HOMEFINDER: Open houses show reality of homes

There are benefits for both the casual buyers and those doing serious market research

Realtor Rick Hoogendoorn says open houses are a great way for sellers to get exposure for their homes

Aside from providing a relaxing and fun way to spend a Saturday morning, the main purpose of open houses is to expose the home to the marketplace, and they have a whole laundry list of benefits for both buyers and sellers.

For the casual buyer who may not be looking to lock down a property in the immediate future, it’s a great way to get a feel for the marketplace and see what’s available.

Open houses in your price range can also give you a good idea which features on your wish list you’re likely to get, and which you may have to negotiate around.

When you’ve figured out what you want and done some research, actually visiting a house “gives you a much broader, fuller picture of what the property has to offer,” says Rick Hoogendoorn of Royal LePage Coast Capital Realty.

“You can’t get a real feel for a property just by looking online. When you go to an open house, you can see what’s around the home, what’s across the street.”

Questions to have in mind could be: What kind of amenities are nearby? Is the neighbourhood in a good area for walking or cycling? How close is the next door neighbour’s house to the property? Are there any strata or condo restrictions to be aware of? Compare favourable photos from online listings with reality.

“I always recommend my clients write down details about things that they like and didn’t like about the house,” says Corie Meyer, realtor with Pemberton Holmes. “Make notes about each and every house you visit, so you can have a better recollection at the end.” Depending on how many open houses you’re walking through, the specifics can become a blur and make it more difficult to narrow down your choices.

Meyer also recommends going to open houses with your realtor. “It’s good to have your own representation going through,” she says. The realtor hosting the open house is there for the seller’s benefit, so having your own professional at hand can point out possible challenges with the house, and make sure some of the trickier questions get asked.

If you do decide to just browse some open houses on your own, be up front if you’re already working with someone.

“Be aware that every realtor is going to ask you if you have a realtor,” says Hoogendoorn. “If they know you already have someone, it takes some of the pressure off.”

Though there are multiple benefits to both hosting and attending an open house, it’s important to note there can be one or two drawbacks as well.

“When you look at the ad for an open house, it’s often just a simple advertisement, so it’s rare that there’s a match for a buyer through an open house,” says Hoogendoorn. Open houses, unless previously researched, are often a “random hit,” and are unlikely to have everything a buyer is looking for in a home.

Still, it’s a good way to become familiar with the marketplace, especially if the buyer can be patient. “It’s about finding the match,” he says.

acowan@goldstreamgazette.com

Q: WHAT KINDS OF VIEWS ADD THE MOST TO A HOME’S VALUE?

Can staging help remove some of the guesswork for potential buyers?

Staging can take time, energy and money, but you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. If you decide on an open house, staging your home may be a consideration.

If you’re already out of your home and have removed all furniture, it might be the difference between a buyer walking by to the next home, or signing the dotted line.

If you already have furniture in your home it may be an unwelcome feeling to stage your home or change what you have grown to love for someone else. However, looking at your home from the buyers perspective and not your own can save you dollars. Consider both the cost of staging, and the cost of your first price drop if you don’t sell for what you originally want, as a factor when making your decision.

Staging automatically forces you to de-clutter your home and pack up some of what you will have to pack up anyway when you move. And taking on the work of staging may make that moving day come sooner than you think.

GREATER VICTORIA MARKET UPDATE » Month ending OCT. 31/14 COURTESY VICTORIA REAL ESTATE BOARD

» 602 / 512 — NET UNCONDITIONAL SALES / TOTAL,  OCT. 2013

» 945 / 979 — NEW LISTINGS / TOTAL,  OCT. 2013

» 3,927 / 4,322 — ACTIVE RESIDENTIAL LISTINGS / TOTAL,  OCT. 2013