Buying a Home? 3 Things to Bring With You to an Open House

Four adults, including one using a wheelchair, gasp in delight at their new home surrounded by moving boxes.

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Check these off your list before scoping out a home.

Key points

  • You may decide to make an offer on a home at an open house.
  • It's important that you bring the right documents to make that feasible.

When homes for sale first hit the market, it's common for real estate agents to arrange for an open house. During an open house, anyone who wants to come and see a home can do so without an appointment.

The downside of attending an open house is not having that space to yourself while you check it out. But if you're serious about buying a home, it pays to attend open houses in the neighborhood you're looking at.

These days, housing inventory is extremely limited. It's not uncommon for sellers to receive multiple purchase offers during an open house.

In fact, if you're going to attend an open house, it pays to go in ready to pounce yourself. To make that possible, here are three items you should bring with you.

1. Your mortgage pre-approval letter

A pre-approval letter doesn't guarantee that you'll get a mortgage. But it does send the message to sellers that you're a serious buyer whose finances have already been reviewed by a mortgage lender.

If you attend an open house and decide to make an offer on the property in question, the seller may be more apt to accept it if you come in with a pre-approval letter. Furthermore, if you land in a situation where it's you against other interested buyers, having that pre-approval letter could give you a serious edge over the competition.

2. Your wish list

There may be certain features you're looking for in a home, like an updated kitchen, a master bathroom with two vanities and sinks, and an attached garage. During an open house, it's easy to let some of those items slip your mind -- especially if you're looking at a nicely put-together home that seems appealing.

But the last thing you want to do is put in an offer on a home that doesn't fully suit your needs. It pays to bring your wish list along so you can check items off it and make sure the home in question really fits the bill.

3. A list of flaws to check for

Real estate agents can be really good at staging homes and making them look nice on the surface. But it's important to keep an eye out for flaws before making an offer on a home. You should bring along a checklist of potential problems to look for.

As a general rule, you'll want to be mindful of:

  • Signs of mold or water damage
  • Signs of termite damage
  • Poor water pressure
  • Outdated appliances

There may be other items to put on your list as well, depending on the age of the home in question. Your real estate agent should be able to help you put together a list that will keep you on track.

In today's housing market, it's pretty common to attend an open house and leave having made an offer to purchase the home in question. Bring these essentials along to make the most of that visit.

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