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.
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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 you.
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 none-too-complimentary terms.
“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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