The pretenders.

November 21, 2011 · 36 comments

Girl Ninja and I are going to put on our Sunday’s best and pretend to be something we are not. What, you ask? We’ll be pretending to be a couple that is interested in buying a home. That’s right suckers, we are going to attend some open houses over the next few months, even though we don’t plan on purchasing anytime soon.

I’ve spent the last eight years of my life hopping from dorm to dorm, apartment to apartment, and condo to condo. Needless to say, I’ve gotten very use to living in small spaces. I’ve also gotten use to packing up the bags and moving every single year to a new residence. Girl Ninja’s residential history is no different.

Obviously, when you buy a house, you need to be comfortable with the idea of living in said residence for at least 5 years (my personal preference is 10+ years) in case the markets shift. The thought of establishing a more permanent residence is both exciting and scary. It will be nice to have a place that we can really make our own. It will be nice to have three or four bedrooms instead of one. It will be nice to have a garage to park our cars in. But let’s not forget, a home is freakin’ expensive. They come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s intimidating to think about buying something we know very little about.

I mean think about your house. Are there things about it you realized you don’t really like now, but overlooked when you bought the place? I imagine I’d walk through a house and be like “Oh, I don’t really care that the laundry room is downstairs”, but after a few months of living there, I’d hate that it was. Or perhaps I’d think “Oh this formal living room space is a nice addition”, only to realize formal living rooms are seldom used.

I make sure to ask all of my home-owning-friends what they do and don’t like about their current places. What they wished they would have done differently during the home buying process. And if any of them have buyers remorse. The insight they provide is incredible, but can only go so far. 

We’ve taken it upon ourselves to get educated and get out there. No better way to learn what we like and don’t like then by seeing a million places right? In fact, I’d argue there is no better time to go house hunting then when you aren’t really wanting to buy a house. This will help keep our emotions out of the process. I honestly want to be the king of open houses. Ya know, every Sunday after church hit up an open house or two. Get an idea of what’s out there; gain a better understanding of what our budget will afford us.

But does pretending to be potential home buyers make us bad people? I mean, it’s not like the real estate agent is showing the house for fun. They are trying to sell the thing. I don’t think I could just be like “Uh, so we aren’t gonna buy this place, but will you take the time to walk us around and show it to us?”. Super awkward.

I don’t know, maybe it’s not that big of a deal? Only ONE person is going to end up buying the house so we wouldn’t be different than the other 99% that didn’t buy. Am I speaking truth or just trying to justify our silly antics?

Moral of the story: We want to go look at a bunch of houses we aren’t going to buy, but in a way that doesn’t totally waste someone’s time. Since I’ve never been to an open house before I’ll relay some questions to you all for help :)

  1. How many open houses have you been to?
  2. Anyone else gone open house-ing, even though you weren’t in the market to buy a home?
  3. What’s the atmosphere like at an open house? Is there pressure from the selling agent to put in an offer? Or is it more casual, where Girl Ninja and I would be free to roam around as we please?
  4. Should we tell the selling agent we aren’t ready to be home owners yet, but are just getting a feel for the market?
  5. What did you wish you knew about the home buying process before you started it?
1 Kristin

I’ve been to open houses, but it was my parents planning on buying a house, not me ;). I think this is a good strategy – it’s not like you’ve enlisted a broker to show you places and kicked the sellers out of their home for an afternoon just for you. The sellers are going to be showing to lots of people on one day, so one more couple isn’t a big deal here. You shouldn’t feel awkward or guilty. You are potential buyers – just not right now. Don’t know enough to weigh in on the other open-house questions.

For #5, this is way way way down the road, but from my family’s experience buying a home ~6 years ago, when you find a place you like and do put in an offer, don’t skimp on an inspection. On a house we were planning to buy, the builder was a crook, violated environmental laws which put a lien on the title, and fudged the radon test. I remember hearing that the house had been built on a landfill and that made me nervous, but the radon test had come back OK so my parents moved forward with the deal. When the title issues surfaced a week before closing, my parents backed out, and we had to scramble to make other arrangements ($$$!). We read in the paper later that the house eventually sold to a family with a baby and the radon levels were so high they had to move out and the house was demolished by the town. So when you find a place you like, go with your gut when things seem funny and make sure you check it out as thoroughly as you can before you sign on the dotted line.

