For home buyers, going to an Open House is great way to START your search. They will give you a general idea of value, price ranges and what is available on the current market. You can easily find the list of open houses by googling phrases like “open houses near me this weekend” or “list of open houses today”.
Even though I highly recommend that you, as a buyer, have your own agent, you might decide to go out on Sunday afternoons and hit a few Open Houses. What do you ask the Listing Agent (who works for the Seller, remember). Here is a list of 7 great questions to ask:
- How long have the sellers lived here?
- How long has the home been on the market?
- Has there ever been any price adjustment?
- What are the heating costs of the home?
- Has the owner done any renos, and WHEN were they done?
- Is the seller making any disclosures?
- Have you had any offers yet?
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons for these questions. A more complete explanation is available in the video below.
How long have the sellers lived here?
This will give the buyer a little background on the home. Have the sellers been there for 20 yrs, raised a family and are now empty-nesters? This would be quite different than if sellers bought the home 8 months ago to ‘flip’ it for a quick profit. (Note: if you are working with your own buyer agent, this info will be readily available to you)
How long has the home been on the market?
If it’s been a long time, have they had a price adjustment?
These will give you an insight into the sellers motivation level. If the home has been on the market for several months and has never had a price drop, its fair to assume that the home owner is pretty fixed on the price. Once again, your own buyer agent would give you this info directly.
What are the heating costs of the home?
This would be more important with older homes. Houses built in the early 1900’s were quite often insulated with newspaper shredding and sawdust. The buyer should be interested to know whether that has been upgraded. Newer homes are normally built to a higher energy efficiency standard, so this question won’t be as important.
Also unless the home is heated by electricity (instead of gas), asking about the electric and water bills will not likely uncover any important information, (other than perhaps that the seller is wasteful)
Has the seller done any renovations, and if so, WHEN?
Did the seller just renovate to help the sale, or did they complete upgrading of their home thru-out their ownership? Windows which were installed 2 months ago (for a quick sale) might be of a different quality and workmanship (cheaper) than windows or other upgrades done purely for the owners enjoyment.
If the seller of the open house has made substantial changes, were they required to obtain building permits, and if so, DID THEY GET THEM?
Is the seller making any disclosures?
Under Manitoba Law, a seller MUST disclose any and all knowledge he has of hidden defects in the home. Cracks in the foundations which have recently been drywalled over! A mold-filled attic. Things that could lead to health problems or are structural in nature, but may not be readily visible to the cursory inspection. The items which must be disclosed will include:
- Hidden structural defects
- Hidden issues which might lead to health concerns (mould, etc)
So this information should be readily available but will probably NOT be open displayed at an open house. For example, you’re not likely to find a big bold sign that says “Foundation crack behind this wall”.
But if these types of issues are important to you, you might want to find out BEFORE you spend more time asking about possession dates and area schools.
Have they had any offers?
This will also help give you an insight into the sellers motivation, as well as an idea of the fairness of the asking price. A home that has been on the market for several months without a price adjustment, may:
- Be Over-Priced
- Have a seller with unrealistic expectations
- Be in a poor selling market (area of price range)
As a home buyer, you are certainly advised to have your own accredited buyer agent working for you.
F.A.Q. ABOUT OPEN HOUSES
ARE OPEN HOUSES EFFECTIVE?
From a home buyers perspective, someone looking for houses for sale, the open house is very convenient. The buyer has no obligation to show that he is pre-approved, or that he/she is even financially capable of buying the property for sale. From a sellers perspective, open houses are not very effective.
HOW DO OPEN HOUSES WORK?
While the home is generally open to the pubic, the listing agent does have the right to ask for identification before letting you into the home. After that, you are free to look around, open closets (but not dresser drawers) and visually inspect the property.
WHERE DO I FIND OPEN HOUSES NEAR ME THIS WEEKEND?
Most larger cities have real estate publications, such as the Winnipeg Real Estate News. They have online resources which list the open houses in your area.
As a home buyer, it is always best to be represented by your own buyer agent.