What are the five best questions to ask at an open house?
- How long has the home been listed for sale and at what price?
- Has anyone else made an offer on the property?
- Are there any seller disclosures?
- What updates have been made to the property?
- Why are the current owners selling the home?
If you’re a homebuyer attending open houses, it’s important to know the etiquette — and good questions to ask — as you view different properties. Not only will this give you a better understanding of the home, but it will also put you in the best possible position to make a fair, competitive offer on the listing. One caveat: if you are working with an agent to help you in your home purchase, let them ask your questions and gather this information for you, and consider a private showing as well. By partnering with a REALTOR® for your home purchase, you can have confidence that your interests are represented throughout the transaction. Remember that the listing agent is working for the seller and has a fiduciary obligation to represent the seller’s interests just as your Realtor is representing yours.
Here are insights you can use as you go through the process of touring homes for sale in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. In addition, keep reading for a closer look at the five best questions to ask during every open house and why.
1. What is the price and price history of the listing?
If you have a chance to look at the listing online before you enter the home, take note of the asking price. This figure, along with other information like the amount of time the home has been on the market, should be clearly posted in the property’s details or available from your agent.
Your bidding strategy can be greatly impacted by this information, so it’s important to keep it in mind as you tour the home. If you’re looking in a super-competitive city or neighborhood, where multiple offers are quite common, you may have to move quickly after a property is listed. In that case, you’ll typically want to make your highest and best offer right away. The odds of finding a bargain — or a seller who’s willing to take a price cut — are low.
However, there are some scenarios where you may have some leverage in your offer, including if the home:
- Is in a less popular or less convenient area.
- Has been on the market for a few months.
- Seems overpriced and has never had a price cut.
If you don’t see the online listing before the open house, your REALTOR® can quickly gather the pricing and days on market information for the home you’re interested in. You can also ask the agent who is hosting the open house for these details.
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2. Has anyone made an offer?
If the listing agent is willing to open up to you or your agent, they may provide insights you can use as you shore up your offer strategy. For example, if the listing agent says they have rejected past offers, you may not want to underbid on the home. But, if they let you know they haven’t seen any serious interest in the house yet, you may have a little more leeway as you make an offer on the home.
3. Are there any seller disclosures?
In addition to putting out home listing flyers at open houses, some sellers may also have a document (or several) listing some of the disclosures they wish to make available to buyers. These disclosures may include professional work they’ve completed, such as checking for lead paint, or appliances and systems they’ve upgraded in recent years.
Ask the listing agent if the seller is making any disclosures available prior to receiving offers, then review the documents thoroughly after you visit the open house. Often these disclosures are posted in the MLS and your agent may be able to obtain them for you.
4. What updates have been made?
In lieu of official disclosure documents, you can also ask the listing agent about updates as you look over the house. In some cases, it may be obvious that entire rooms have been redone recently.
When walking through a home, be sure to ask about the following house elements:
- Appliances like washers, dryers, refrigerators and ovens
- Larger systems like the furnace and central air
- The age of exterior elements such as the roof, siding, and automatic garage door
- Home renovations including bathroom remodels, new flooring or a new deck
5. Why are the sellers moving?
The listing agent and sellers don’t have to answer this question. But if they do, it may affect your bidding strategy. If the homeowner is being relocated and needs to move quickly, you could include a quick path to closing in your offer. Or, if they need to wait three months before they can move into their new construction home — and you can wait that long, too — then you’ll want to provide a slower path to closing.
Remember, not all bids are won on dollar value alone. A congruent move-in and move-out timeline can create a compelling offer to the right home seller.
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