Touring an open house this weekend? Avoid these three things

For Southern California house hunters, spring weekends should mean one thing: open houses.

In a regular real estate market, these events are calm and casual, a chance to see what’s on the market and look into the life of a stranger. But not in Southern California, where the cutthroat market turns open houses into battlefields where buyers must one-up each other to make the best impression and increase their chance of landing a home.

Have no fear, for The Times is here to help. This week, we published “The Great SoCal House Hunt,” an all-encompassing, step-by-step guide to buying a home. It covers everything you need to know during the home-buying process, and one of the highlights is an open house survival guide that’ll helps you plan for every step of the way.

For starters, you’ll need to find a house to tour. To do so, just click this link. It scans real estate listing site Redfin for every open house this weekend in L.A. County; to narrow it down to a specific neighborhood, simply type the area you’re eyeing into the search bar.

Once you’ve found a place worth checking out, here are the three most important things to avoid when you visit.

Don’t give away too much information

The seller’s agent is there to help, but they’re also seeking out information from potential buyers that could be used for leverage down the road.

For example, if you tell the listing agent that you’re in the process of selling your current place and need to find somewhere as soon as possible, the agent will use that information to ask for more money during the negotiation process since they know you’re desperate.

While it’s vital to ask questions, don’t ask any that would offend the seller.

“I saw one couple walk into an open house and ask how safe the area was,” said Heather Presha, an agent with Keller Williams Realty. “The seller doesn’t want to sell to people who think their neighborhood isn’t safe.”

Don’t annoy the agent

Speaking of offending the seller, try not to be a nuisance. Agents have pet peeves, and if you come off as a high-maintenance buyer, it’ll make your offer less attractive down the road.
You might also annoy the agent by asking too many questions. The agent is there to offer information, but monopolizing their time and coming back to tour with friends, family and others might give the impression that it’s going to be a pain to close a deal with you.

Also, ask permission to tour certain spaces — and always ask before you use the bathroom. Compass agent Brent Chang recalled a potential buyer who snuck into the bathroom without asking and stayed in there for 30 minutes.

“She finally came out and said, ‘Bad sushi for lunch,’ while rubbing her stomach,” Chang said.

Take off the rose-colored glasses

One of the worst things you can do at an open house is trick yourself into thinking the place doesn’t have any problems. At an open house, the grass will be at its greenest, the house will be at its cleanest, and the red flags will be hidden — but not invisible.

Switch into Sherlock Holmes mode and keep an eye out for foundation cracks, water stains and mold. Also be wary of seemingly nice touches. Candles in every room probably means the seller is hiding a bad smell. Fresh paint on just one wall is probably covering up a crack.

Open houses are an art, and knowing your way around them can give you a leg up on other buyers. For more tips, questions to ask and other red flags, print out our open house checklist to make sure you’re covered.

The Great SoCal House Hunt