2 Matt, Tao of Unfear

I’ve been to a couple of open houses for/with my parents as well, and the agent has always been in the kitchen dutifully baking cookies, you know, because the smell of baked goods is supposed to make people buy happy or something. Anyone who attends the open house has been free to roam. You shouldn’t be wasting anyone’s time unless you get carried away with asking questions.

I think I’d pretty much have to design and build my own home in order to have it how I want it. Every house I’ve ever been in has had a least one area that was poorly designed/constructed. I think my biggest pet peeve is light switches that are in really inconvenient spots. Also, switches that go to outlets instead of mounted light fixtures. And lack of naturally lighting. Basically, if anything about the lighting was off, it would be a deal breaker for me.

I’m very honestly considering building a small home (http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/cottages/). The only problem is that I’d want additional kitchen space. And a cellar.

3 Debra F

1. Lots I love going to open houses
2. I do as we don’t want to buy right now but will in 1-2 years. So want to know what we can expect for what we can afford.
3.Well here in Australia they are pretty relaxed and you are free to roam around.
4. I tell them that and they are fine with it.
5. to not be so emotional about the purchase. I’m not sure that is possible though.

The most awkward open house I went to was down the road from us. The house was pretty grotty and the bedroom doors were closed but the agent said you can go on in. I opened the door and there was some old fella in bed asleep. The agent apologised and I noticed it got taken off the market and the tenants kicked out then put on the market again and sold really quickly.

4 AMD @ amomsdime

1. I’ve been to a ton, both before and after we bought our condo and then house.
2. Absolutely, half the fun is seeing what other places in the neighbourhood were going for to keep tabs on what we thought the value of ours would be when we needed to sell. Even though we’re in our place we’re planning to spend the next twenty or so years, if we see an open house in the neighbourhood we tend to pop in.
3. I’ve never felt like there’s a ton of pressure. Especially if it’s a popular place, often times the realtor doesn’t have a lot of time to spend with you…they’ll usually pass you a brochure that has different pictures of the place and you’re free to go on your way and poke around. The realtor doesn’t want to make any potential buyers uncomfortable so I feel they’re pretty good at leaving you alone.
4. I don’t think there’s any need to volunteer any information. If you want to, fine, but I don’t think they’ll necessarily be asking you your intentions.
5. Oooh, this is a hard one. Home inspection yes, but at least in Canada it only goes so far as the inspector is not allowed to displace anything that’s already there (for ex. if the basement is walled in he can’t poke a hole in the wall to check for potential mold on the other side). Emotions definitely try and keep out of it, but at the same time you do want to buy a place you love. When we bought our condo it was a sellers market (every single time there was a bidding war), so for us we needed to have all our ducks in order…know exactly what we wanted, have all our financing etc. ready, and be ready to leap on an opportunity if we saw it. I think it may be a little different for you these days if everything we hear about the US housing market holds true.

5 Larry

1 How many open houses have you been to?
– None in the past 20+ years. But I do read the Real Estate section in the Sunday NY Times.

2 Anyone else gone open house-ing, even though you weren’t in the market to buy a home?
– Same answer.

3 What’s the atmosphere like at an open house? Is there pressure from the selling agent to put in an offer? Or is it more casual, where Girl Ninja and I would be free to roam around as we please?
– I suppose so long as you don’t open the fridge and start cooking, or sit down by the computer and search for the owner’s tax returns, you’re free to roam.

