6 Surprising Reasons to Go to an Open House – Even If You’re Not Buying

Perusing online real estate listings can be nothing less than addictive. We’ve all spent time scouring the internet, ogling homes for sale that we don’t intend—or can’t afford—to buy. Because it’s fun!

But would you ever hop in the car and go look at a house in person, even if you’re not at all ready to make an offer?

Before you dismiss the idea, consider what you stand to gain by turning house hunting into an extracurricular activity.
Just ask Kristin McGrath. She and her husband visited all sorts of open houses in Austin, TX, while they got their finances in order to buy. They wanted to hit the ground running in the competitive real estate market.

“After weeks of checking out other homes, when we started looking for real, we could visit houses and jump in with an offer without a ton of deliberation,” she says.

Sure, it might seem nosy at first—and we’re certainly not encouraging you to be a straight-up looky-loo. But regardless of whether buying or selling is in your near or distant future, there are many benefits to going to an open house.

Like what? We’re glad you asked! Here are six solid reasons to hit up an open house next weekend.

Reason No. 1: Learn more about what you can afford

What you want to buy and what you can afford to buy are often two very different things.

Unfortunately, you don’t always figure that out until you’re deep in the process of house hunting, perhaps with your heart set on a dream home that will drain your finances and make you house-poor.

“Many first-time home buyers ask me to find them something that doesn’t exist,” says Melissa Colabella, licensed real estate salesperson with Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty, in Irvington, NY. “They are often shocked to learn that single-family homes do not even exist in their price range in their preferred neighborhoods.”

Attending open houses lets you get a grip on what you can realistically expect to find in your budget. Sure, you can enter a price range online on realtor.com®—but remember that perusing online listings is only the first step of the process. Often, actual homes look quite different from their online photos, which can be focused on or touched up to show only the best parts of the property.

Reason No. 2: See the agent in action

Even if you don’t find your dream home, you might meet your dream agent. What better way to interview the candidates who could represent you on either side of the transaction than by seeing them in action, points out Realtor® Patrick Madigan, owner of Madigan Realty, in Raleigh, NC.

While most sellers interview multiple agents to find the best fit, he finds buyers rarely do—which can be a mistake.

“Open houses present a great opportunity to get multiple face-to-face appointments with potential agents, without having to set up a formal appointment to interview them,” he says.

Be alert to whether the agent engages you when you first come in or is too busy to acknowledge and help you. And come armed with a few insightful questions about the local market to see if the agent seems knowledgeable about more than just that one open house, Madigan suggests.

Reason No. 3: Check out the competition

Traffic at an open house can be a gauge for whether the sellers have found a sweet spot with their price, since a new listing should be attracting multiple visitors when priced correctly.

If you’re a buyer, the number of visitors can indicate how quickly you might need to pounce when you decide you’re ready. (And it can tell you how to price your own home to move fast if you’re selling.)

“Some markets will allow for you to have a few days to mull over your decision, but an open house with 34 visitors can indicate your offer needs to be submitted right away,” Colabella says.

You’ll also get a face-to-face look at your competition. If you listen carefully, you might pick up some intel about the kind of buyer the seller is looking for. Even if you don’t intend to buy this house, the info might come in handy down the road.

Reason No. 4: Get a feel for the neighborhood

If you’re looking in a new, largely unfamiliar community, browsing for a few months can tell you a lot about your potential neighbors. You’ll get a sense for who primarily lives there (e.g., families, retirees, or singles), whether the neighborhood is abuzz with block parties and other events, or if it’s mostly quiet. Plus, you’ll get the chance to meet other prospective buyers, and learn where they’re relocating from and what they’re looking for in their new community.

“Of course buyers come in every demographic, but sometimes the patterns are surprising,” Colabella says.

Reason No. 5: Learn more about your needs

“As first-time homeowners, we weren’t sure yet what we were looking for exactly beyond the number of bedrooms and bathrooms,” McGrath says. “The open houses helped us learn more about layouts and amenities we liked.”

