Attending an open house is a great way to learn a great deal about a home in a relatively short amount of time. It allows you to see inside the home with your own eyes, enabling you to notice details that are omitted in photos, whether it’s a noisy neighborhood or a smelly basement.

Aside from learning about the home, an open house is also an opportunity to help real estate agents learn about you. Being prepared and professional at an open house could set you apart from other, more casual, attendees helping you make a good impression.

Since most of us don’t attend open houses on the regular, and since there probably isn’t an Open House Etiquette 101 course you can take at your local college, it can be difficult to know exactly how to prepare for an open house. How should you dress? Should you take notes? Is it rude to take photos? Which questions are welcome and which should be avoided?

In this article, we’ll help demystify the open house, leaving you more prepared to leave a positive impression when you go to see what could potentially be your future home.

Appearance

How should you dress when attending an open house? An open house is neither a funeral nor a trip to the beach. The realtor showing the house likely isn’t a fashion critic-they’re there to answer your questions.

In most cases, casual clothing is appropriate. Since you’ll be touring the house and yard, however, you might want to avoid heels.

Questions and conversation

An open house is your time to learn all of the relevant facts about a house. Good questions to ask include upgrades to the house, how many offers it has received, and the current owner’s timeline (when they want or need to close by).

There are other topics you’ll want to avoid. Don’t ask too many personal questions about the sellers. It will make the real estate agent, understandably, uncomfortable. Also be sure not to reveal too many details about yourself. You don’t want to mention things like your spending limit as this will remove some of your powers of negotiation.

It’s okay if the furniture and decorations in the home aren’t your taste, but it’s a bad idea to criticize these items as you tour the house, as you may offend the agent or owners who have decorated.

Being respectful of the owner’s’ space

Even though the house is for sale, it’s still someone’s home. It’s inadvisable to bring food or drinks without a secure cap into an open house.

We live in a time when everyone photographs and shares everything. But avoid the temptation to take photos when you’re at an open house. Would you want someone going through your home, taking pictures of your valuables, and then sharing them online? Instead, refer back to photos that are available online or from the agent.

When it comes to touring the house, all of the rooms should be viewable. In fact, if there’s a room you can’t enter for any reason this should raise a red flag that something is wrong with the home. However, just because you should look in the closets to get an idea of space doesn’t mean you should touch or go through the personal belongings of the homeowner.


Follow all of the above open house tips and you’ll be sure to leave a good impression.

Buying a home is one of the biggest financial milestones you’ll reach in your life. If you’re a first-time homebuyer, it can be scary to take the plunge and make a down payment on your first home.

Down payments are one element that makes up the factors which determine your monthly mortgage payments, and in turn, how much you’ll be paying toward your home in total. So, it’s important to understand just how much to save for a down payment.

In this article, we’ll talk about down payments, why they matter, and your options for saving up for a down payment.

Why down payments matter

A down payment is simply the amount of money a buyer pays at the time of closing on the house. Down payments help assure lenders that you will make your monthly mortgage payments because you have invested a substantial amount of money into the house and therefore risk losing your down payment if you fail to pay the mortgage and your house is foreclosed on.

If you’re eager to buy your first home, you may want to make the smallest down payment possible so you can move in sooner. However, a smaller down payment typically means a larger monthly mortgage payment. That’s because your mortgage payment depends on several factors.

When a lender determines how much they will lend you towards your home and how much your monthly mortgage payments will be, their formula takes into account your down payment, your credit score, and the value of the property. The higher your credit score and the higher your down payment is, the less your monthly payments will be.

Mortgage types and down payments

Many first time home buyers cannot afford large down payments on their first home (20% or more). As a result, there are loan types insured by the Federal Housing Administration that are offered for as low as 3.5% of the mortgage amount.

If you aren’t approved for an FHA loan but plan on making a down payment of less than 20%, you can still buy a home with private mortgage insurance (PMI). With PMI you pay a monthly premium for your insurance in addition to your monthly mortgage payments.

How long and how much to save

So, how much should you save? The short answer is as much as possible. However, if you need to move soon because of life circumstances, it isn’t always an option to hold off on moving for long periods of time.

If you’re currently renting each month at high prices, it might make more sense to put that money towards your first home, an asset which will likely increase in value, rather than spend it on rent which you get no return on.  

One of the best ways to save for a down payment is to set up a new cash savings account that will automatically deposit a portion of your paycheck each week. Having an off-limits account is a great way to save without the temptation of spending it on luxuries if the money would normally be sitting in your checking account.

Another option is to start investing. If you’re in no rush to buy a home and have the financial resources, investing pays off much more than a savings account does when it comes to increasing assets.

Regardless of how you choose to save, the most important takeaway is that you take action now to start saving and you don’t deviate from your savings plan for any reason.

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