In real estate showings, the
Sunday open house is the gold standard. As the name implies, a property
is open to just about anyone who learns of the showing in an online or
print ad, drives by and sees the agent's A-Frame sign, or receives a
notification postcard in the mail.
But not everyone who goes to an open house is a potential buyer. Here
are five types of people likely to pass through a property during an
1. The real buyer
These people are somewhere in the home-buying process.
They're either testing out the market or they're serious and fully
qualified, ready to take action. For the seller, these are the ones you
want coming through the door.
2. The nearby neighbor
This guy or gal has been waiting for years for an excuse to get
inside your home, for various reasons. Their home may be similar to
yours — maybe even designed by the same architect — and they want to
compare their property to yours. There might be other reasons to see it,
too: They may have heard late-night music/noise and want to see what
it's all about.
Your open house might also give a neighbor the chance to see how much
privacy they actually have. For example, at an open house of a view
property in San Francisco, a neighbor came into the house and made a
beeline for the back deck. Meanwhile, in the neighboring home across the
backyard, the neighbor's son sat in the window. What followed was a
cell phone conversation in which the father instructed his son to move
to the right, to the left, go upstairs, and so on. The father's goal was
to determine from exactly which points in his home he and his family
were visible to their neighbors.
You'll no doubt encounter nosy neighbors, too. They live nearby and
just want to satisfy their curiosity about your home — or even about
3. Agents scoping out the place for clients
Agents constantly check out properties for their buyer clients. The
vast majority of the time, they're professional and courteous. There are
exceptions, of course. Not long ago, in the living room of a packed
Sunday open house, an agent sat on the couch and spoke to her client on
the phone. The agent summarized the property loudly and in
"The finishes are cheap, the floor plan is off, and the bathrooms
need updating. Don't waste your time coming over here," she said.
Needless to say, the seller's listing agent — who witnessed the
conversation — was flabbergasted. Even some of the buyers touring the
property felt uncomfortable. The listing agent politely asked the other agent to continue her conversation outside.
4. The agent who lost the listing
In many cases, a seller interviewed multiple agents before selecting
their listing agent. Sometimes agents spend a lot of time, and even some
money, working with a potential seller to secure a listing. Obviously,
not every agent interviewed will get the listing.
When the property lands on the open house circuit, an agent who lost
the listing may visit. They want to know if the seller took any of their
suggestions. Did the seller paint the orange room a more neutral color
or renovate the kitchen or bathrooms as suggested? The open house is
sometimes the losing agent's chance to run through the property
anonymously, as most agents usually won't know with whom they competed
for the listing.
5. A previous owner, or one of their relatives
Over years of open houses, a busy listing agent will surely run into an old seller, or their children or grand kids who grew up in the home.
These people come to the open house to see how it looks and to
reminisce. Lots of memories happen in a home, and the opportunity to go
back in time can be a real treat.
Usually, there's no harm done. But you might encounter the former
seller's cousin Steve, who tells the listing agent about how the current
sellers did a horrible job on their backyard makeover. Even worse, you
might get a relative who starts crying on the listing agent's shoulder
about her grandmother, a previous owner, who recently died.
A good listing agent will let any and all of this roll off their
shoulders, keep a professional game face on, and keep their eye on the
ball. They solicit feedback from buyers and make notes of their
comments, reactions and questions.
If you're attending an open house with no intentions of buying, keep
it to yourself. Be as subtle and unobtrusive as possible and don't waste
the listing agent's time — unless you have some helpful feedback for
the agent or seller.
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