In fact, you might be surprised by what you gravitate toward when you really look around, Colabella notes.

“Often buyers think they want charming, older homes but then decide newer construction better fits their needs,” she says. “Or they start with houses and then switch to townhomes or condos after losing sleep over the concept of homeownership maintenance.”

Reason No. 6: Do some design recon

Wouldn’t you love to have someone give that designer touch to your house? Many homes for sale have been professionally staged or recently fixed up, so an open house can give you insight into the latest design trends. And since they’re often done on a budget, it can get those creative juices flowing for how you could incorporate wallet-friendly tricks to spruce up your space (like opening up your space with strategically placed mirrors).

And, if you’re preparing to sell your house, you can use open houses to pick up some staging tips of your own. Notice what you pay attention to and how little touches—such as fresh towels and empty closets—can make a big difference.

Posted on July 12, 2017 at 6:15 pm
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Design Spotlight: 720 NW Warrenton Terrace

Take a vacation every day in your own home at 720 NW Warrenton Terrace. My listing features a fabulous private master suite that enjoys a balcony overlooking the city, mountains and sunsets, a spacious master bathroom with two sinks and a walk-in closet with additional storage. For more information on this property, click here.

Posted on July 10, 2017 at 8:45 pm
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Three Things to do in Portland

• Take a salsa-making class at SE Portland restaurant Xico

• Sign up for an art class at Carter and Rose

• Visit Washington Park’s International Rose Garden

Posted on June 26, 2017 at 6:03 pm
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4137 SW Greenleaf Court

Posted on June 9, 2017 at 6:35 pm
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2970 NW Circle A Drive | $2,295,000

Posted on June 7, 2017 at 12:18 am
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720 NW Warrenton Terrace

Posted on June 5, 2017 at 11:58 pm
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How Portland-Born Architect John Yeon Gave the Northwest Its Signature Style

The Portland Art Museum is featuring a major new exhibit on well-known architect John Yeon. For more information on both Yeon’s architectural legacy as well as his roll in conservation click here.

Posted on May 17, 2017 at 9:09 pm
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What You Get for … $700,000 – NY Times

Roxbury, Conn.

WHAT A 1790 house with four bedrooms and four bathrooms

HOW MUCH $715,000

SIZE 2,496 square feet


SETTING This two-story farmhouse is in the lush, rolling landscape of Litchfield County, about a mile from the center of town, where there is a small market. It is about a 10-minute drive from the larger towns of Washington and New Milford, which have more stores and restaurants. New York is about 80 miles away.

INDOORS This charming clapboard house has many early details, including wide-plank chestnut floors, exposed beams, small-pane windows with antique glass and distinctive woodwork. It was featured on the cover of the May 1981 issue of Architectural Digest. The ground floor is organized around a central chimney connected to two large fireplaces — one anchoring the living room, the other in a cozy sitting area at the foot of the stairs — and two smaller fireplaces near the entrance and the dining area. The kitchen was updated a number of years ago with skylights, custom cabinetry, a paneled refrigerator and wood countertops in keeping with the style of the house.

The master suite is on the ground floor. The large bedroom has an open cathedral ceiling and a small Danish wood stove. It connects to two bathrooms, updated with marble tile and vanities, and clerestory windows. Upstairs are three additional bedrooms and two bathrooms.

OUTDOOR SPACE The house is on a 4.28-acre lot defined by old fieldstone walls. A gravel driveway runs from the road to the rear of the house, where a stone walkway leads to manicured gardens with mature plantings surrounding an old well. The remainder of the property is open field and woods. There are two patio areas: one that is partially covered outside the kitchen, and another with a fire pit. There is also an in-ground pool with a free-form naturalistic shape that gives it the appearance of a pond.

TAXES $5,474 a year

CONTACT Austin Farmer, the Matthews Group, 860-248-0160; matthewsgroupre.com

Ada, Mich.

