Top Questions to Ask During an Open House
- Why are the sellers moving?
- How long has the home been on the market?
- What school district are we in?
- Are there any offers on the table?
- May I have a Seller’s Property Disclosure?
1. Why are the sellers moving?
Janice: For example, did they just get a new job and they’re moving out of the area? That could have a little bit of an impact on how you can offer. Do they have a deadline to meet, et cetera? On the flip side of that, if you ask that question and the realtor’s a little bit hesitant, you might want to try to figure out why.
Anthony: Right. It could be anything from an insane neighborhood who they’re trying to run away from or perpetual flooding, right? It’s a bad area.
Anthony: You need to find out what the reason is because you need to find out if it’s something that would make you want to move, right?
Janice: It’s a slight red flag. Exactly, exactly. There’s a red flag somewhere if they’re not really forthcoming on why they’re moving and it’s a little wishy-washy. It could be something they don’t want to talk about, a divorce, et cetera, but you want to find out. Again, they said it’s a red flag.
2. How long has the home been on the market?
Janice: Has it been a few days? Has it been there a long time without a reason? You want to look into that and ask why. I look at this as two reasons. Why has it been on the market? Is there a problem? The red flags like we talked about before, or if we’re also looking at something for negotiating, they might be a little more open if the house has been on the market for a long time, whereas if it just went on yesterday and you want to try to really low ball them, they’re probably going to laugh because it’s been 24 hours. How do you feel about that?
Anthony: Yeah, this is great advice. Here’s a couple ways to look at it. If the listing has been on for six months it could mean one of two things. It could mean that the sellers might be getting a little ancy and a little willing to take lower offers, but it could also mean that you have some really stubborn sellers who are just declining every offer that comes in and maybe even just testing the market. You can read that one of two ways.
Anthony: If you have a listing that has just come on the market, there’s also two ways to read that. Like you said Janice, it could be a fresh listing so low balling might not be worth it because they want to see what else will come in, but there’s a trick out there that you need to be aware of in that brokers will often reset the listings so that it’ll look like it’s a fresh listing even if it’s been stagnant for several months because they know that you know that the listing …
Anthony: I think the listing systems are now picking up on that. Basically what you want to do is you want to check how many times has it been listed by this seller in the past year or two. If you’re seeing that’s coming off and on, off and on, then you know you might have a difficult seller to deal with there.
Janice: Yes. You can see that even when you google the property. It’ll tell you when it was listed, when it was taken off, when it was listed. You can see that if it’s been over a year and like you said, on and off, on and off, ask questions. Why?
Anthony: There might be a little flakiness there.
Janice: It could be an entire gamut of reasons but I would just ask, yeah. That’s what … They’re there and you ask.
Anthony: Great advice.
3. What school district are we in?
Janice: Personally I probably would’ve done the research on this beforehand, having children, but if you don’t and you’re there, it’s a really good question to ask. You say, “Well, why? I don’t have any kids.” Well first of all, your taxes. Some school district’s taxes are really high and then some are really low, but on the flip side of that, you do want to be in a better school district if possible because think about resale. If you’re not going to stay there forever, it’s not going to be your final home, and you do want to sell it to someone that has children down the road, it will be harder to sell in an area where the school district’s not as great. You do have to think about that, with or without kids.
Anthony: You covered that perfectly. That’s exactly right. The only thing I have to add Janice is that in New York at least, the realtors or brokers are not allowed to comment on the quality of the schools. You do need to do your own leg work. You can’t just ask, “Is this a good school or not?” They’re not really supposed to, or I think they’re not even allowed to comment on that.
Janice: Interesting. If you do ask what school … Is it separated into districts or schools in New York? Is that how that works?
Anthony: In Manhattan –
Janice: Can they answer –
Anthony: Yes, they can answer which one is your zoned school, but even that, the zones are constantly … It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. They’re constantly moving.
Anthony: Yeah. Most brokers will say, “Here’s the URL for the Department of Education website. All the information you need is right there.” It’s not really there, or it is but it’s very … One of those Byzantine, old, bureaucratic websites. You need to do your own research.
Janice: Do a little bit of homework. Five minutes of googling, you’re going to know what area it is, if it’s good, if it’s not good, but it’s really important to look at, whether you have kids or not, and especially if you kids, but if you don’t you have to think long term. Eventually selling the house, you have to think of that.
Anthony: Very true.
4. Are there any offers on the table?
Janice: Find out and ask how many. When are they planning to make their final decision? It’s important to know what you’re up against. It says, “As for what makes a strong offer, sale price is key.” If you’re competing against multiple offers it’s probably a good idea not to go in as a low ball offer because you won’t even be considered. You’re going to want to talk to your realtor and say, “What’s fair? What should I do?” They’ll be able to tell you that when you ask how many people have put in an offer.
Anthony: Remember Janice, the framework for this conversation is questions to ask at open houses. I think the reason you’d ask about how many offers there are during an open house is to modulate how enthusiastic you need to be. What I mean by that is, if there are six offers on a house that you love but the house is already at the edge of your budget, then you might want to move on to the next one, right?
Janice: Right, right.
Anthony: Not spend more time at this open house or spend time scheduling a private appointment, if you know that, or if it looks very clear to you that it’s going to be bid up to past what you’re comfortable spending.
Janice: You should definitely take all of your finances into consideration. If you’re going to go up 10% that’s going to throw your everything off. You’re right. Definitely keep that in consideration.
5. May I have a Seller’s Property Disclosure?
Janice: A seller’s property disclosure, it’s this form that you go through and you say everything you possibly can about what is wrong with the house or what someone should need to know, your very best information that you can on this form. If I remember correctly at open houses, I’ve gone through them, I’ve had them, the property seller disclosure is usually sitting on the table. They give it out like flyers and candy here. There’s not really any big surprises with the house. How is that different, or the same, from New York?
Anthony: I have not seen this at open houses in Manhattan. The equivalent, discussing smoke detectors and the presence of possible asbestos, that stuff is usually at the contract stage, not at the open house. It’s a little bit different, at least in Manhattan.
Janice: Interesting. How interesting. They set out in writing originally before you even make the offer of what is wrong, what could potentially be wrong, what needs to be fixed. It’s really saying, “Here is all their cards are on the table. This is what we think is wrong, or may need to get fixed.” You can take that home, read it over [crosstalk 00:08:45] –
Anthony: Build it into your offer, yeah.
Anthony: I think that makes sense.
Janice: It does.
Anthony: It saves everyone a whole lot of time.
Janice: It does, but remember it’s a legal document so I’ve also seen here many times where the new buyer moves in and then there’s a problem that wasn’t disclosed on that property disclosure.