About Open Houses

Holding an "Open House" is a time-honored tradition in the real-estate business. While it is only one of several marketing methods REALTORS® use to sell a home, it is the only one which allows anyone to view a home for sale without an appointment from prospective buyers to curious neighbors to other REALTORS®.

But open houses can become a source of confusion among the REALTORS® who hold the homes open and those who represent the buyers. Since REALTORS® typically only get paid when they sell a home, it is important to them who sells it. If the listing broker finds the buyer, he or she will not have to split the commission with a cooperating broker. If, on the other hand, another agent brings the buyer to the home, the listing broker will split the commission and the cooperating broker will also get paid.

Knowing who is entitled to the commission is usually pretty straightforward. But an "Open House" is a classic case where it can be confusing.

For example, suppose you have a REALTOR® helping you find a home, and you've looked at a few houses with them so far. Then the weekend comes, and you happen to drive by an Open House. You go in, tour the house, talk to the agent there, then go home. You decide you like the house, and decide to write an offer. So you call your REALTOR® to help you write up the offer.

Unless you told the agent at the open house you were already working with another REALTOR®, your REALTOR® may have a hard time getting paid for helping you buy the house. In some cases, the REALTOR® ends up working for free.

How can you avoid this type of situation? First, your REALTOR® can accompany you to the Open House, or he or she can make arrangements in advance for you to see the house with the agent holding it open.

Second, if you want to attend open houses unaccompanied by your REALTOR® and he or she is unable to call ahead, you should ask the agent when you get to the house if the agent will agree to let you see the house without your REALTOR®. If you forget to ask, you should sign your REALTOR®'S name on the guest register.

And third, you should discuss with your REALTOR® the possibility of you going to open houses without him or her as soon as you begin to look at homes.

By following these simple steps, you will help avoid any confusion, and help make the process of finding and buying a home a smooth one.