open house etiquette
When Sacramento buyer’s agents send clients to open houses unaccompanied and they later write an offer, it still stuns me. If clients do not need their agent’s guidance, do they really need their agent? Open houses are heavily visited by buyers without their agent. This happens as regular as clockwork. It is no longer an exception but now more of a rule that agents send their buyers to open houses.
There are of course some agents who actually show up to our open houses with clients. We understand that an agent may be holding an open house and can’t make it to an open house at the same time a client wants to see it. Of course, they could plan to see it after their open house or send another associate to attend with them. At the very least they can go back with the clients a second time to see the property and then write an offer.
You might wonder what seven open houses on Sunday and a flesh fly have in common with each other. Despite the fact that I am a bit of a troublemaker, an instigator, somewhat rogue at times. I possess a fairly dry sense of humor. However, I won’t keep you in suspense. That flesh fly is sitting on a yellow pad of my hand-scribbled notes about seven open houses, which rests on my coffee table on my lanai in Hawaii. Now, if you want to know what a flesh fly is, that is an interesting story, simply because it’s so creepy and dark.
Maybe you know all about a flesh fly. If so, you can skip this part. I never heard of a flesh fly before, until I spotted it land on my legal pad. Had to take a picture. But you know me, I can’t post a photo of something if I can’t identify it. When I figured out it was a flesh fly, at first blush I thought it was the color of flesh. Unlike the beige-colored crayons of my childhood. Because flesh comes in many colors. Or, maybe flesh had some other meaning. Nope, it did not originate from the city of Flesh in Wisconsin. It is exactly what the name implies. A flesh fly eats rotting flesh. Which is positively revolting and why I find it fascinating.
Apparently, forensic teams can tell how long a body has been dead by studying the flesh flies nibbling on it. The flies lay live maggots on the flesh, not eggs. Which means experts can predict the time of death by studying the growth stages of the flesh flies. Flesh flies live all over the country, and in Hawaii, too. Now you know a fun new fact you can share at dinner parties.
I shared a horrific story of a series of events, each more horrific than the last, to a dinner party group of Christian friends earlier in the week. Somebody mentioned hospice, and I quipped: I have an interesting hospice story. Everybody gathered in a circle. I could see by the expressions on their faces, they were not intrigued nor amused as my lips began to move. Eyes wide. Faces alarmed. Wrong group for this story. I’m sure they wondered where I was going with it. I quickly gave it an upbeat ending about divine human spirit and the triumph of strength under duress.
Then, my husband shared a story with me yesterday about a friend whose father was in a German Nazi camp. We had no idea of her family’s tragic past. Her father survived, but her uncle was raped by a drunken Nazi who, upset at her uncle’s resistance, split the guy’s head open. OMG! The stuff you do not know about people! Again, not a story to relate at a dinner party with my older Christian friends. Know your audience.
Sellers need to leave the house, not only for showings when selling but they should leave during an open house. This is difficult for some people to understand. They feel like we are kicking them out of the house, and in a way we are. We want buyers to see the home among the excitement of other buyers desiring the home. Sacramento Realtors also don’t want buyers forming any sort of opinions about the sellers or even talking to the sellers. It just makes sense.
Of course, we can’t force the sellers to leave if they refuse. I had one seller very worried about his cat. He was concerned the cat would escape or runaway or be stolen. I can understand that. When I sold my own home, I put my cat into a carrier and stuck a note on it. It read: don’t pet me and don’t talk to me. Primarily I was concerned about the open house guests’ safety because that cat might lunge and bite them. He hated everybody but me and my husband.
I left him alone in the house once when an agent showed. I had been talking to my neighbors at the fence line when one of the neighbors pointed out, hey, the agent and buyers are banging on your windows. I looked up, thinking, oh, they are appreciating the fact the windows are dual pane. Then I noticed the panicked look on their faces, so I raced upstairs. My cat had them cornered, growling.
When my seller asked me if he could stay, I told him I preferred that he leave during the open house. He refused. OK, then, you sit in the corner like a stuffed animal and don’t move and don’t talk to anybody. Knowing my sense of humor, he thought I was kidding at first but then realized, no, I am serious.
He shouldn’t be there because it makes buyers uncomfortable. All sellers should leave during the open house. Buyers think it’s creepy to have the seller present. Plus, he could say something to a buyer’s agent or buyers that they could use against him. He’s not in Sacramento real estate and doesn’t know the trouble he can get into. Buyers need to look at the home in their own pace and leisure, soaking in the feeling they could claim the home as their own.
