First-time homebuyer's guide to open houses

There's more that goes into buying a home for the first time besides shopping online for mortgage rates. To find the perfect home, you have to log off of the computer, get in your car and see homes for yourself. One way to do that is visiting open houses.

First-time homebuyers might naturally be reluctant to attend an open house held by a Realtor. After all, no one likes to be hassled by a pushy salesperson. But in fact, open houses can be a good opportunity.

As Ken Pozek, a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty in Northville, Mich., explains, "It's a cool idea."

Instead of calling around to find a real estate agent you like, you can go out on your own, see some of the homes that are for sale and meet the agents in person.

"You don't have to be nervous," Pozek says. "It can be fun. If there is a sign there, they want you to go in and they expect you to look around."

The best way to find out about open houses is to search real estate listing websites. You can also get this information from real estate websites, newspaper ads or by driving around your target neighborhood any weekend.

Sign in

Even though the house is open to the public, you'll still probably have to give the agent your name and contact information to be allowed inside, says Wendy English, sales manager at Century 21 Commonwealth in Medfield, Mass.

"We have a responsibility to know who was in the house for the security of the seller's property," she explains.

A tip for homeowners

With prescription drug abuse on the rise, Realtors have reported that drug abusers are unfortunately posing as potential homebuyers and targeting open houses as sources of prescription medication. Homeowners are advised to collect their prescription medications in plastic bags and take it with them before their open house begins.

Some agents use a guest book or sheet of paper as a sign-in system. Others, such as Ed Finlan, managing broker at Keller Williams Western Realty in Burlington, Wash., use an electronic device.