To visit an open house is to take a journey into another person’s life. You get to walk through a stranger’s house and see how they live.
Truthfully, most open houses are either vacant or staged in such a way that make it look like the standard HGTV-ready showcase. That’s definitely a more effective way of attracting buyers, but it makes the experience of visiting open houses a little less exciting.
Much can be gleaned from visiting open houses, even if you’re not quite ready to be an active buyer on the market. You can get a sense of home layouts you like, and it affords you the opportunity to speak with agents and “interview” them if you’re in need of representation.
My family and I have been visiting several open houses on the Washington side these past few weekends. It’s been a fun experience, and there have been lots of free cookies to keep the kids happy. We’ve seen some wonderfully-staged homes, and we’ve also seen some curious choices.
Here are a few of the highlights — some good, some bad and some very strange:
Food party home
Our kids loved the spread at an open house in the North Spokane area a few weekends ago. The house was fine, but the food options were incredible. Multiple types of cookies, full-portion deli wraps, bottled water, soda, balloons galore and four — count-em — four real estate agents on scene to help create a party-like atmosphere.
Another family happened to be there at the same time, so the place felt busier than my in-laws’ house at Thanksgiving. It felt a little aggressive, honestly, as it seemed like every time I turned a corner, another agent was there to tell me something great about the house. I also had my heart set on a D. Lish burger (thanks, radio advertising!), so I didn’t sample the food spread.
Despite my personal discomfort, the strategy worked, as the home fielded multiple offers before the weekend was over. Good job, cold cuts.
We looked at a beautiful old craftsman house on the South Hill recently, and 95 percent of the home passed the Joanna Gaines style test. Smartly-staged bedrooms, a spare-but-elegant living room and a shiny, updated kitchen made it seem like it would sell before we even finished touring the place.
Then we found the animal rooms. A main level bedroom and an enclosed porch off the kitchen were filled with cat-climbing structures. Then we saw the litter boxes tucked not-so-secretly under a couple of end tables. In the main living space of the basement, we encountered two giant kennels, a couple of dirtied pet pillows and a rather penetrating wet dog smell.
Look, lots of people keep pets, and houses like mine full of little kids surely have their own distinct odors. But maybe, at least during an open house, try to make it look like less than 15 animals live with you.
Don’t be like these agents
Most real estate agents are friendly, engaging, and in my personal experience, extremely respectful about business. I rarely encounter pushy Realtors, and even when agents realize you don’t currently have representation, I find most to be casual and polite in their sales pitches.
Well, a couple of exceptions. I had one agent talk to me recently for 10 minutes about how easygoing he was, and how he doesn’t like to pressure clients and other buyers with cheap theatrics. Dude, you’re pressuring me about how you don’t pressure people. And you told me six times how “this house won’t last” and I should “move on it now.”
Another weird experience — we drove about 45 minutes to an open house of a home we liked and arrived only about 10 minutes before the showing ended. When we drove up to the property along a long driveway, we waved at a well-dressed guy passing by slowly in his truck. He didn’t look at us. He stopped at the end of the driveway, grabbed the open house sign and drove away. The house was locked and empty.
It took us a couple of minutes to realize that guy was the only agent there, and he wasn’t coming back. It’s not a big deal we missed the open house. We barely made it there on time, and who knows? Maybe the house already had multiple offers and the agent didn’t want to bother with us. But a quick wave and a “We’re closed” would have been better than being completely ignored.
On the bright side, we were close to a Thai restaurant we like and took home some killer curry.
Really though, after all the open houses we visited last month, those two were the only unusual people. Some agents like to walk through with you and share home details, while others sit back and let you tour privately before asking a couple casual questions. Different personalities, styles and selling situations all factor into this, I’m sure, but they all seem effective enough.
We’ll be looking at some more homes around the area in the coming weeks, so make sure the cookies are warm. I’ve got one kid with a peanut allergy, FYI.
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