In a multiple offer market, many buyers will hit a number of open homes or broker's tours, hoping to get an immediate jump on the market. And it's understandable. You must be prepared to take action quickly when inventory is limited. Agents are frequently working with multiple clients and schedules don't always coincide. I've had a number of buyers who were just casually looking, and not yet ready to buy. But then a chance visit to an open house inspires them to take action.
But if you are touring homes without your agent, keep these tips in mind:
In many cases, the agent holding the open house is the listing agent, and is contractually bound to the seller. Anything you convey may influence the agent in your offer presentation or negotiations. I had one agent tell me that my client's offer wasn't chosen, as at the open house they mentioned that they had not talked to a lender yet. Although they'd done a full loan application with pre-approval the very next day, she didn't trust it. It was real all right. He worked for a major bank and had full access to underwriters and a quick turn around.
Don't open a dialogue about what price you may be willing to pay. If you've not yet seen comps, you may have let the cat out of the bag about a purchase price much higher than warranted. A past client asked the listing agent if the seller would accept the price of $XYZ for the home. Unfortunately, when we ran comps, the price mentioned was much too high. But that left an open invitation for a high counter offer.
Let the open house host know you are working with an agent. Agents hold open houses in part to market the house, but also to meet new clients. If you've given them the idea that you might be a potential client for them, and they find out later you are represented, they may feel duped and could be reluctant to trust what's written in your subsequent offer.
Notice the activity or conversatations of other visitors and share them with your agent. These can be helpful in strategically positioning you and your offer. Maintain a position of Ask, Don't Tell. Learn what you can, but share as little as possible without advice from your agent.