WHAT A 1969 house with five bedrooms and three bathrooms

HOW MUCH $715,000

SIZE 4,260 square feet


SETTING This house is in a secluded part of Ada Township, about four miles east of a village center undergoing an extensive redevelopment project to expand retail, residential and restaurant offerings and to make it more pedestrian friendly. It is about 15 miles from downtown Grand Rapids, which has a wide range of stores, restaurants, craft breweries and entertainment opportunities.

INDOORS This low-slung brick house retains much of its midcentury appeal, including original doors, trim and cabinetry. The roof, windows and electrical system have been updated. A porch leads from the driveway to double front doors that open into a wide tiled foyer. Straight ahead is a large carpeted living room with an integrated mantel-free fireplace and windows extending across two walls to offer views outside. The kitchen has its original cabinets, which still look contemporary, and updated stainless-steel appliances. There is a dining nook open to the kitchen as well as a separate dining room.

The carpeted master bedroom has an en-suite bathroom and a walk-in closet next to a dressing area equipped with a double vanity. It is in the same wing as a second bedroom and a den; three other bedrooms and a family room are in another wing. A large basement serves as a storage space and a utility ro

OUTDOOR SPACE The house sits on a high piece of land, overlooking a wooded valley. The lot is 2.61 acres: About an acre of that is manicured lawn; the rest is woods. An attached two-car garage is equipped with electric car chargers.

TAXES $4,714 a year

CONTACT Katie Karczewski, Keller Williams Realty, 616-575-0119; katie-k.com


San Antonio

WHAT A 1902 house with four bedrooms and four bathrooms

HOW MUCH $695,000

SIZE 3,637 square feet


SETTING This three-story house is in the Monte Vista historic district, a residential area built mostly in the early 20th century with an eclectic collection of architecture, including neo-Classical, Tudor and Queen Anne-style houses. Stores and restaurants are just steps away on North Main Avenue; Brackenridge Park, the San Antonio Zoo and downtown are within about two miles.

INDOORS The clapboard house was extensively renovated by the owner, the interior designer Megan Rice Yager, in 2015. The ground floor has high ceilings, tall windows, tiger oak floors and large openings between the living room, dining room and kitchen. The kitchen has custom cabinetry with panels to conceal the dishwasher and refrigerator, and a La Cornue range. It has a honed marble backsplash and countertops, a large farm-style marble sink, an island with built-in refrigerator drawers, a walk-in pantry and a butler’s pantry with a second dishwasher.

There is one bedroom on the ground level; three additional bedrooms are on the second floor, including a master suite with two closets and a bathroom updated with marble hexagon floor tile, a free-standing soaking tub, a tiled shower, two vanities and a dressing table. French doors provide access from the bathroom to a private deck. The third floor has sloping ceilings and could be used for more bedrooms, an office or a studio.

OUTDOOR SPACE This house makes the most of its 0.16-acre lot with a covered wraparound porch in front, a second porch in back, a patio with a fire pit area, and a small vegetable and herb garden. It also has a driveway leading to a detached garage with space for storage and a workshop.

TAXES $13,208 a year

CONTACT Ann Van Pelt, Phyllis Browning Company, 210-829-2535; phyllisbrowning.com

Posted on May 8, 2017 at 10:55 pm
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NYT’S What You Can Get for $1,225,000 | PDX vs. SF


Built in 1909 / Redone | 4 Bedrooms | 2.1 Bathrooms | 3,148 Sq. Ft. |

This completely remodeled classic Old Portland residence is located in the heart of Portland Heights. Formal areas, marble bathrooms and eat-in kitchen, high-end finishes, period moldings, hardwoods, wainscoting, family room, master suite. Ipe deck and porch, partial views. Minutes to the city, NW 23rd Ave, trails, park. High tech, walk-ability.


Built in 1907 | 3 Bedrooms | 2 Bathrooms 1,535 Sq. Ft.