4 Should we tell the selling agent we aren’t ready to be home owners yet, but are just getting a feel for the market?
– You don’t owe anyone any explanation. You don’t have to put on your Sunday best, but do wear something. A non-commital “Very nice house, thanks,” is all you have to say to anybody. At least half the people there are just looking too. In fact I wouldn’t say anything more to the agent and above all don’t give them any personal information. They’ll be down on you the next day with a “friendly” phone call or worse.

5 What did you wish you knew about the home buying process before you started it?
– Don’t know about that, but just a few thoughts: Take your time. Don’t fall in love with the first house. Consider a condo as it’s likely cheaper. Don’t buy more house than you need. Check out the neighborhood at several times of day. When you get serious, learn about the schools, the taxes, the shopping, the proximity to main roads/public transportation, the crime levels, etc.

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6 Drew @EpicFinances.com

I went to about 180 homes before purchasing my current home. I low-balled a home that the offer was rejected on, but later I was offered the house at that price (after I had moved into my home). I only moved into my home because of the $8,000 credit — otherwise it would have been priced out of logic to me. I have plenty of cash, that’s not the problem — its just the logical part of my brain wouldn’t let me purchase the home without that incentive.

I have lived here almost 2 years now — and I just don’t enjoy how long my commute is (about 40 minutes). Also I don’t like how the space is laid out (its a “tri-level”) — the more I live here the more I dislike it. I think I’ll be out in about 3.5-4 years. I put 100s of hours into rehabbing this home and a lot of money — I think after all is said and done I’ll probably walk with the money i put into the home and all that time is just gone.

I enjoy living in my home but it is expensive. Nothing burns me more than a $100 – $200 home depot trip where you don’t feel that you really purchased anything.

7 JP

I’m in the same boat as the Ninjas – at least a couple years out from buying a home. I’ve gone to several open houses. They’re very low-pressure. The agent might ask if you have an agent, financing, etc. to gauge if you’re a “serious buyer.” We haven’t been hit with any hard-sell tactics (yet).

8 me in millions

My boyfriend and I play House Hunters. It’s the show on HGTV where someone/a couple looks at 3 houses, weighs the pros and cons and then buy a house. It was all fun and games until I actually wound up buying a house. Be careful!

Open houses are totally fun. Go into it as a fun time. Just don’t give any contact info or you will def be hearing from the listing agent! You can also take this as an opportunity to meet lots of real estate agents and maybe choose one for when you eventually decide to buy.

9 Mysti

OK…so what happens if you find a home and fall in love with it? Have you thought out that contingency?

10 graduate.living

1. When I was teaching, I used to go to open houses all the time (free entertainment on a Sunday afternoon…). Sometimes I’d go with the BF, sometimes my mom.
2. I’ve never been in the market to buy a home =) I have many more moons to go before that happens.
3. No pressure, at least if the agent is doing what they’re supposed to be doing. They’re supposed to be there to hand you a sheet with information, show you a plate of cookies, and say “If you have any questions please let me know.” Just say thanks when you’re done and head for the door. If it’s a nice place, chances are you won’t be the only people there.
4. No explanation needed. See #3.
5. I’ve never bought a home, but I’ve lived in five different places (not including apartments) throughout my childhood. In my teens, I would help with the renovation of a new place. The one thing I learned from all my parents’ different houses is this: paint can be changed. Wall paper can be stripped. Blue carpet can be removed. Walls can be taken out (albeit expensively). But rarely can you change the layout of a place. Make sure you have something you can live with – or better yet, something you love!
Happy open housing-ing!

11 Tanner

I don’t think you need to tell them anything other than you are there to look at the house. My only concern is that if you tell them you’re not there to buy right off the bat, they may very well just try to get rid of you and make the whole situation even more awkward or uncomfortable (we’ve had that happen with my parents). Go there for the whole experience. Only good things can come out of it, as you consider things (such as having a laundry room in the downstairs vs upstairs). Besides… when you do decide to go real house shopping, this experience can only be beneficial. Have fun, take photos and take notes.

