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Open House Never Goes Out of Style

In a sizzling housing market with homes selling like hotcakes in many metropolitan areas, you might expect an agent to stick a home on the MLS, and just wait for the buyers to roll in. No reason to hold an open house, right? Not exactly. Real estate agents still rely on meeting buyers and their agents face-to-face, and the open house provides those close encounters. Homebuyers and sellers need to understand why it's worth the trouble.

First of all, the open house is an important debut that can lead to a sale, especially in real estate markets where homes are in short supply. Buyers and agents know that once a property hits the market, getting there first might be the best assurance of placing a successful bid. Sometimes contracts are signed on the spot. And listings only provide data with a two-dimensional photograph. Nothing can substitute for getting buyers and agents in the door to view the property firsthand.

Another approach is the "targeted" open house for real estate agents or other invited guests only. The seller's agent will showcase the listing to other brokers, preferably right when the house first goes on the market. It's a preview and opportunity to network with other brokers to "road test" the home.

The seller's agent might make potential buyers jump through different hoops on arrival. Be patient. Signing a guest list will provide critical information about how many people visited the home and their impressions. First impressions are lasting ones, and the seller's agent needs to get feedback from buyers and brokers. This exchange of information helps both the buyer and seller. The seller needs to know if the home matches the preferences or triggers the dislikes of potential buyers. If the price is too high, a quick adjustment might lead to a quicker sale.

A questionnaire is a screening tool that serves both buyer and seller. Is the house within your budget? Does it have the basic features you need? Many first-time homebuyers need guidance. If the answer is no, the agent can save you the time and trouble of touring the wrong home, and attend to other buyers. Don't be shocked if you see a mortgage loan officer peddling loans at the open house, either. On the spot pre-qualifying is a service that reduces uncertainty in the buying decision and saves time. If you haven't already pre-qualified for a loan, a brief review of your finances will reveal what you can afford. Even if you're already pre-qualified, it doesn't hurt to see what this particular loan provider has to offer.

Sources used to create this article include M. Anthony Carr and The Washington Times.

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