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Open House vs. Private Tour: Which Is Better For Your Home Search?

Finding just the right home is a time-consuming and sometimes frustrating process. Some properties may look great in their online Willamette Valley listings but not so much in person. Touring a home is an important step in the home search because it gives you a real-time, close-up look at its features. To do this, you have two choices: the private tour and the open house.
Most sellers will host a series of open houses, where you can tour the house along with other potential buyers. Alternatively, your Salem real estate agent may arrange a private tour for you. So, which option is better?

Six reasons to schedule a private tour

Private tours can be more convenient

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Unlike an open house, which is typically scheduled for weekends, private home tours can be scheduled for nearly any time that is right for you and the seller, such as a weekday evening or even during the week if your routine days off are not on the weekend.

Private tours give you more space

Open houses can get crowded, with groups of people and a certain pressure to move on quickly. On a private tour, however, you can take your time, ask all the questions you want, and see everything you need to get a real feel for the home.

You can communicate candidly with the seller

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Having other potential buyers around during an open house can make you less inclined to notice and talk about issues with the seller’s agent. You might not want to embarrass the seller, or yourself, by bringing up the ugly wallpaper in the third bedroom or asking questions about the age of the roof.
On a private tour, you can ask all the questions you want, but you can also be more open in your lines of communication.

The seller will be more focused at a private showing

Sellers know that people coming for private tours are more serious about buying and are more likely to actually be pre-qualified for the home. Open houses, on the other hand, often attract people who have no intention of buying, such as curious neighbors who have always wondered how you decorated, people who are bored, people who saw the sign but know nothing about the property, and even people who used to live in the house and want to know what you did with it!

This means that sellers will often pay only cursory attention to people attending open houses. On a private tour, though, they know you are serious and are more likely to address you seriously.

Private showings let you get in with a pre-emptive offer

If you are really excited about a home, try to schedule a private showing before any open houses are run. This might allow you to get in early with an offer and secure the home before anyone else can see it.
This doesn't always work, of course, but if you know you're a well-qualified buyer and can make a good offer, it's worth a try. Be aware that some listing agents will not take pre-emptive offers.

Some gated communities don't allow open houses

If you are looking at a home in a gated community, be aware that they may not allow open houses, or they may require you to be escorted by a Salem real estate agent the community association approves of. Other times, they may allow open houses only on certain days.
In this case, it can be much more logistically feasible to schedule a private tour. It's also a good idea to pay attention to these rules, as they may tell you something about whether the gated community has the right balance of access and privacy for you.

Sellers may not hold open houses in low-traffic areas

Another reason you might have to go for a private showing is if the home you are looking for is in a rural area, a hard-to-find location, or somewhere which gets very little traffic.
In this case, the seller might have been advised not to hold an open house because it's likely to be a waste of time. If you are looking for a super quiet home, then the lack of an open house may even be a selling point!

Whether you want to go to an open house or get a private showing depends a lot on where you are in your home search. Open houses are useful when you are still figuring out what you want, while private tours are typically for people who are closer to being ready to buy.
In some specific cases, sellers may not hold an open house at all. Other sellers might not be available to do private showings; this can be an issue with “for sale by owner” properties. (When the seller is working with an agent, the agent will typically do the showings for them).
You should talk to your Salem realtor about the right option for you. You might find that it’s a good idea to use both methods at different times in your quest for the perfect home!

Five reasons to hit an open house

Open houses have less pressure

Asking for a private tour shows that you have a strong interest in the property. Sellers and their real estate agents are going to make note of this, and you may face a harder sell than at an open house. People come to open houses with much more casual interest, and you are less likely to be pounced and "sold to." Also, you may be able to poke around more on your own while nobody is looking.

Open houses can have advantages for first-time buyers

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If you are a first-time buyer, there is a very good reason to go to an open house: other potential buyers. You can learn a lot by listening to what other people have to say about the property.
With a private tour, you may not know enough to know what they are not showing you and what questions to ask. When there are other buyers there, they may ask the questions you didn't think of.

Open houses are great for seeing several homes quickly

If you aren't quite sure what you want, then open houses are the solution. Your Willamette Valley realtor will schedule several for you, and you can spend a day looking at houses. While you won't get a detailed look at each property, you will get a better idea of what you want, and you might even see the perfect house along the way.
It’s a worthwhile tactic to first visit an open house and then, if the property catches your eye, schedule a more detailed tour.

You can meet potential future neighbors at an open house

Remember those nosy neighbors who show up to open houses? You might have an opportunity to chat with them and get details about what it's really like to live in the neighborhood. People who live there may know stuff even the best buyers' agent doesn't. They are a great source of informal information, whether it's the really good taco place you might want to know about if you move in, where the dog park is, or routes not to take to downtown at any kind of busy time. They can help you determine whether the neighborhood fits your needs in terms of school quality and commute length.

Open houses can teach you to recognize a good home

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Touring a number of properties through open houses will teach you more about what you want. It will also teach you how to better see what is good (and not so good). Touring with your buyers' agent is even better, as they can educate you.
You can learn to look past good or bad staging, how to ignore tricks such as cookies baking in the kitchen, and also how to see a room without that awful wallpaper. Oh, and you can also improve your understanding of a fair asking price. Yes, this is your realtor's job, but advocating for yourself is a good thing in all circumstances.

Ready to tour some homes?

Rebecca Donaldson
is an award-winning Salem real estate agent with a leading sales record and a passion for matching people with their perfect homes in Willamette Valley, Oregon. Contact her to schedule your tour of West Linn homes for sale, Lake Oswego real estate, or houses for sale in Salem. Get started on your real estate journey.

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With a focus on client service, Rebecca has prioritized the expansion of her network and resources throughout her career. You can have absolute confidence that all your real estate solutions are within reach when working with Rebecca Donaldson.

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