12 Mary M

I think your plan is a fine plan, and I would only add that you can use these visits not only to shop the homes but also shop for a real estate agent to use when you are ready to purchase. If you meet a nice professional agent that you really click with by all means keep their business card.

13 Mike

My wife and I spent nearly 1 year looking at houses. The first few open houses were just to gauge price ranges vs value. We learned that when you are really interested in buying a house that you go with a buyers’ agent because you can get an honest look at the house without someone listening in on conversations and looking over your shoulder. Some of the things we said about houses to our agent I would never have said in front of the seller or seller’s agent.

We did go to one open house just for fun to see what 3/4 of a million dollars could buy. Turned out to be the same agent as at another open house the week before – at half the price. She pointed that out to us, and we just responded with a “we’re curious”.

14 SwearJar

Set up a secondary google phone number and email address in advance. The real estate agents are going to beat you down for contact information.

15 Brian

My old lady and I go to open houses to get ideas for our own home. Some of the “staging” and improvements people make are relatively inexpensive and really can make a place look nice.

We don’t do this as often as we used to, but it can make for a fun little afternoon.

16 StackingCash

Never been to an open house, but I’ve been to many new home models. I find these to be extremely fun and informative about new home technologies. Just like new cars, brand new homes are my cup of tea. I like the idea of having a “virgin” home. I like to customize my home with options galore. From finishes like cabinets and flooring to energy efficiencies like insulation and high seer air conditioners. Again, the most important part of the home is location. The commute, the schools, the shopping, and your neighbors make such a huge impact on your home. From there, I like the 3 car garage, because I like to keep my new cars looking new :) Then on to the master bath which I really never thought of until I got married. Even though we have dual sinks, there is not enough counter space for my wife, all her stuff ends up around my sink :( I wish we had separate vanities… I also like the big super duper showers with multiple showerheads and body sprays :P I also wish I had a urinal so I didn’t have to always put the seat down :) Anyhow, even though I can appreciate a minimalistic lifestyle, having storage space for linens, clothes (especially coats, shoes, and purses!), household tools (vacuum cleaners are huge), dishes, kitchen appliances, suitcases, xmas tree with decorations, and a pantry are so needed in a house. If you have any kind of a yard, you better have that tool shed to keep even more “stuff” you will “need.” Or you can hire a landscaper and maid…I think I need to do that to get rid of all my stuff LOL! Sorry this is kind of long but as you can tell I have way more than two cents on housing stuff, I really should get my Realtors license…

17 Midwest

How many open houses have you been to?
Probably 50+

Anyone else gone open house-ing, even though you weren’t in the market to buy a home?
I sporadically attend open houses even though I have no intention of moving out of my current home any time soon. I only go to those priced 700K or above, just to see all the over the top things “rich” people can do with their money. You come across some pretty sweet things like:
* a book case that swivels out to expose a hidden “panic” room
* outlets mounted on the underside of kitchen cabinets
* waterfalls pouring into pools and hot tubs
* Trees growing from the basement up through a floor cutout into the formal living room

What’s the atmosphere like at an open house? Is there pressure from the selling agent to put in an offer? Or is it more casual, where Girl Ninja and I would be free to roam around as we please?
Most agents will greet you, and let you walk around with minimal questions/hassle. Tell them you’re just looking around and most will let you be. Depending on how long the house has been on the market…sometimes they ask for feedback about what you do/don’t like so they can report that to the sellers. I’m usually honest because I have nothing to lose. I also like to ask questions about the home out of my own interest, to get a little background on the place.

Should we tell the selling agent we aren’t ready to be home owners yet, but are just getting a feel for the market?
No, don’t lie to them. Their income is based on sales, don’t get their hopes up. I let them know I’m just looking so they don’t expend any extra energy on us. It’s a win/win…we get to look, and they get to use their energy on “real” buyers.

