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living roomIt can be fun to check out open houses – and it can also help tremendously in your quest to find the perfect home. But how do you find them? And how do you get the most out of the experience? We gathered up some pro tips for you!

How to Find Open Houses

You can find open houses in a number of different ways. A local real estate agent is a great option. A good agent should know the ins and outs of the open houses in the area. You can also check real estate websites to see if anyone’s advertising an open house in your target location.

If you live in or frequent the area in which you’re looking for a home, watch for open house signs on lawns. They’ll provide the date and time of the open house and, if there is one, the name of the listing agent. You can also keep an eye on your mail. Real estate agents will often send notifications to people within the community to let them know that someone is selling a house.

How to Do Them Right

Ask Questions

Buying a house is a big deal; you’ll want to make an informed decision. Don’t ask the homeowners what they were thinking when they painted the living room bright yellow or why on earth they covered the hardwoods with that tacky carpet. Do find out, though, when the house was built, whether any renovations have been made and how long the house has been on the market.

Patrick McCauley, a real estate agent and restoration specialist, advises that you always get the seller’s disclosure statement. He also suggests that you ask the following questions:

  • How old is the furnace?
  • How old is the roof?
  • Are there cracks in the foundation?
  • Has there been water in the basement?
  • What are houses in the area selling for?

Things to Bring

If you’re looking seriously to move, you’ll probably look at many homes. It can be tough to remember which house had a vaulted ceiling or which place had that green granite you just loved. Take a camera or notebook with you and record aspects of the house that you’ll want to remember. Additionally, you may want to take a tape measure. If your antique bookcase absolutely must go in the study, you should make sure it actually fits. If you definitely need a master bedroom that is at least 12 feet by 12 feet, you may want to measure for yourself.

Leave Distractions Behind

By distractions, I mean some children (and even grown-ups!) who may not appreciate the experience. It’s hard to focus completely on the home if you’re worried that your kids will break things or that your mother-in-law will ask offensive questions. Explore the home alone or with others who will value the experience the same way you will.

Open Doors and (Some) Drawers

Don’t leave social grace at the door, but do get a complete picture of what the house looks like. It’s easy to miss a room, especially if you’re going through a house alone, because you assume it’s just another closet.

It’s also important to see those closets. You’ll want to know, before you make a decision to buy, whether you’ll have room to store all of your sheets, towels, clothes and Manolo Blahniks (ladies!). Don’t riffle around through the homeowner’s stuff, but do take a gander at what the space has to offer.

Common sense will likely tell you not to open dresser or nightstand drawers; common sense is correct. You should, though, open drawers and cabinets that are built into the house. You’ll want to know whether the drawers stick or the cabinet doors wobble before you make an offer.

Explore the Community

Take a drive or a walk around the neighborhood! This will give you a firsthand view of how close you’ll be, if you purchase the home, to parks, community centers, churches, corner stores or whatever else you may be interested in. Additionally, if it bothers you that a neighbor hasn’t cut his lawn in two years or that another hasn’t fixed her falling shutters, you should be aware that these issues will probably remain once you move in.

Learn the Market

You should educate yourself about the market where you’re looking to buy. Websites like MyPerfectHome.com can help you keep an eye on home prices so you know if you’re getting a good deal.

McCauley recommends working with a real estate agent who already knows the market: “Any good agent should have an understanding of the market in the areas where you are looking. The agent doesn’t need to go to all of the open houses with you, but if you are going to write an offer, be sure that you have somebody advocating for your interests in the deal!”

If you go into an open house knowing what to look for and what to ask, you’ll be that much closer to making an educated offer.

Did you use an open house to find your perfect home? Tell us about it in the comments!

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