house hunting

Do Open Houses Work?

Take a quick drive around any residential neighborhood on the weekend and you’ll spot at least one “Open House” sign. Even as the real estate industry has changed over the past few decades, open houses have remained common practice. So, question open houses work?

Data from the National Association of Realtors says that 7% people found the house they bought from a yard sign or open house. 

Most buyers who attend open houses are not ready, not qualified to buy or simply have no intention of buying...if anyone even shows up at all. Every agent I know has had at least one open house where they’ve sat for 3 hours just to have one curious neighbor who has considered selling their home come through. Once, I even had a neighbor come in, he sat on the couch and FELL ASLEEP! Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. 

If a buyer is ready and serious, they will make an appointment for a private showing and be prequalified.

In todays digital age 95% of buyers are looking for homes online. That’s why photos, video, and property preparation are essential to making a great first impression online. If a buyer sees a house they’re interested in on Tuesday and they see that there is an open house on Sunday, do you think they will wait until the open house to see it? No way! If they’re serious about buying, they’ll call their agent and set up a showing immediately. 

Safety is also an issue because you’re allowing ANYONE to enter your home. This leaves your home vulnerable to theft and gives burglars an opportunity to scope out your belongings. So, is the risk worth the low probability of capturing a sale? 

In my experience, open houses are ineffective and a waste of a seller’s time. You may be wondering, why then do agents continue this archaic sales strategy? Open houses can actually provide leads for the agent...but that doesn’t help you sell your home. The short answer is we work for the seller and if the seller wants to hold an open house, that’s what we do. 

What’s your experience with open houses? Do you think they can be effective?

I’d be happy to discuss with you my marketing plan and strategies that are tailored to your home and needs! 

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How We Found Our Fixer-Upper

When my husband and I first began looking for a house in Manatee county, we weren't sure exactly where we wanted to be. We searched all over and looked at all types of houses: new tract homes, remodeled homes, old homes and fixer-uppers. Like any good HGTV House Hunters episode, we were divided. 

My husband spent his middle and high school years living Philadelphia where all the houses are old. So, the thought of buying an old home didn't seem as charming to him as it did to me. I've always appreciated the details and grandeur of turn of the century homes and dreamed of someday living in one.  

After exhausting all of our options of homes on the market, I decided to try something different. I began cruising neighborhoods we liked looking for houses that looked empty. I'd write down the address and use the county tax records to do research on who owned the property. You can also get great information from neighbors that are out and about...usually way more than you can find out on the internet!

Side note...I've been known to make my husband stop the car so I can pick up a piece of project furniture that I found on the side of the road. Things like this and the fact that I talk to random neighbors at times horrifies him, but he was such a great support through this fixer-upper journey! I only wish I still had the picture of him holding me on his shoulders so I could peek into the window of a bank owned property. Needless to say, he has gotten accustomed to my unconventional ways!

I had found a couple properties that I was interested in and located the owners addresses on the tax records (scary I know but it's all public record). I wrote a handwritten letter expressing my interest in the houses and mailed them off.

A couple months had gone by so I didn't expect to hear anything. Meanwhile we continued our home search. We looked at so many house that we had to give them nicknames so we could remember which ones they were when weighing the pros & cons. Then one day I got a phone call from one of the owners; her name was Martha. She had owned the house we purchased for nearly 20 years but never lived there. It just sat empty and Martha admitted she was just beginning to consider selling. 

Martha got an appraisal, we negotiated and the sale was made without there ever even being a "for sale" sign in the yard. Lesson learned, given the right circumstances you can buy even when a property isn't for sale. Sometimes, all it takes is a little courage to ask. 

We decided to go with a fixer-upper because it was the only way to get what we wanted in the price range we were looking for. We found some nice turn key properties but ultimately didn't want to pay for someone else's design choices. In the end, we both got what we wanted an old home that was like new. 

Although most of the original details had been stripped from the home, we did our best to recreate details what you would have seen in an older home. 

Here is sneak peek semi-before (I lost the picture before insulation) and after shot. 


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Mortgage Basics: How to Qualify.

If you’re thinking about homeownership you probably have some questions. Can I afford a home? Do I qualify for a mortgage? How much home can I afford? You can google to find a myriad of mortgage calculators. If you’re serious about buying a home, I highly recommend finding a lender or mortgage broker you’re comfortable with and get pre-qualified. The lender will take some basic information and tell you what you can afford, then you have about 120 days to shop as a pre-qualified buyer. This is different than being pre-approved...that’s when you actually fill out the mortgage application and your credit is checked. Getting pre-qualified will also let realtors know that you are serious about buying and not just window shopping. 


Before starting the home buying process, consider these mortgage basics: 

Mortgage Basics-How to Qualify - Table.jpg

Total Obligations Ratio (TOR): Basically, this is your percentage of debt to income. Add all your monthly debts together (Car, credit cards, student loans, etc.) then add your new mortgage payment. DON’T forget about property taxes, insurance, homeowners association and any other fees associated with your home. This is extremely important because this can add HUNDREDS to your monthly expenses. You will be disappointed if you think you can afford an $1,800 mortgage just to find that your taxes and insurance tack on another $600 a you can’t afford that $1,800 payment because it’s $2,400 total! 


Another monthly fee you may not consider (generally if you put less than 20% down) is private mortgage insurance. You can thank the housing bust for that. More info on Understanding PMI to come! 


Back to Total Obligations Ratio (TOR) ...take all your expenses ÷ total gross income (before taxes)= TOR. If your debt exceeds 36% of your income you probably won’t qualify for a conventional loan (unless you lower the loan amount). However, FHA could still be an option. 


Example: Car Payment $360, Student Loan Payment $325, expected house payment  $1,680 (principal/interest, taxes, insurance) Monthly Debt $2,365 ÷ $6,700 (gross income) = .3529 (35.3%) TOR


Here is a matrix provided by FannieMae (Non-conventional government loans) if you’re on the bubble of qualification and would like more information.


These numbers are just guidelines to get you started. There are usually exceptions. A good mortgage broker can shop around and find different options that will fit your needs. Contact me and I will help connect you to a mortgage broker in your area.