What did you wish you knew about the home buying process before you started it?
How stressful it can be. It’s nearly impossible, but the best thing you can do for your bank account is not to let emotion overtake reality when purchasing a home. If you’re too emotionally attached, you won’t walk away when you should. You’ll let the seller give you a portion of what you want in negotiations and make up justifications. Be real about it…and when you’re serious, try to only see houses in your price range. As you look at more expensive homes, you’ll adjust your spending range. I can almost guarantee it.

18 Kyle

I was like you – moving every year for college/grad school and I was scared to settle in a house for a long period of time. I finally decided to do it (thanks to my parents’ help with the down payment) and I definitely do not regret it. However, there are things I’ve learned through this whole process.

I’ve been to A LOT of open houses, some when I was looking to buy a house and others when I was not. Agents are all different – some will show you the house and ask if you might submit an offer while others won’t even get off the couch to welcome you. It just depends on the agent. Either way, you can say that you’re just looking for now – or you can tell them anything you want. They can’t really pressure you to do anything.

Most agents will just be happy to have people coming to the open houses. Even if you aren’t buying, you might love a house so much and mention it to a friend who’s looking – which can lead to business. Also, some agents may give you their business cards, hoping that when you DO start looking, you call them to help you. My mom’s an agent so I have some idea how this works. :)

I bought a house a little more than a year ago. I wish that I knew to just take my time and not to “settle”. After looking at ~100 houses in my price range, I felt like I had found the house for me. Unfortunately, after living there for a few months, I realized that there was so much more I wanted, and I probably could have found it if I had just been more patient.

After looking at so many houses, you start thinking that the features you want don’t exist in your price range. But I think that’s not true – you just have to be willing to wait for it. I definitely don’t regret buying my house but I do plan to buy another one within the next few years (this one was just a “starter house” anyway).

I recommend before starting off looking at houses, make a list of everything you want in a house (I suggested “must-have”,”would like” and “must not have” columns. Then each time you see a house, look over your list – add new things that you want in a house to it (or remove them if you really don’t want them anymore). When you find your house, make sure that you aren’t compromising on any “must-have” features, unless you are either in a rush to buy or are giving it up for something better.

19 Angela

Actually just bought a house in Kirkland in June – we looked in Seattle, Shoreline and Edmonds as well though. Open houses are super relaxed, but fudge it and tell them you already have an agent and are just looking – or you will get bombarded with agents trying to be yours (unless you want tons of emails of new listings right now). We looked at literally 100+ homes before we found ours. Definitely worth it though to be sure of what you want. And second the inspection – one home we thought would be perfect was pretty much sitting on a lake in the basement – wouldn’t have known except we went back on a rainy day!

20 Retiredby40

I wouldn’t be so worried about being a pretender. I would be more worried about falling in love with a house before you are ready to buy and then feeling all this pressure to move up your timeline. I am looking at buying a second property right now but I don’t want to buy until March. However, I have found a place I really want and now I am trying to justify not putting down as big of a down payment. I have to keep fighting with myself.

21 Mo D.

How many open houses have you been to?
– About 15-20 over the past summer; we’ll start up again next spring when we really get set to move.

Anyone else gone open house-ing, even though you weren’t in the market to buy a home?
– Yep! Best way to see what’s out there in your price range… and to get a real good idea of what you can (and can’t) live without, not to mention checking out the neighbourhood!

What’s the atmosphere like at an open house? Is there pressure from the selling agent to put in an offer? Or is it more casual, where Girl Ninja and I would be free to roam around as we please?
– Most agents are pretty tame & casual, and don’t pressure you; I agree with Larry’s statement of being non-commital… don’t show any big enthousiasm, or the agent will be all over you like stink on a monkey! We don’t leave contact info either; 1 call from an annoying agent was all it took to learn that lesson!

Should we tell the selling agent we aren’t ready to be home owners yet, but are just getting a feel for the market?
– We say “Just seeing what’s out there” if we’re asked, but you don’t owe them any explanation.

What did you wish you knew about the home buying process before you started it?
– We were very well-educated when we bought our first condo; nothing surprised us, no “what do you mean we have to pay a condo fee every month”, or “property taxes… wth??”

