Although open houses are typically thought of as a way to find a new home, it can also be a way to find a good agent. If you have some time on a Saturday or Sunday, visit a few open houses and take some time to "interview" a few agents. In such a relaxed atmosphere, it is a great opportunity to find an agent that you can connect with. You can also determine if the agent listens to your needs/desires or is just there to encourage you to buy that particular house that he/she is holding open.
Here are a few tips to help you make your decision:
Talk to the Agent about the Market in the Area of the Open House
This will help you determine whether the agent is familiar with the area or not. Typically, agents hold open houses in the areas that they work the most. However, there are occasions when agents venture into other areas of town. After all, we have to service all of our listings, not just the ones in our regular "beat". Even if the agent is holding an open house in an area he or she does not usually work, a good agent will have taken the time to do a little market research and know what things are selling for and what other homes are listed for currently. This is a great opportunity to see if you are speaking with an agent who is thorough and doesn't just get by with the bare minimum.
Engage the Agent in Conversation about His or Her Job
If you listen carefully to what the agent says about different recent transactions, you can find out a great deal about how he or she perceives a client and what kind of treatment you might expect. For example, if the agent talks about finding solutions to his clients' problems, you may be talking to someone who cares about serving the client and working in their best interest. However, if he cuts down past clients or gives the idea that they were a real hassle, you may be talking to someone who sees clients more as a means to an end ($$). How much enthusiasm does the agent show about his job? Is he in real estate to make money or does he end up making money because he enjoys real estate?
Talk to the Agent About your Needs and Desires
When you mention what you are looking for, does he or she listen attentively? Does the agent ask questions to determine more of your wants and needs or does she jump to trying to sell you something she already has listed. There's nothing wrong with hooking up a potential buyer with a current listing, but it should fit the criteria of what the buyer is wanting. A great test here is to tell the agent some parameters you are searching for and see where she takes it. Does she offer to get back to you with listings (or provide them immediately if she has her laptop with her)? If the agent makes a promise to contact you in the near future and then does not, you should think twice about working with that individual. However, if she is prompt and keeps her word, then she may be the kind of reliable agent you need on your side. Also, when the agent gives you listings, do they match your criteria? If not, then there may be a communication gap between you. You will need to ascertain whether your needs were not communicated effectively or whether the agent is "pushing" you into something you do not want.
One of the main benefits of meeting agents through an open house is that you get to interact with the agent for a little bit prior to working with him or her (or interviewing the agent to sell your home). It is important to have good repoire with your agent because the two of you will be a team whether you are buying or selling. Here in Tucson, AZ, we put a lot of our open houses on www.OpenHouse.com. You can also go to www.Realtor.com for open house listings. Happy Hunting!