Open house at the weekend? Avoid these three things

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

In a normal real estate market, these events are quiet and informal, an opportunity to see what’s on the market and a glimpse into the life of a stranger. But not in Southern California, where the cutthroat market turns open houses into battlegrounds where buyers must outbid each other to make the best impression and increase their chances of home ownership.

Fear not, The Times is here to help. This week we released The Great SoCal House Hunt, an all-encompassing step-by-step guide to home buying. It covers everything you need to know during the home buying process, and one of the highlights is an open house survival guide to help you plan every step of the way.

For starters, you need to find a home to view. To do this, simply click on this link. It searches the Redfin real estate exchange for each LA County open house this weekend; To narrow it down to a specific neighborhood, just type the area you’re looking for into the search bar.

Once you’ve found a place worth visiting, here are the top three things to avoid when you visit.

Don’t give away too much information

The seller’s agent is there to help, but they are also looking for information from potential buyers that could later be used as leverage.

For example, if you tell the real estate agent that you are about to sell your current home and need to find something asap, the agent will use that information to ask for more money during the negotiation process, knowing you are desperate.

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

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

Don’t annoy the agent

Speaking of insulting the seller, try not to be a nuisance. Agents have pet annoyances, and coming across as a high-maintenance buyer will make your offer less attractive later on.

You could also annoy the agent by asking too many questions. The agent is there to offer information, but monopolizing his time and returning to the tour with friends, family and others could make it seem like getting a deal with you will be an arduous task.

Also, ask permission to inspect certain rooms – and always ask before using the bathroom. Compass agent Brent Chang recalled a potential buyer sneaking into the bathroom without asking and staying 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 pretend to yourself that the place doesn’t have problems. At an open house, the grass is the greenest, the house is the cleanest, and the red flags are hidden—but not invisible.

Switch to Sherlock Holmes mode and keep an eye out for cracked foundations, water stains and mildew. Also, be wary of seemingly nice details. Candles in each room likely mean the vendor is hiding a bad smell. Fresh paint on just one wall is probably covering a crack.

Open houses are an art, and knowing it can put you one step ahead of 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