HAVE FUN!!

22 Karen

I looked at houses by myself and with a friend for a year, and then I ended up buying the first house I looked at with a realtor. It was in a neighborhood I like very much and most closely approached my ideal floor plan.

23 Emily

1. How many open houses have you been to?
dozens. after a while I started losing count.
2. Anyone else gone open house-ing, even though you weren’t in the market to buy a home?
I didn’t just go open housing, I went to building sites and walked around the homes being built to see what types of materials were being used. I’ve even talked my way into a couple major renovations. Snooping (as I called it) helped me get an idea of what features I liked and didn’t like in a home. It also gave me a great idea of how features were priced and what repairs cost. In the end, I was able to negotiate my home 30K under the asking price in 2004.
3. What’s the atmosphere like at an open house? Is there pressure from the selling agent to put in an offer? Or is it more casual, where Girl Ninja and I would be free to roam around as we please?
It depends a lot on the agent supervising. I’ve been to some where you walk in and smell cookies (candle form) and you are free to roam. I’ve also been to some where the agent follows you around the house watching you like a hawk asking you all sorts of questions.
4. Should we tell the selling agent we aren’t ready to be home owners yet, but are just getting a feel for the market?
I would not say anything to the agent about my status of buying. I would tell them what drew me to look at the house (the large yard, the rambler floor plan, the proximity to my job). They will often ask if you have a buyer’s agent and/or mortgage preapproval. I’d recommend something along the lines of “I have a family friend acting as our agent” and “we have been pre-approved for x dollar amount” (I had been pre-approved at that point). If the price is over the pre-approval amount, they may try to get rid of you. I used the “I am debating whether to tap into my inheritance to purchase a home” (I was lucky because I did have a 10K inheritance from a relative who didn’t ever want to see me homeless… I just never disclosed the amount of the inheritance.). Since there are two of you, make sure you have your answers straight or let one of you take over answering the questions from the agent.
5. What did you wish you knew about the home buying process before you started it?
I wish I knew exactly how many people were involved in the process of buying a home. There were appraisers, escrow people, lawyers, real estate agents, mortgage brokers…. I can’t even remember the entire list at the moment. I do know that over the course of three weeks I met approximately 25 different people involved in the process. The frustrating part was that I had to hound them to keep them on deadline so the house would close on time (and in the end it didn’t). There were even people I was dealing with (like my mortgage broker) who never remembered who I was (“you asked me for that last week and I sent it the same day…” “oh, that’s right, here’s the paperwork”).

24 Sarah

We just bought a house in SoCal after 6 months of looking and 2 years of following our market closely. Still, I wasn’t prepared for the amount of utter grossness that dominates an “acceptable” price point. Although I swore we weren’t up for remodeling, we did, because we got a great deal and were able to make a house I originally hated into something pretty awesome.
What I learned: Half the houses aren’t really for “sale”. In our market, we have a lot of old people (or their kids who inherited the house) and houses just sit on the market forever at unrealistic prices. And this is a large percentage of the inventory in our area. The other large part–the “short sales” that are just staving off mortgage payments while it takes the bank a billion years to actually forclose. These houses aren’t for sale either. Find an agent who can recognize these and DON’T waste your time. The rest of the inventory that is well-priced pretty much flies off the market if it is halfway decent. Which is why we ended up buying something that I wouldn’t live in unless we could blow up the existing kitchen and bathroom, which we were able to do while paying cash because we got a great deal.

You’re in Seattle, right? Seattle has Redfin. Use it, even if you’re not ready to buy. Create an account on the website and get updates sent to you. This gives you a good idea of how your market is trending. Way better than going to open houses every weekend.

Unless your market is booming, many open houses are empty, so the agent will answer your questions. No need to pretend like you’ll buy soon. They’ll offer to set you up on their MLS, but you can get all the same information on Redfin without the annyoing “check-in” calls from the realtor. Although Redfin does update much slower, which doesn’t matter if you’re not ready to buy.

