Open House Etiquette for Homebuyers
Attending open houses can be a great way to gauge the market, get a feel for what you’re looking for, and even scope out the local home buying competition.
But open houses are a big undertaking for agents — and attending one also means respecting their hard work, the home, and the sellers who live there.
Are you thinking of attending a few open houses as part of your home search? Then make sure you adhere to these open house rules of the road:
1. Wipe your feet.
You’d wipe your feet before visiting a friend’s house, so pay the same respect to the seller — and the agent who’s listing the home. Wipe your feet on the front mat before entering the door or, if there isn’t one available, remove your shoes and leave them on the stoop (especially if it’s particularly muddy or wet outside). Help them keep the home neat and tidy for prospective buyers.
2. Stick to open house hours.
If the open house is scheduled between 2 and 5, don’t show up at 4:59 and ask for a full tour of the home. These events are hard work, and the listing agent has likely been there most of the day (if not all of it). Be respectful of the scheduled hours, and if you’re running late, give the agent a call and ask if they’ll wait for you. If you’re seriously considering the home, they’ll likely be more than happy to oblige.
3. Sign in.
Most agents will have a sign-in sheet at their open houses. This allows them to 1) reach back out to you if something changes with the home (or there’s another property that fits your needs) and 2) keep tabs on who is coming and going, just in case some of the furnishings, decor, or belongings from the home go missing. Make sure to sign in as soon as you arrive and show the agent you’re on the up and up.
4. Come kid-free if possible.
If at all possible, try to attend open houses sans kiddos. Children distract attendees and have the potential to make serious messes in what is likely a perfectly staged home. They will also pull your focus away as you tour the home, making it hard to evaluate the property and its potential fit for your family. If you do need to bring your little ones along, keep close tabs on them. Hold their hands as you tour the property, and don’t let them bring snacks, drinks, or other messy items into the home.
5. Respect other buyers.
If there are other buyers touring the property, make sure to give them space to properly evaluate the home on their own time. Let them explore rooms and areas solo, and wait your turn until they’re done. There’s nothing worse than feeling rushed or crowded — especially when you’re talking about a major decision like a home purchase.
6. Look around, but don’t dig.
This one is especially important if the sellers are still living on the property (or still have belongings stowed there.) While you certainly should look at the closets and cabinets to gauge storage space and overall fit for your family, don’t go digging through the seller’s personal items. You don’t need to open a dresser drawer or thumb through the seller’s winter coats in order to evaluate a home, so respect their privacy — and look, but don’t touch.
7. Avoid the bathroom if you can.
We all know that nature calls sometimes, but if at all possible, try to wait until you’ve left the property to use the restroom. Not only could you stink up the property and make others uncomfortable, but using the bathroom also means potential buyers can’t tour that space. (And considering how much time we spend in bathrooms, evaluating a home’s restrooms is hugely important!)
8. Don’t dawdle.
You should certainly take your time at an open house, but don’t dawdle or take up too much of the agent’s time — especially if you’re not serious about the property. Bring a checklist, tour the home, and if you need to, ask the agent any high-level questions you might have. If you have deeper concerns or want a full-on conversation, get their card and connect with them after the event has ended. You can even follow-up and ask for a private showing at a later date if you really like the home. Then you can be more thorough and detailed about the whole thing.
The Final Word
The most important thing is to be honest about your intentions when attending an open house. If you’re just evaluating the neighborhood or getting a feel for what home features you like, let the agent know, so they don’t waste time and resources on you. If you’re serious about the property and making a near-term home purchase, that’s when it’s okay to take up a little more of the agent’s time or stay longer on the property.