Home Buyer's Handbook

Looking at Homes

Are you ready to hit the pavement? Finding the perfect home isn’t easy but here are some of the best ways to get started:

Visit Open Houses

Poking through open houses is easy and fun, and it offers a good overview of the market. You don’t have to make appointments to see homes. Just pull up to an open house and walk in.

Misconceptions About Open Houses

Only a small percentage of homes are sold through open houses. An open house may be set up by the seller or an agent who works for the seller. Some open houses are hosted by agents who simply want to find new clients. However, by holding an open house, that agent’s loyalty is to the seller. If you have signed an agreement to work with a buyer’s agent, that agent will probably discourage you from attending open houses on your own. Also, if you sign in at an open house, and do not disclose you are working with an agent, this could cause problems later. Additionally, a commission dispute could arise if you hire an agent at an open house and later hire another agent. See page 51 for information on disclosures.

Laws Limit Agent Solicitation

Laws keep agents from soliciting each other’s clients. When you go to an open house, the agent showing the home will ask if you have an agent. Be prepared for a sales pitch if you say, “No.” The agent running the open house may try to enlist you as a client by having you sign an agreement. How do you know this agent has the skills and experience you need? You don’t! So don’t sign up as a client during an open house. Remember, if you just want to look at the home, you don’t have to sign any contracts.

Multiple Listing Service (MLS)

The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is the main tool real estate agents use for finding homes to match your needs. A consumer may be able to access much of the MLS data and may be able to list a property on the MLS by using a fixed-fee service. The MLS is a computerized publication that is updated constantly. It tells what homes are for sale by neighborhood, price, and amenities. In fact, computerized viewings of homes are provided by some real estate agents who subscribe to the MLS. You can also view listings online at www.mls.com,external link icon www.realtor.com,external link icon or individual realty companies may be featuring their listings online as well. You can tour an entire house without leaving your chair!

For Sale by Owner Publications

Some homes are for sale by owner (“FSBO”); pronounced “fisbo.” These sellers are homeowners who choose not to hire an agent. Don’t ignore FSBOs. FSBO homes can be cheaper than those advertised by real estate agents because FSBOs aren’t paying sales commissions.

Make sure your agent or broker is actively seeking FSBO property for you. To find a FSBO home on your own, look at publications or websites that specialize in FSBO homes or you may have luck driving around an area that interests you.

Shopping the Classifieds

Newspaper ads list homes for sale by owners and builders, and through real estate agencies. The ads aren’t as timely as the MLS listings, but they are all-encompassing.