I wish we looked at the windows of our house more closely. I would have knocked another 5K or so off the price. We didn’t pay attention to those and they desperetly need replacing–most are rotten. Move aside the curtains/blinds and check the windows out. Also, prepare for WAY more work than a rental, especially yard work and keeping up that sort of thing. But it’s nice to do what you want to a home. It actually feels different. Plus, we saved and saved and put so much down that we have a very affordable 15 year mortgage. We’ll own a home outright in our late 40’s. We pay less than what we could rent the place for. That feels good.

Good luck, happy stalking–er, I mean looking. :)

25 kim

5. We’re looking at houses in the same vein as you – to figure it out. There are many free first-time homebuyers courses, often offered by the city/county. They are so incredibly worth it – I learned about mortgages and points, high and low seasons, inspections required and optional (some types of loan programs require certain things), state/county mandatory disclosures (e.g. radon), etc. Mine was by a realtor but she didn’t contact us afterwods.

26 Paige

I’ve been to loads of open houses. My parents used to take my brother and I all of the time when we were kids. In our neighbourhood at least it was pretty common that people were just being nosy and looking around.

There were people looking for decorating ideas and just seeing what people had done with different homes in the area. I wouldn’t waste anyone’s time if they tried to talk to you. I think you could politely let them know that you are just trying to get an idea of your price range for when you start looking really seriously.

If they’re not talking to you, you’re not doing anything that vastly different then just browsing in a store in the mall. And you never know– my parents bought their current house after looking at an open house almost 10 years ago– they had absolutely no intention of moving!

27 krantcents

Before yo know it, you will be happy home owners! It is down hill from here! LOL!

28 Geoff

Mark my words, you think you are going without the intention to buy, but don’t forget you are bringing your wife. I predict your wife will see a house she loves and you will be buying long before you expected!

29 Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager

1. Lots, but since house hunting for myself, two.
2. Yes, my mom used to drag us to them when we were little. I’m not really sure why.
3. Depends, how nice the house is, how busy the showing is, etc.
4. Yes, they might be able to share some insights (but they’ll still try to sell you something).
5. Not really, I have a pretty good idea of what I got myself into.

30 Erica

1) I’ve only been to about 5-6 open houses.
2) no. I never saw a point to that, cuz what if you see something you really like?
3) I’ve been to a open house and the agent showed myself and my now ex bf around. he bothered me actually because I felt very pressured. In other homes I was free to walk around and explore.
4) I don’t see why you’d have to tell them. It’s none of their business.
5) That it would be really stressful. Deadlines or due dates mean nothing to some people. Shop around to try to find the best deal on things and trust your gut.

31 Kevin @ Thousandaire.com

I just did a big post about why I can’t buy a house right now because of all the additional expenses on top of a mortgage. I don’t want to go to open houses and open myself up to someone else potentially convincing me to buy something I can’t afford. I’m very very weak when it comes to new toys.

32 Emily

One last thought – almost everyone I’ve talked to never thinks of this – what kind of annual events take place in the neighborhood you’re looking at. I grew up in a neighborhood where an annual run (Sound to Narrows) shut down the roads one day every year. Pain in the butt.

33 Chariot

I’ve been to open houses before and the atmosphere depends on the realtor. Actually, they are a good place to shop for a realtor for when you are ready to buy. You have no need to be embarrassed for ‘not being in the market’ because you kind of are. No need to explain yourself to anyone but if anyone asks just tell the truth.

What I regret about buying our home is that I was too emotionally evolved. I was in a hurry to have a place of my own. We made the mistake of looking & buying a few months to soon. We paid rent and a mortgage when we could have saved a few extra thousand.

After buying we realized our new home had a huge ant problem. We spent a lot of time and money fixing it. We never sued the sellers because I doubted we could prove they knew about it as it was a 2nd home for them. But for a long time I regretted buying our house. Had i known about the problem i definitely would not have paid as much for it, if at all.

