Open houses have their own written and unwritten rules of etiquette that buyers need to follow. It is easy to make mistakes when buying a home if you don’t know the ins and outs of looking and purchasing. Open houses are a great way for buyers to get a no investment look at a home, ask questions, and look for potential red flags to buying the house. They are a great way to make an impression on the listing agent or homeowners, which can make all the difference in buying a home in a competitive market. Here are 12 rules of open house etiquette every buyer should know.
1. Be Timely
Vince Lombardi’s Time Rule of “15 minutes early is on-time” may be a great way to create a reputation for punctuality, but it doesn’t really apply to an open house. The listing agent is often checking and re-checking, putting the finishing touches on the house. Showing up late is also an incredibly bad impression. Even if you get to see the house, if you decide to put in an offer, if it comes down to a choice, they may not trust you to be serious buyers. Arrive during the timeframe advertised to tour the open house.
2. Dress Properly
The way you dress makes an impression, even if you do not intend it to. The dress code for an open house is not overly formal or strict. Leave the suit at home, but don’t wear sweats either. Aim for a casual to business casual dress code. Basically, something you would wear to a Sunday brunch. Essentially, whatever you would like to wear you can, just make sure it is neat without stains or holes.
3. Sign In
Listing agents will often have a place for you to sign in when you enter the home. It will ask general info like your name, phone number, and email. It also might ask how you learned about the open house. As the buyer, you don’t have to give all that information, but it is something you should do, especially if you should decide you are interested or want to learn more after the open house. As a seller it is a good idea to have a sign in because it also helps you contact anyone about damages or theft.
4. Don’t Make A Mess
One of the most important rules of etiquette to follow at an open house is to not make a mess. The sellers have worked hard to present the place in a clean and appealing manner. While it may feel cozy, it is best not to get too comfy. Wipe your feet, don’t leave crumbs, and generally be respectful and considerate.
5. Leave Kids At Home
An open house is an adult affair. Obviously, most sellers understand that leaving your children at home is not always an option, but it is a bit like walking kids through a jewelry store. Don’t let them leave fingerprints on the windows and you are responsible for anything they break. It makes it very hard to get a good look at the home’s features. Another reason is that if the child is older, they may become invested in a home that you cannot afford or has drawbacks they would not understand.
6. Have A Realtor
The listing agent hosting the open house is not only advertising the home but their services as well. It is a great way to look for leads because home buyers will most likely be home sellers as well. So they may try to sell you not only on the space but themselves as well. A professional realtor knows how to sell without feeling pushy, learning about how much of a prospect you really are for the home, all the while giving you enough space. A good way to avoid this is to have a realtor beforehand. When the host listing agent presses you, give them your realtors card and they should back off. If you have done your research beforehand and feel you could be seriously interested in the home, it doesn’t hurt to bring your realtor with you and can put you a step ahead of other potential buyers.
7. Respect Seller Privacy
While you are touring a house on the market, it is likely the homeowners still live in the house straddling the line between design appeal and function for their daily lives. They and, or their listing agent have opened the home to you, but there may be some areas that are no-fly zones for buyers that contain private pictures, information, or other property. Ask before you open any closed doors or take pictures of the house. They may have private objects they wish to keep to themselves. Most of the time they will open an area upon request but if they do not, they will offer to show it during a private tour on a separate day.
8. Keep Your Distance
An important rule of etiquette for an open house is to keep your distance from other buyers. You are there to consider the home for you or your family. So respect personal space. If someone is in a bedroom, bathroom, or office, wait until they have exited the room before you come in to take a look. Take turns and keep your voice at a low level while you are considering the options with your partner.
9. Keep Negative Comments To Yourself
Take the time to form an opinion of the home, but don’t point out all the negatives to the sellers or the listing agent. If you decide you don’t like the space, broadcasting it to other buyers does the seller a disservice and is simply rude. On the other hand, you may have great ideas to improve the space, but it is best to keep them to yourself. A person’s home is an incredibly personal space that can represent who they are. That wall you want to knock down may have marks they measured their kid’s heights against, and the fireplace you hate may have been where they hung stockings every Christmas. That is why it’s best to point out the qualities you like in the home, ask questions, and thank them for opening their home to you.
10. Look But Don’t Touch
The rules of an open house are generally the same as they are for an art studio, look but don’t touch. This will keep you from offending the seller, causing a mess, or worst of all breaking something. Also, unless the home comes pre-furnished, don’t just sit anywhere. If the home is professionally staged, some of the furniture might not even be real but made of cardboard or styrofoam.
11. Don’t Linger
An open house is a great way to quickly tour a home, and decide if the home is for you. You’re really looking for major red flags and assessing if the home is even an option you want to consider. You want to get in and out quickly and efficiently. You aren’t there to chat with other buyers or eat and drink all the snacks. It isn’t a party. You also aren’t there to do a thorough inspection. There is no need to walk around turning on and off light switches and faucets. If you like the home, you can schedule a private tour and have a deeper look, and a professional inspection further in the process.
12. Say Goodbye
Whether you liked the home or not, it is still the polite thing to do to stop by and thank the seller or listing agent for opening the home to you. If you do like the house, it leaves a good impression and gives you a chance to learn more about the home and schedule an opportunity for a private tour. If you do not like the home, you have left a good impression with that realtor who you could see down the road, and have shown kindness to the sellers.
Open House Frequently Asked Questions
How do I find an open house?
Online real estate sites are a great way to find and filter through open houses with your desired location, price range, and features. Your realtor will also be able to point you to open houses that fit your needs, answer any questions you have, and contact the realtor should you decide to place an offer or request a private tour.
Can I just show up at an open house?
Yes, you can! There is no need to reserve a spot, just show up and tour the home.
Do I ring the doorbell?
There is no need to ring the doorbell at an open house. Often the host will not be the one to answer the door and other buyers may not feel comfortable answering leaving you to wait. Double-check the address and follow posted signage to the entry.
Is it ok to use the bathroom?
No. Unless they specify a bathroom to use, using the bathroom is generally not allowed. People are touring the house, including the restroom, which makes handling your business problematic. Try to use the restroom before you attend the open house.
Should I eat at the open house?
Yes, that is what it is there for! Not all open houses offer refreshments but keep in mind they are light refreshments. They are not intended to be a meal, and seconds are in bad taste.
Can I bring my dog to an open house?
Unless your pet is a service animal, they are generally not allowed at open houses. There are people coming in and out, and it is just not a good space to bring your furry friend. However, some sellers may recognize the importance a pet may play in your consideration of the home and allow them.
What information should I give the listing agent?
It is a good idea to play your cards close to your chest. In any negotiation scenario, you don’t want the seller to know how much you like the house. You also don’t want to give them too much information that could help them eliminate you as a serious lead. They may ask how long you have been looking, are you working with an agent, are you looking in the area, etc. They are trying to weed out those seriously looking from those that are just browsing.
What questions should I ask the listing agent?
Ask the questions you want answers to, but also try to find out negotiating points or potential red flags in the home. For example, why are the homeowners selling? How long has it been on the market? Are there any issues with the house? The answers will help you see if they are set on the price and potential issues that may be a dealbreaker for you.
At the end of the day, an open house is a chance for you to tour a home in a less formal environment. There are so many things a first time home buyer needs to know, but if you follow these 12 open house etiquette rules, you are sure to make a good impression and go a long way to convey your position as a serious buyer.
Looking for a home in Western North Carolina? Let Blue Realty help you find the right home, and guide you through the home buying process.