The Buyer's Field Guide to the Open House

White Kitchen With Brown Wood Island and White Pendants

White Country Kitchen With Contemporary Flair

Contemporary touches combine with a classic country design in this chic white kitchen. A brown wood island featuring a stainless steel countertop provides ample space for food prep.

Photo by: Carter Kay

Carter Kay

By: Kris Berg

If you're a buyer who has ever braved the open house front, you have likely found yourself battle weary. You come prepared with your Zestimate to wage war against the agent armed with freshly baked cookies. But even the toughest soldier's morale can falter after fielding the eighteenth question of "Do you live in the area?" or "Do you have a home to sell?"

At times like this, it is important to remember that the agent host and you are not on opposite sides of the firing line. Your goals, in fact, are not so dissimilar. What we have here is a home for sale, whereas you, coincidentally, are thinking about buying one of those things. Following some basic protocol can make your open house tour of duty more successful and even enjoyable.

  • Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes. The agent host is not the enemy, and there is no imminent danger in making eye contact. In fact, it is just common courtesy. This agent is doing a job for their selling client. They have given up their weekend for the cause, and their client has opened up their home for your convenience. Exchanging pleasantries will not land you face down on a purchase agreement with a pen in your hand.

  • Ask questions first, shoot later. It is okay to speak to the agent host. Sure, they want to sell you this home (see "it's their job" above), and they would admittedly be happy to sell you any home. But, they have information that can be important to your decision-making process. Don't be afraid to engage. Are there any offers? Are there special assessments or other fees? What schools do children in this neighborhood attend? What is the seller's motivation? These are all good questions, not a single one of which will land you in a head lock or suck the checkbook out of your pocket.

  • Disarm them with honesty. Some agents will ask you to sign in to a guest register. If this is their request, why not be honest? Of course, you may be inclined to sign in with an alias (Ben Dover, 123 Peoples Court), but agents will always appreciate honesty, even with a caveat. If you do not wish to be receiving the agent's Recipe of the Month card for the rest of your life, simply ask that you not be contacted. They will respect this; it is the law.

  • Deploy the weapon to end all wars. "I have an agent." Spoken with enough conviction, these four words will clear a room of all agents before you finish your snickerdoodle. This bit of intelligence can be fabricated, of course, but why?

  • Bring in the big guns. If you are serious about finding the perfect home, relying solely on open house opportunities is like dining only in the mess hall. The menu will vary on any given Sunday, but if you can get away from the base, why not explore your options? By interviewing and selecting an agent to represent you early in the process, you will find yourself with a coordinated plan of attack and operating from a position of strength. Plus, Sundays might just be a little more fun.

Kris Berg is designated broker for San Diego Castles Realty in San Diego, Calif.

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