How can open houses in Sacramento be bad? For anybody? Yet, there are agents who just don’t want to do an open house. I suppose these agents have a ton of clients and don’t need any more buyers to work with. Maybe they don’t enjoy talking to buyers, which can make a person wonder why they are in real estate. Or, maybe they feel that they will be dissatisfied if the open house produces just one buyer for them to help?
Buyers find out about open houses through 2 main methods: homes for sale on the web and by following open house signs placed in the street. Some weekends, traffic is slow; other weekends, brisk. The success of an open house can be influenced by the weather, holidays, weekend events, but rain or shine, successful Sacramento real estate agents work.
I hear from a few other agents that open houses are a waste of time, but if an agent finds a great buyer every other open house, that’s an investment of four hours. If four hours isn’t worth investing to find a buyer, I’m wondering how far an agent will go in the real estate business.
Not only that, but holding an open house allows an agent to become more familiar with a neighborhood, its people, traffic patterns, positives / negatives, market values — all of which is beneficial information to a real estate agent developing her career.
On top of this, although not every buyer will buy a home on the spot at the open house, for a large number of buyers, viewing the home at the open house is often their first exposure to the home, and they do eventually buy. They might look at the home on a Sunday, think about it for a few days, get a preapproval letter and eventually call a real estate agent to show the home to them a second time. Many homes that sell today were first viewed by the buyer at an open house.
Due to our busy schedules nowadays, most people look at the weekends as a time to a) do chores and b) to relax. They can squeeze in an open house or two that they might not be able to schedule during the week. People also make impulse purchases, and real estate is not immune. How often have I heard, “Oh, we weren’t in the market, but then we drove by this open house . . ..”
It’s too easy when there’s little traffic for an agent to decide that open houses in Sacramento don’t work. The real estate agents who make it in the real estate business are those who view every open house as an opportunity to engage with people and to sell a home. Open houses in Sacramento is a necessity.
I have the utmost respect for Michele Dillingham at Big Valley Mortgage. She writes about mortgages and finance for the Sacramento Bee. However, her piece this Saturday contains a confusing error. She basically told home buyers that they should not go to an open house. She says: “The problem is that if you don’t tell the agent at that house that you already have your own real estate agent, then your agent may lose out on the deal — and you lose out on having your own agent. The agent who has the property listed would be representing both buyer and seller.”
It’s not true. Not true how a Sacramento open house works. It’s true that not telling the open house agent that you have your own agent could cause bickering among agents, but you are under no obligation to write your offer with the listing agent or even with the agent who is holding that Sacramento open house. You can go to an open house without your own agent, and you’ll be OK. If you have an agent, it’s a good idea to tell the host or hostess of the open house that you are working with an agent, but that’s more for your own protection. If open house agents know you have representation, they probably won’t ask for your personal information, nor will they be likely to hound follow up with you.
Moreover, many of the agents who hold an open house are not the listing agent. That’s because many listing agents do not actively represent buyers themselves. They might prefer to focus their business on seller representation. In that event, they would allow an agent on their team or in their office to hold the home open. That way, the agent holding open the house can also pick up some residual business from home buyers. They can try to represent the open house guest by writing an offer on that home or maybe they can show the buyer other homes. But you, as an open house guest, have no obligation to work with the open house agent nor the listing agent.
The only exception to this is new home sales. Don’t even think about stepping foot on a new home subdivision or new home sales office without your agent. If you are considering a new home, call your agent FIRST. But resales and previously owned homes are a completely different story.
If you are looking for an agent to represent you, going to open houses is a good way to meet a variety of real estate agents and, in a casual way, figure out whether you might want to work with any of them. If you do, then ask that agent to be your own representation. Be prepared to sign a Buyer’s Broker Representation agreement, which is a legal agreement, a two-way-street, between you and the agent’s brokerage.
But whatever you do, don’t put off going to a Sacramento open house just because you are worried that the agent will have dibs on you. Nobody can have dibs on you without your express written permission.
Here are a few of my Sacramento open houses that you might want to visit this weekend:
- Saturday, April 13th, 2013, 6800 Bismarck Drive, remodeled for $215,000.
- Sunday, April 13th, 2013, 3627 T Street in Med Center, Craftsman for $225,000.
- Sunday, April 13, 2013, 1620 Sutterville Road, Land Park, 5 Bedrooms, for $519,000.
- Sunday, April 13, 2013, 6800 Bismarck Drive, remodeled for $215,000.
- Sunday, April 14, 2013, 576 4th Avenue, Land Park, w/addition for $375,000.