone else’s residence. The seller will likely want a written record of who enters their house to feel more secure about making their space public. Also, giving the realtor your information can allow them to provide additional information about the house after you’ve seen it.

Another thing to keep in mind is if you’ve been constantly on the fence about pursuing homeownership, then attending an open house is the perfect opportunity to give you more reason and context for your decision. The minute you think you’re ready to start looking, we highly encourage you to start going to open houses right away. The more you attend, the more you’ll get used to it and become more confident in going through the rest of the process.

What to look for at an open house

When’s the Next Open House?

Looking for your future home doesn’t have to be overwhelming, so we hope that this information gave you insight into why it should be a fun and educational experience! If you have questions beyond the surface details of the home and are interested in financing and obtaining a mortgage, then our doors are always open. All you need to do is contact us to talk with a local loan officer who will work with you to meet your financial goals. With RWM Home Loans on your side, getting started on the mortgage process after finding the perfect home can be seamless and comfortable.

Even though you’ve found the perfect home and want to obtain a mortgage, what if you don’t have enough saved for the down payment? Here’s our guide on how to save for a down payment on a house, helping you get one step closer to your dream home.

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