After poring over dozens of real estate listings, you finally find it: The perfect house. Based on the pictures and the description, it feels like this one was practically built just for you.
Aaaaand once you arrive at the open house, you realize 50 other people feel the exact same way. In today’s hyper-competitive home-buying market, open houses can get seriously packed with motivated buyers, all hoping to finally nab a house.
“In today’s wild market, it’s just inevitable,” says Todd Maloof, a real estate agent in New Jersey. “With inventory and rates so low, there must be at least 10 buyers for every house that hits the market. You may get lucky to go right at the beginning of the open house, but either way, be prepared to feel like you’re walking through Rockefeller Center in December.”
Is there any way to avoid the notoriously long lines at open houses, aside from setting up a private showing, or is this just the way it has to be? I asked real estate agents to share their most creative ways of beating the crowds — here’s what they had to say.
While it may be tempting to bring your mom, your favorite uncle, your old college roommate, and your best friend along for a second (and third and fourth and fifth) opinion of each house, this could actually be hurting you more than it’s helping, says real estate broker Kimberly Jay. You’re contributing to the crowded feel and also likely slowing yourself down.
“View the home by yourself,” she says. “Do not bring anyone with you. Having too many people in your party can cause your wait time to be longer. If you’re on your own, you may be able to tag along with the people in front of you.”
Here’s a ridiculously simple — and possibly effective — tactic: Simply ask the listing agent if you can pop in for a few minutes alone before the open house starts. Real estate agents are human, after all, and they may be moved by your politeness.
“In a very nice way, approach the agent and ask if you can please view it before others due to a very important scheduled appointment or engagement, such as a family member’s birthday party or a doctor’s appointment,” Jay says. “Sometimes, being very nice will get you what you want.”
Dustin Fox, a real estate agent in Virginia, seconds that idea. He also recommends trying to “vibe” with the seller’s agent — even if you can’t beat the crowds at the actual open house, you may be able to beat them with your offer.
“The real estate business is still all about relationships,” he says. “If you can build a rapport with the seller’s agent, you can get to know more about the seller. For example, you can bring out information such as the seller’s preferred closing date and ideal selling terms. Eventually, it will help you to understand the seller’s preferences and place an offer they can hardly deny.”
Get a head start and arrive at the open house 30 minutes early, says Amy Owens, a real estate agent in New Jersey.
“If a line is already starting, you can get to the front this way,” she says. “If not, it provides a great opportunity to observe the neighborhood and check out the home’s exterior and yard. Take the extra time to see how far the house is from a playground, schools, downtown, or any other places of interest.”
If you’re OK with telling a little fib to get some alone time in the house, call the real estate agent just before the open house is scheduled to end and say that you’re stuck in traffic, suggests John Walkup, co-founder of real estate analytics company UrbanDigs. Ask if they can wait just a few more minutes for you to arrive.
Still, even if you somehow manage to sneak your way into an open house by yourself, remember that it all comes down to how competitive your offer is. You skipped the line — but the line still exists because homes are few and far between right now.
“Even if you get a calm, private tour of a property, don’t forget you’re still in a heated, competitive market,” says Walkup. “Even if you can view the property alone and unbothered, others may have stood in line. That experience raises peoples’ competitive hackles, and they will be more willing to overbid because they’ve seen what they are up against.”
You can skip the open house crowds with ease if there is no open house, period. Talk to your real estate agent about any homes they might be listing soon (as the seller’s agent), says Ryan Fitzgerald, a real estate agent in North Carolina.
“If you are seriously interested in one of the properties, you could get ahead of the crowd before anyone else hears about it,” he says.
Sure, the homeowners may want to list on the open market anyway just to see how much money they can get, but they may also be willing to negotiate with you directly just to close the deal quickly.
Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. Obviously, you shouldn’t do anything illegal, but there’s nothing wrong with doing a little creative sleuthing, says real estate broker Gerard Splendore.
“While a buyer may feel like they are almost stalking a building, there are a lot of ways to gather information: talking to a super on trash day, visiting a building on various days prior to the open house, talking to residents, chatting with delivery people, or anyone who appears to present as a Realtor, are all examples,” he says. “Doormen, of course, can be very helpful. Incentives (like money) help, as does coffee and a doughnut.”