As the housing market slowly improves, more consumers are finding themselves in the market for a new home, or at least one worth dreaming about.
One place they start their search is an open house tour, though they can forget these are helpful for more than just checking out the kitchen's color scheme.
Open houses are a smart way to gauge whether a listing's catching heat and if it's worth seeing again in a private showing.
"If you're just getting started with the process, an open house tour is like a get-out-of-jail-free card," says Zillow.com real estate expert Brendon DeSimone. "It's free, you can go because there aren't restrictions and it's a great way to learn the market."
To his mind, the primary thing that home shoppers overlook tends to be the most obvious: the crowd. Observing other shoppers is key, he says, as that's the best way to gauge the market's response to the home.
"If you like the house, watch the people. Is it packed? Are they hovering around the agent?," he says. If so and if they're asking pointed questions as well, you can bet that there's serious interest and the listing is going to go fast.
Another strategy is to observe the agent, he adds.
"If you go to a house and you like it but no one's there, maybe there are issues there," says DeSimone. "You should watch the listing agent's reactions because he wants to see the response to the house and how crowded it is."
And don't miss the opportunity to ask the agent about the seller.
"You should ask why he's selling, nothing rude, just what's the story," DeSimone says. "What's their motivation to sell?" That should give you a feel for the pricing and whether the listing is gathering dust.
Questions like, how many days has the home been on the market?, or Have you lived here for a long time? should get the conversation going. Perhaps there's a looming job transfer, or the seller is just moving down the street.
"If they're not motivated you won't want to waste your time," says DeSimone. But at least you'll know where they stand.
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