Open houses can be an interesting experience for first-time buyers and seasoned buyers alike — especially if the owners are still living in the home.
It can be a bit awkward walking through someone’s home, looking at their things, and judging whether their property is a place you can envision as a home for you and your family.
But it doesn’t have to be awkward! As long as you know what’s appropriate in terms of etiquette, open houses can be a breeze.
So, what are the rules for open houses? What’s proper etiquette? And how should you as a buyer behave when attending an open house?
Treat the host with respect
The first — and most important — rule of open house etiquette is to treat your host with respect. Whether you’re dealing with a real estate agent, an owner, or both, it’s important that you’re polite and respectful. If you fall in love with the property but made a bad impression at the open house, the owner or agent will likely be less inclined to work with you.
No need to go overboard, but make sure you say hello to the host and thank them for having you. Sign in and leave your contact information. Say goodbye when you leave.
Treat the host the way you’d like to be treated if you had a bunch of strangers walking through your house.
Don’t take a seat
The last thing you want to do when touring an open house is make yourself comfortable and take a seat on a chair, couch, bed or any other piece of furniture.
There are a few reasons for this. If the house is staged, the furniture might not even be real; professional stages are known to use fake furniture like cardboard couches to keep the budget down. And if you sit on one of these fake pieces of furniture, you’ll likely to fall straight through and end up on the floor.
If the house isn’t staged and the owners are still living in the house, it’s disrespectful to sit on their furniture without their invitation to do so. You don’t need to know if the couch is comfortable in order to make a decision about the property, so keep off.
Ask before snapping photos
If you like a property, you may want to take photos to share with your family or review after the open house. And while that’s usually fine, it’s important that you ask before you snap any photo or video.
Remember, if the owners are still living in the property, that’s their home. There might be things in their home they would rather not have photographed, so make sure to get permission before you get out your camera.
When attending an open house, it’s important that you’re efficient and get in and out in a reasonable amount of time. While open houses typically run for a few hours at a time, there’s no need to spend more than a few minutes walking through the house.
Tour the entire property, take notes, ask any questions, then leave. By using your time efficiently, you’re respecting the hosts and allowing them to show the property to other potential buyers.
Don’t overstep your boundaries
It’s important when touring an open house that you don’t overstep your boundaries.
It’s ok to look in the master closet to check for spaciousness; it’s not ok to rummage through the drawers. It’s ok to open the refrigerator to make sure it’s working properly; it’s not ok to grab a bottle of water out of it.
It’s ok to explore the property, but it’s not ok to treat it as if it was your own. Use your best judgement.
Don’t criticize the property while you’re still in it
Chances are, there are going to be a few open houses you attend where you absolutely hate the property. And that’s ok! Seeing properties that aren’t the right fit for you and your family is just part of the process of buying a home.
However, it’s important to remember that the open house you’re attending is a house that belongs to someone. And badmouthing the home while you’re still inside it is just bad form. Even if the owner isn’t in the house, you never know who might overhear you, like the real estate agent or a neighbor.
You wouldn’t want someone you invited into your home to criticize it. So don’t do the same at an open house. Wait until after you leave to share your criticisms with your partner, family, or agent.
Attending an open house can be a great way to find your dream home. And now that you know the proper etiquette, it’s time to get out there and start exploring some open houses!