What Should I Do at an Open House?
Home Buying
3 min read
A visit to an open house can be intoxicating. Your anticipation builds with each step toward the door. This is the home that could realize your dreams — or dash them. And part of the thrill is not knowing which it will be.

Emotions can swell as you wander from room to room, imagining the memories you will make. Desire may cloud your judgment. It’s time to slow down and balance your feelings with your real-world needs.

Buying a house requires strategy and patience, especially when the house already feels like home. Rather than rushing to judgment or getting your hopes up too soon, use these tips to visit every open house like an expert.

1. Set your parameters, but keep an open mind.

Major aspects of a home — number of rooms or yard size, for example — are often non-negotiable. But something unexpected may make you rethink your preferences. Maybe you thought you really needed a breakfast nook, but when you saw that kitchen island that doubles as a dining table, it was love at first sight.

The home buyer’s search is often evolutionary, so lean into it. Appreciating and embracing the unexpected means you’ll enjoy the journey a lot more and increase your options. This doesn’t mean abandoning the things you feel strongly about. It’s about knowing your passions and strategically entertaining the rest.

2. Be ready to answer some questions and prepare some of your own.

During an open house, a realtor will likely pepper you with questions. Having answers to things like “Are you working with an agent?” and “What’s your price range?” will make these conversations more productive.

It’s also a good idea to have a mental checklist of what’s most important to you. Ask the realtor about homeowners association (HOA) dues, nearby schools and if any recent renovations were made.

Conversation is part of the discovery and learning experience. Use them to learn what’s beyond the spec sheet.

3. Look out for lemons.

Look closely at a home’s details and keep an eye out for future trouble. Remember that sellers are putting on a show, so surprises often lurk below the surface. Some issues the buyer doesn’t have to disclose can end up being major expenses in a few years.

How old is the furnace and water heater? When was the last time the exterior was painted or the roof shingled? Is the wiring and plumbing up to date?

4. Know your financial options and have a plan.

Limit yourself to houses that won’t overwhelm you financially. Be sure to leave enough room to compete if the price gets pushed upward, and keep in mind closing costs and what it will take to furnish the home once it’s yours. Know how much your bank will loan to you, so you’ll know what you’re able to spend.

Then talk to Unison.

With a home co-investment, you can hit the 20% down payment mark without paying interest or monthly installments. "Put a little down, and Unison will invest the rest.

So, instead of stressing over how you'll come up with enough for the down payment, you can focus on choosing between the house with the island kitchen or the one with breakfast nook."

5. Keep your emotions in check.

House-hunting can be an emotional roller-coaster. Finding the right house at the right moment can sometimes seem impossible. One week, every property might be disappointing. The next, you might love every house you visit — and all of your offers will be rejected.

If a bidding war erupts, you may not be the victor. And if you are still sorting out your financial details, a cash buyer could swoop in and roll right into escrow. Visiting open houses when you’re not ready to buy can break your heart. You may think you’ve found “the one,” but the timing needs to be right, too.

From your first open house to the last, protect yourself by balancing hope with reality. Go in with a clear, pragmatic mind — but leave room for imagination and a little dreaming. This is the winning combination that can help make your search gratifying and fun.

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