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Shopping for a home is fun for many people. And while signs for open houses suggest come-one-come-all, you should be both polite and strategic.

The real estate sales technique of open houses has taken a hit in recent years. With online listings – complete with photos and videos – much of the preliminary shopping individuals do is from their personal computer.

But one can get much more out of the experience of actually being in the home, getting a sense of the quality of materials, the views out of windows, and the vibe of a neighborhood. You want to know about Glassell Park, Highland Park or Eagle Rock if you’ve never been there before.

For instance, throughout Northeast Los Angeles, homes in Echo Park and Highland Park, as well as real estate in Atwater Village and Eagle Rock, are unlike homes anywhere else. They have to be seen to be understood.

Open houses are sometimes the route for people just beginning their search, such as someone who has yet to sign on with a representing broker.

Just be advised on some rules and strategies for attending open houses:

Visit on your own time (without your broker)? If you have a signed exclusive buyer-broker agreement, it’s conceivable that your agent would provide you with a list of open houses to visit on your own. It’s OK to go solo to open houses just because you happen to be driving through Garvanza or Hermon one day, but it would immensely complicate the process if you decided to write an offer without your Realtor involved. Just be upfront with your agent and the brokers representing the homes you visit about your standing buyer-broker agreement; your agent might even give you a handful of his or her business cards that, should you find a home interesting, you can connect your representative with the open house host agent.

Reveal minimal information about yourself. This is less about etiquette and more about preserving your negotiation leverage. If you say too much about your financial situation, if your offer to buy would be contingent on selling an existing home – or stating how much you love a place – each of those things provide information that is useful to the seller’s agent. Better to let your own agent handle that communication later. Rule of thumb: the less said the better.

Be conversational but not overly enthusiastic or interruptive. It’s certainly ok to ask questions (e.g., “Will the dining room chandelier stay?,” or “When was the electrical updated?”), as well as to make mild compliments (“That’s a lovely fireplace”). But don’t gush (“Oh, I just LOVE this kitchen!” or “I’ve had my eyes on Mt. Washington for a long time!”), as it might reveal a willingness to pay more. Also, if the seller’s broker is engaged in conversation with someone else it’s perfectly ok to walk through the home unattended.

Respect private places. Sometimes a door will be closed; unless the seller’s broker opens it assume it’s a room that is not for viewing in the open house stage. You will be able to see it later if you are a serious buyer.

Look in your ballpark. If you want to see something outside of what you can afford, that may become apparent within a short conversation with the seller’s broker. It wastes their time and distracts them from doing their job, which is to find an interested and qualified seller. It helps to know what a lender has pre-qualified you for in terms of a mortgage before you even look at something. Besides, why disappoint yourself with something that’s inaccessible?

You should understand also that if you step inside an open house you are technically a sales prospect if you are unaccompanied by a broker. So if you are seriously considering buying a home, you should be game for that conversation.

If you have more questions, contact Realtor Tracy King who has hosted and attended a few thousand open houses in her 25 years working in the NELA area.

tracy 150x175With over 30 years experience in helping clients buy and sell homes in Northeast Los Angeles, Tracy King has a depth of real estate knowledge that makes her the go-to for both the first-time home buyer and the seasoned real estate investor. When she's not holding open houses or negotiating offers, Tracy enjoys wine tasting, cooking, or planning her next trip to Paris. If you are looking to buy or sell a home in Northeast Los Angeles, contact the Tracy King Team at 626.827.9795 or