How to save money by keeping your mouth shut

Open House sign - tread carefully

In Canada one of the main ways of marketing homes is by holding open houses. These are pretty much what it says on the tin … a house which is open for you to come in and look around.

But did you think what you say at that open house could cost you a lot of money? Here’s how…

When you go into the open house, and have taken off your shoes, you will likely be greeted by your genial host. This is the realtor who is marketing the home. What you need to know is that they are there to market the home for the sellers. You are their target.

Of course realtors vary a lot and what happens in the open house varies according to the kind of realtor you meet.

At one extreme there’s the hermit like techno-grouch who will ignore you in favour of talking or texting on his cellphone. You can tiptoe past them or even unleash the children to explore the house as noisily as they want. He will be too deep in in cyberspace to notice. You can enjoy exploring without fear of revealing anything. You might find it difficult on the other hand to get an answer if you need one. (I wonder when I see realtors like this whether the sellers realize how little the realtor is doing for them).

The other extreme is the pesky variety who reeks of used car salesman and follows you around pointing out the obvious features to you as if you were unable to see for yourself. They latch onto you with the desperation of a drowning man. And like the drowning man, they tend to take you down with them. The good thing about these guys is that they talk so much that you hardly have to do anything but grunt and try and skip out of the home as quick as possible. No danger there – not to your wallet at least.

The middle ground is the most dangerous. These are the true genial hosts. As a feature sheet is thrust into your hand with a cheery “hi, how are you doing?”, you are being sized up. The chat soon gets personal.

Now this is the buyer beware scenario : watch what you say. Remember this friendly face is acting on behalf of the seller. So what do you think she’ll do with anything you blab to her? Right, she will use it to the seller’s advantage. Your negotiating position just got about as weak as my jokes.

A real life example comes to mind. A year or so ago, Toni went to an open house and told the realtor how much she loved the place. Not too bad a thing to say unless you also add that there is nothing else out there that you like. And that you are getting desperate to move.

How much off the asking price do you think Toni could get? Nothing! Toni’s big mouth just cost her several thousand dollars.

Toni’s case was an extreme one. It was like play poker with all your cards on show. But even letting slip something about your situation – like I just moved to Canada – can give away something. Sadly I do know cases where the inexperience of newcomers has been exploited.

So if you think before you speak then you can avoid giving away too much. And then if you do want to make an offer you can negotiate with all your cards hidden. That could save you a lot.

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