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When it comes to helping sell homes, some brokers love open houses. Others avoid them if possible. There is agreement, however, that open houses offer lots of useful information to homebuyers.

Visiting several open houses is an ideal way for buyers to dip their toes into the local housing market, contends Paul Booth of RE/MAX 10 in Palos Park, Ill.

“When folks start house hunting, what they want often isn’t clear to them, and open houses can help clarify their thinking. That’s especially true with couples because while both may agree it’s time to move, they may not have a shared vision of their new home. Buyers need to vocalize what they want to each other and to their Realtor, and visiting open houses helps that happen,” Booth says.

Going to open houses is a good way to learn the lingo of real estate and helps buyers understand which features they prefer in a home, while offering a chance to see and learn about different geographic areas, he noted.

“Buyers also should understand that for the broker who holds an open house, there are two objectives,” explains Donna Glazer of RE/MAX Enterprises in Downers Grove, Ill. “The first is to expose the property to possible buyers. The second is to meet potential clients. So, if you are looking for a broker to help with your home search, going to open houses can be a good way to check out some candidates.”

While everyone is welcome at an open house, there is correct etiquette for attending an open house. Here’s a brief list of open house tips from Matt Pittman of RE/MAX Achievers, Lombard, Ill.

  1. Don’t just walk in unless the home is clearly marked as an open house. Knock or ring the bell if you don’t see an Open House sign.
  2. Once inside, if no one greets you immediately, walk through the house toward the kitchen and look for the broker who is hosting the event.
  3. If you don’t find the broker, look for a sign-in sheet, and use it. If you’re working with a broker who isn’t with you, include that information on the sign-in sheet.
  4. Ask the hosting broker if it is OK for you to walk through the home on your own. That is usually the case, but occasionally, a homeowner will insist that all visitors be escorted.
  5. Unless indicated otherwise, feel free to go into every room in the house, turn on lights and even open the closets to assess storage capacity. However, respect the privacy of the homeowner. Don’t open drawers or inspect personal possessions.
  6. If you want to see how a fixture operates, such as the furnace, shower or hot tub, ask permission first. However, it’s OK to turn on a sink faucet if you want to check the water pressure.

When going to an open house, keep in mind that the broker can be a great source of information, notes Gail Bergstrom of RE/MAX At Home in Rolling Meadows, Ill.

“The broker can answer not only your questions about the home, but also about recent sales in the area, local schools, and a variety of other valuable details for a buyer new to the area,” she said.

Bergstrom also offers two other etiquette tips. She urges visitors not to take food or drink into an open house and to think twice about bringing small children.

Viewing a home without the distractions created by children is the better choice. However, if bringing the kids is unavoidable, parents should always accompany them during the visit.

“At one open house I held, someone even insisted on bringing their dog,” she recalls. “They told me they couldn’t buy a home without the dog’s approval, so I let the dog have a look.”

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