Have you ever wondered as a buyer or as a Realtor, how do you find open houses? For buyers you're looking for a house to buy, for Realtors you're looking for an open house to hold open. Continue reading to find out the answers.
What is an Open House?
Before we delve into how to find open houses, it helps to know what an open house is. An open house is simply a window of time where the house is available for showing without an appointment. Open houses are especially useful if the seller cannot open the home daily for regular showings.
Public open houses are usually on a Sunday afternoon in many areas. There are also two other types of open houses, usually held during the week, which are not always open to the public. For example in the Thousand Oaks and east Ventura County area there are "Office Caravans" on Wednesday mornings, which are essentially open houses geared towards the agents working in the same Brokerage as the listing agent. These help the agents get familiar with the Brokerage's listings. Sometimes these are open to the public.
The final type of open houses is the "Broker Caravan" which in the Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley and Eastern Ventura County areas are held on Fridays around 11am. These are geared towards all real estate agents, so that other area agents can become familiar with the property and do their previewing. These are sometimes open to the public.
How do you know if one of these office caravans or Broker caravans are open to the public? If there are open house signs out and a real estate agent holding the house open, chances are you can go in and take a look. Just make sure to identify yourself as a home buyer.
One additional type of open house is the neighborhood open house. This is typically an invite-only event most often held on a Friday evening and are typically for adults only, as there may be wine or other spirited beverages served.
How to Find Open Houses
Now for what you came here for... how to find open houses. There are typically three main ways to find open houses; Realtors, Online and Signs.
Using your Realtor. If you're serious about buying a home, you've already started working with a Realtor and have been pre-approved by a lender. So why not utilize the knowledge and experience of your Realtor to find open houses? Don't worry about offending your agent, the truth is we'd rather you come to us about touring open houses then find out after the fact. There are things you should do and say when touring open houses when working with a Realtor to help avoid confusion in the future.
Realtors also have an up-to-the-second listing of all homes that are in the MLS and marked as having an open house. Since in many areas (like Ventura County) the MLS does not automatically populate information to sites like Zillow and Realtor.com, many of these open houses may not be listed on those portals! Why risk limiting your search by not using a Realtor?
Online Portals. Online portals such as Zillow, Realtor.com, Homes.com and websites like Craigslist are popular places for people to search. However, it is important to note that these sites do not have every listing that's in the MLS and some of them will manipulate the results to prioritize certain listings over others, which gives you a skewed view of what is out there.
Search Engines. Search engines like DuckDuckGo.com are also a great source for open finding open houses. A simple search for a phrase like "Open Houses Near Me" or if you only want a specific area, searches like "Lynn Ranch Open Houses" for a neighborhood or "Thousand Oaks Open Houses" for a city, can provide you with a good starting point for finding homes.
Signs. One of the most obvious ways to find an open house, but the most difficult, is by driving around and looking for signs. If you go this route, you have no idea what you're going to look at. You don't know if it's a two story or a single story home, or if it has a pool or not, or if it will even meet your base level of needs. While you drive to an unknown home that may be a waste of time by not meeting your needs, you may miss out on a home that does meet your needs.
When are Open Houses Typically Held?
Open Houses vary by area. In some parts of the country they don't hold them at all. In some areas they're on Sunday, in others on Saturday. For the Ventura County, Los Angeles County and most of Southern California, public open houses are typically held on Sundays from 1pm to 4pm. The time window may vary, for example I like to hold mine from 2pm to 4pm. In recent years Saturday open houses as well as late morning or early evening open houses have started to become popular, but if you're looking to get the most "bang for your buck" and find the most open houses at once (or get the most visitors if you're a Realtor), then the tried and true Sunday afternoon is for you.
Tips for Touring Open Houses
When you get to the open house, make sure to do the following things:
- Introduce yourself to the host and let them know if you're working with an agent already.
- Leave distractions in the car. This includes kids and pets (pets typically are not welcome in open houses to begin with). Kids that are begging for attention or running around can distract you from viewing the house.
- Ask questions. Even if you are working with a Realtor already, ask any questions you need to of the host, they are there to answer your questions! Questions relating to price and contract details are inappropriate and best left for your Realtor to ask.
- Don't be afraid to open cabinet doors, closet doors and kitchen drawers.
- Have a list printed out of all your requirements in one row and all the houses you're touring in the first column. As you go from house to house, take notes of how each house fit your needs and anything special about the home. See the below image for an example.
What if I'm a Realtor Looking for a House to Hold Open?
Are you a Realtor/Broker/Real Estate Agent looking to hold an open house for someone? Typically, you would need to call all the agents in your office and see if any of them were interested. If no one was, you'd need to call random agents with listings to see if any of them were interested. That's a lot of dialing with a limited chance of success. Thankfully there is a better way! Agents4Opens.com is a site whose sole purpose is to match listing agents with open house hosts. Register an account or login to your existing one and search your area for homes. Apply for the one(s) you are interested in and the listing agent then reviews your application and can approve you.