I am an expert at open houses. I have hosted hundreds of them in my career and there are questions that pop up with stunning regularity. I am talking about questions that make me wonder, “What is this buyer thinking?”
“You listed this as a three bedroom home. Where is the third bedroom?”.
“Um- that would be the home office that has just one door and a lovely walk in closet”
“But that is an office. Where is the third bedroom?”
“Is this house vacant?”
This question is asked in a house full of furniture, personal photographs on the wall and a loaf of bread on the counter.
“Uh, no. No, it isn’t”
Here’s another common one,
“What did they pay for the home?” or “How long have they lived here?”
The open house attendee is trying to find out how much negotiating room there is. Good idea- but this has to be one of the very worst ways to find out. What the homeowner paid ten years ago has nothing to do with what the market might produce for the homeowner today.
Right. Then, what should I do?
Today’s market offers very few good homes for sale. Asking the right questions at open house could make a huge difference in successfully buying the best house today or looking for the rest of your God Given Weekends.
Let’s take a look at some of the very best questions you could ask a Realtor at open house.
1. Why has the seller decided to sell now?
This is a variation on, “How motivated is the seller?”. I like this question because it will take the Realtor by surprise and is much more likely to get an complete answer. The Realtor will almost always answer the “how motivated” question with a “very motivated” answer because they want to hook you in. However, asking “Why” will give you far more insight into what the seller really needs and it might also tell you how urgent the sale is.
2. Have you had any offers?
Almost everyone knows to ask, “How long have you been on the market?”, but very few ask the best follow up question, “Have you had any offers?”. Most buyers miss the fact that they are “negotiating” against two entities- the seller and the other potential buyers. You need to know as much as you can about BOTH. Putting these two questions together will tell you a lot about how your potential buyer competitors are reacting to this home. Bonus points are awarded if you get an answer to, “How much were those offers?”
3. How long have you been at this price?
I have never been asked this question and I think it is a fantastic one. A home that has been at a price for a long time might be ripe for a low offer. A home that has been on the market for a long time, but just reduced the price significantly might be a steal overlooked by others.
4. What are the comparable sales?
Theoretically the Realtor has intimate knowledge of the recent sales in the area and how they compare to the home you are viewing. Asking about these sales will tell you a lot about the seller’s negotiating strategy. Did they price high, low or right at recent comparable sales? As a bonus, you will find out a lot about the Realtor answering the question. If you are shopping for a Realtor to represent you, the ability to answer (or not) will tell you a lot about their expertise.
5. Beside price, is there anything else important to the seller?
Let’s not kid ourselves, price is almost always the most important factor to a seller. However, in a market where multiple offers are common, like today, other factors can make the difference between two similarly priced offers. It might be the length of escrow or the possession date. It might be the size of a down payment or a commonality of values. If this is a house you covet, you will want to know the answer to this question.
6. What will it take to buy this home?
I know, I know. You are thinking, “If I ask this question, won’t I tip my hand to the Realtor? They will know I really want the home!” First of all, if you really DO want the home, it isn’t a bad idea to let the Realtor know. Our job isn’t to trick you into paying too much for the home. Our job is to facilitate a mutually beneficial deal. If you ask this question you are only indicating that you are a serious buyer. Nothing more. You might even find out that you could buy the home for a lower price than you are willing to pay.
There you have it, the very best questions to ask at an open house. You are officially the best armed buyers in town. And, if you are curious, I am happy to answer any of those questions at my next open house. Bring it on.