Confessions of an open-house lookie-loo

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Q: I am considering selling my home but would love to see how it compares with others in my neighborhood as far as condition vs. asking price. I have not gone as far a seeking a listing agent yet, but I often see open houses in my neighborhood and wonder what the "rules" are about stopping in.

Is it acceptable to go to open houses without pretending you are a potential buyer? Pictures don’t do it for me in getting a feel for what a house is worth, and I’m afraid to "get married to" a selling agent until I do some research first. –Michelle

A: Rarely do people exhibit your level of etiquette these days. It says something nice about you as an individual that you asked, but yes, it’s totally and completely acceptable, even welcome, for you to attend the open house. It’s also smart thinking for you to want to attend in order to get a much deeper sense than you could from pictures online about where your home falls in the condition and aesthetics continuum against the competition.

There’s an old adage in real estate that says open houses don’t sell houses. That just means that on today’s market, where the vast majority of qualified, ready buyers have their own agents and arrange to see listings in which they are interested privately, by appointment, it is exceedingly rare for a listing agent to hold an open house and have someone wander in who ends up buying the house.