34 spiffi

1. I looked at *tons* of open houses – even when I had an agent, if the house I wanted to see had an open house scheduled, I’d often go to that, rather than have her try to organize a time to see it on our own – then if i liked it and wanted a second viewing, we could go back together.

2. I’ve definitely stopped in at places if they were open and I had been curious. I always go to open houses in my complex – I want to see what other people have done with the same floorplan I have.

3. In my experience, it’s very laid back. The agent often just says “take a peek, ask questions if you have any, let me know if I can help” – they don’t usually give you a formal “tour” of the house per se.

4. Sure – or you can tell them you have a vague timeframe of “in the next year or so”. What you will probably find, is that the agent doesn’t particularly care if they sell you *this* house – but they want to know if you are working with an agent, and if not, then PICK ME, PICK ME!. If you admit to not working with an agent yet, and you sign their guest book, you’ll probably end up on that agent’s mailing list for advertising as they try to get you as a client. Be firm that you’re not yet ready to really look and thus are not ready to pick an agent – you’ll get a bunch of cards though. And – make mental notes – you can be agent shopping as well as open house shopping – you might find someone that you click with, and when you are ready you’ll have their contact info :)

5. Hmm..the biggest surprise to me was that the highest priced offer didn’t always win, which is probably more obvious now. But I was in bidding wars where I was not invited to participate in a second “round” of bidding – and months later I found out that the price the house went for was UNDER my bid – the offer was probably all cash, or a quick closing or something that I couldn’t offer.

Oh – the other thing that shocked me was how *large* a loan I qualified for. My loan person actually would not tell me how much I qualified for, because, as she put it “you’ll freak out and you wouldn’t be comfortable with it” :) I definitely get the feeling it was more than twice what my actual loan ending up being! I had a figure in my head that was the extent of my comfort level for a loan payment, and stuck to it – which limited my choices in homes, but means I can sleep comfortably at night :D

Overall though, I looked at *hundreds* of houses over more than a year before I found mine. And I’m glad I waited – the more houses I looked at, the more things I was able to identify as “must haves” and “must NOT haves” – and the more things I was able to identify as “not really important”.

My house has a few things that are less than perfect, but overall after a year in, I’m happy with my decision.

35 pumpkin

How many open houses have you been to? A few but I plan to go to a lot more very soon. I’ve been to a ton of model homes too. I love seeing how they are decorated.
Anyone else gone open house-ing, even though you weren’t in the market to buy a home? I do it currently. I am renting in one state right now but plan to move to another state within 6 months. I am looking at houses in my current location because I am under no pressure to buy here.
What’s the atmosphere like at an open house? Is there pressure from the selling agent to put in an offer? Or is it more casual, where Girl Ninja and I would be free to roam around as we please? All of the open houses I’ve been to have been extremely boring. The agents seem happy to see a human, any human even if you aren’t a serious buyer. I just tell them that I am a nosy neighbor. I think they are used to just getting nosy neighbors coming through.
Should we tell the selling agent we aren’t ready to be home owners yet, but are just getting a feel for the market? If you want. I just try to make friendly conversation if no one else is there. Open houses in my area can be a slow, boring day for the agents.
What did you wish you knew about the home buying process before you started it? I am like you in that I am trying to do as much research as possible right now.

36 Gus

In case anyone is still reading these comments… my wife and I went to 2 open for inspections today, pretty much just after seeing a sign in the agent’s window. We have no intention of buying (we are already paying our mortgage off on our current place), but I was curious to see what new townhouses were like in our area (there aren’t many around).

While he was nice, the agent didn’t ask us anything. Didn’t ask what we wanted it for, about our family, was it an investment or to live in. He didn’t even ask if we currently own or are renting, how much we are willing to spend or whether we’ve looked at any other properties.

He suggested we look at the 2nd place, which was a bigger family home. While it was more suitable for us to live as a family, the only reason he suggested it was… he was showing it next up, so he had another chance to put one of his properties in front of us.

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