Open houses are enticing — but this approach is not the right way to explore the suburbs.
Open houses are everywhere — you can’t browse social media or scan Zillow or even drive down a suburban street without seeing open house alerts. And, we admit, there is something fun about popping into someone else’s house, whether you could potentially be the new owners or not.
That said, if you’re serious about your suburban search, we’ve got one message for you about open houses: AVOID — at least until you’re working with a Suburban Jungle Strategist. There are tons of pitfalls that come with using open houses as your search anchor. But, once you’ve got a Strategist and Suburban Jungle local agent in your corner, they’ll be able to tackle open houses — and every other aspect of your search — with your best interests in mind.
Until then, though, steer clear. Here’s why:
#1. A town-first approach is the right approach
Starting with the town just makes sense. Too often, first-time buyers get sold on a specific house, only to realize that, while the property is amazing, the neighborhood and, potentially, the town doesn’t sync with their wants, needs and lifestyle — and that’s a problem that’s almost impossible to overcome.
“You can renovate a house and make it what you want, but you can’t ‘renovate’ a community,” says Suburban Jungle Founder & President Alison Bernstein. “It usually takes 10, 15, even 20 years for a town to experience any real change — if it ever does at all.”
By finding the right town then honing in on houses, you’ll wind up exactly where you and your family belong — in every sense of the word.
“There will always be a great house,” Alison adds. “By focusing on the town first, you’ll get exactly what you want — the right community and the right house. It’s a win/win.”
#2. Your agent should be all about you
Head to an open house solo and, immediately, the seller’s agent will zero in on signing you as a client. Their ideal? Sell this house to you, and earn double commission as both the buyer and seller agent.
While that could happen even if you don’t start with an open house, the ideal is to enlist a buyer’s agent whose only interest is you and your unique home-buying specifications.
“Once we introduce our clients to a Suburban Jungle agent, we’ve determined specific towns that make sense,” says Suburban Jungle Strategist Robin Hoberman. “The agent has that information and can customize the home search accordingly.” These agents, she adds, are truly local to that community, versus agents who represent entire counties or more.
#3. You should look beyond budgets
Go to an open house and you’ll be handed a sheet with the basics — including price. But finding a house is so much more than just dollars and cents — but the seller’s agent has no interest in presenting that side of things.
“Don’t just buy to your budget,” Robin adds, “which is exactly what you’re doing when you go to an open house. You’re looking at houses that are in your budget, and saying ‘yes’ or ‘no.’” But there’s so much more to it. You need to think about your long-term plans and if this house makes sense.”
Michelle, a working mom of three on Long Island, agrees.
“We did the open house thing. We’d find a house at the top of our budget and go. But of course, each house looked amazing — it’s an open house!” she says. “We had no clue what else was going on.”
Beyond that, though, they completely ignored houses just above and just below their budget range.
“Our agent helped us see the bigger picture,” she explained. “We eventually bought below our budget but on a great cul-de-sac in an amazing school district. And we used the extra money to do renovations and make the house ours.”
#4. You should be comparing apples to every apple — not just the visible ones
Some homes don’t have open houses — or they hold off a bit. Some get off-market offers and never even make it to the formal listing stage. And, depending on where you’re looking and what you want, if you are open-house hopping, you could miss out on some amazing homes in amazing communities.
“Once you and your Strategist have worked through what you want and strategized on a town list, you’ll have a better sense of the real estate ‘norms’ in that town,” says Alison. “Is it a very competitive community where homes have offers before they even hit the market? Is inventory very limited? Does every seller host an open house immediately?”
With Suburban Jungle in your corner, you’ll have access to everything, including pocket listings and homes about to hit the market. Compare that to a packed open house with tons of competition and it’s easy to see why our approach comes out on top.
#5. You’ll never second guess
While some people wind up buying the first house they see, most don’t. If you’ve been heavily focused on open houses, your vantage point can be very limited — again, you aren’t getting those off-market listings or other could-be homes Suburban Jungle agents tend to have kicking around.
By doing your due diligence and truly scoping out a suburb — and lots of different houses — you’ll know you’ve made the right decision, now and in the future.
It’s not about bedrooms and bathrooms, but the right place to raise your family. Schedule here for your strategy session with our innovative suburbs strategy team. All services are completely free.