Step into this quiet Edwardian home & instantly feel at ease. Soaring ceilings, hardwood floors, double pane windows, & open living space set the mood. The nicely sized front bedroom features built-in window seating. Follow the hallway down to the master bedroom w/ updated en-suite bathroom. The third bedroom is ideal for a home office/nursery. In-unit laundry & 2 hallway closets complete the front of the home. The back of the house has been opened into a great room that hosts the living, dining, & kitchen space. The kitchen has granite countertops, SS appliances, a 5-burner range & space for bar seating.

Posted on March 13, 2017 at 7:29 pm
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Where to Celebrate New Year’s 2017 in Portland

Shutterstock 446778811 yrywsw


What: Returning for its 13th year, Acadia’s Creole “réveillon” replicates the 18thcentury late night/early morning feast. Four courses, black roux gumbo to smoked bourbon-braised pork cheeks, will be served until the stroke of midnight.
When: 5 p.m.–midnight Saturday, December 31
How Much: $70, reservations suggested

Ava Gene’s + Tusk

What: Mini restaurant empire-builder Joshua McFadden will serve his regular menu at both restaurants “with a few surprise holiday additions.” Live musicians will shuttle back and forth between the two Southeast spots throughout the night. On New Year’s day, head over to Ava Gene’s for their first-ever brunch, with carbonara, shrimp and grits, and panettone French toast.
When: 5–11 p.m. Saturday, December 31 at both restaurants
How Much: A la carte, reservations suggested


What: You can get a taste of Katy Millard’s classic, seven-course holiday/New Year’s Eve menu (oysters, sparkling cocktails, Bûche de Noël, etc.) for two nights in a row.
When: Friday–Saturday, December 30–31
How Much: $115 (plus $75 for wine pairings from master wine man, Ksandek Podbielski), reservations required


What: New Year’s Eve calls for a “Super Premium Zakuski Experience,” with past favorites like scallop stroganina, Burgundy truffle-shaved dumplings, and caviar. According to folklore, chef-owner Bonnie Morales’s father makes an annual guest appearance dressed as Father Frost and hands out gifts to diners. Vodka. Champagne. Repeat.
When: 4–11 p.m. Saturday, December 31
How Much: A la carte. Reservations suggested, but bar and lounge open for walk-ins.

La Moule

What: This is a seriously late night NYE bash (for Portland, at least). There will be a three-course Franco-Belgian feast, a vintage movie screening, and an after party with Möet Hennessy—until 2 a.m.!
When: 5 p.m.–2 a.m. Saturday, December 31
How Much: $50

Olympia Provisions Southeast and Northwest

What: Both salami-centric spots tackle seven courses of New Year’s wonder. Steelhead belly crudo with smoked roe and preserved lime cream? Venison leg with pumpkin mash and sour cherry jus? We’re in.
When: 5–10 p.m. Saturday, December 31
How Much: $75, $110 with wine pairing

Ox Restaurant

What: The Argentine grill goes full-bore steakhouse for the holiday, with oysters, steak tartare, Dungeness crab louie, ribeye, spinach salad, and bittersweet chocolate cake. Should you still be working your way through that chocolate cake at midnight, expect free champagne.
When: 5 p.m.–midnight Saturday, December 31
How Much: $90, $130 with wine pairings. Reservations for parties of all sizes.

Pix Patisserie

What: Four words: Free. Midnight. Chocolate. Buffet. Yes, there are 400+ sparkling wines on Pix’s champagne and wine list. But when the ball drops, it’s all the chocolate mousse, cake, meringue, ice cream, truffles, and beer (also chocolate!) you can eat.
When: 2 p.m.–midnight Saturday, December 31

Der Rheinlander

What: The hallowed German foodie fun-park throws a farewell New Year’s celebration (it’s closing for good after 50 years). Help the Rheinlander crew go out in style (wearing lederhosen), watch live music, and take in as much fondue as is humanly possible.
When: 4 p.m.–closing Saturday, December 31
How Much: $49 per person, reservations suggested

Posted on December 30, 2016 at 6:29 am
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