Real Estate Q+A: 8 Simple Open House Etiquette Rules for Buyers

helloIf you recently decided to take the leap into home ownership open houses will become your new weekend activity. If you’re just starting out your search and casually browsing maybe it’s time to get out there and tour some properties. Typically open houses are hosted on weekends from 2:00pm to 4:00pm, but it’s not uncommon to see a 1:00pm start or a 5:00pm end time. It varies depending on the neighbourhood and the foot traffic.

So how do you find these open houses? There are a few ways. If you’re searching in, it’s as simple as checking off the Open Houses Only box on the welcome page. From there you will be able to navigate the map and narrow down properties based on your criteria. If you’re working with an agent, you are probably set up on a Prospect Match and receive emails with new listings. Each listing will indicate if an open house is taking place, but if you’re not sure, just ask your agent. You may have also noticed signs on sidewalks and street corners advertising open houses. If you’re already out and about, running errands or returning from brunch, just follow the signs and they’ll lead you to one of the many open houses in the neighbourhood.

But if you’re a first-time buyer, chances are you’ve never been to an open house and not quite sure what to do or what to say. Don’t worry! I’ve got all the tips to make you feel less awkward and more like a pro!

Hello There

No need to knock – You don’t have to ring the door bell or wait for someone to open the door. You are welcome to just walk-in.

Remove your shoes – Remember that you’re walking into someone’s home so be courteous, especially during the cooler month with rain and snow. If you’re planning to visit a few open houses in a day, wear shoes that easily slip off and on, otherwise you’ll be tying shoe laces all day long.

Please sign in – Upon arrival you will be greeted by a real estate agent representing the seller of the property. He or she will ask you to sign in. This is done so that the agent, on behalf of the seller, has a record of who visited the property for security purposes.

Working with an agent? If you are, it’s good to let the seller’s agent know. If you have your agent contact info handy, you can share that information with the seller’s agent as well. If you have any questions or you’d like further information emailed, the seller’s agent can then easily communicate with your agent and pass on the information.

Front door

Ask questions – An open house is a great time to ask questions about the home while things are fresh in your mind and you are standing in the space. Arrive armed with a few key things you would like to learn about the home or the neighbourhood. One thing don’t ask is if the seller is flexible about the price. Remember that the agent is representing the seller so disclosing the seller’s interest in negotiating would not be working in their best interest. The price is the price.

Respect the owner’s privacy – Although you’re encouraged to take your time looking around, remember that you are still in someone’s home so it’s important to respect the owners’ privacy. Opening closet doors is allowed (and the seller should be prepared for that), but don’t go around opening bathroom and dresser drawers. if you’re visiting with kids, keep them close. They might be tempted to go discovering which can lead to broken accessories, tears and awkward exits.

Ask before taking a photo – You might be tempted to take photos so that you can recall details of the property later, but ask for permission first. The agent at the open house will offer you promotional material with the property information and professional photos that are much better then photos taken by your cell phone.

Be polite and use common sense – I know you know this and I’m rather embarrassed to have to mention it, but I’ve learned this last point may not be obvious to everyone. So here it is – Keep your kids in check. Open houses are often busy places with a number of conversations going at one time, so keep your voice down. Lastly, do not use the bathroom. I don’t think this one requires further explanation. Just don’t do it.

Home dog

So there you have it. Visiting open houses is a great way to familiarize yourself with the market. You don’t have to be ready to buy right at that moment, but it’s a good way to educate yourself on what’s available in your neighbourhood or in your budget. Who knows? You might fall in love with your new home. And remember, if you feel overwhelmed with all the options and need some expert advice, I’m here to lend a hand. Happy hunting!

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