Real Estate Buying

Open House Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts: Faux Pas to Avoid

Checking out open houses on the weekend can be a fun way to spend a day whether or not you’re in the market for a home. Read this list to learn the expected etiquette before you head to your next open house.
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Real estate agent welcomes couple to open house.

Photo: istockphoto.com

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One of the most exciting parts of the home buying process is seeing a property in-person. It lets you get a real sense of a home that doesn’t translate well in pictures or in a written description. During an open house, you can tour a property for sale without an appointment.

People love open houses. Prospective buyers, nosy neighbors, and those looking for inspiration for their homes flock to open houses to get a look-see. But are you following social etiquette when visiting an open house? 

Rachel Moussa, team leader at Blushwood Realty Group in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, has held open houses almost every weekend for 6 years. This award-winning agent gave us a list of open house etiquette considerations for you to use the next time you’re touring a property.

DO knock before entering.

If the front door is closed when you arrive, Moussa says you should knock a couple of times before you open the door, offering a verbal greeting as you enter. The agent is likely close to the front door and can help you as you walk inside. If they are busy with another potential buyer, they will hear you enter and greet you as soon as possible.

DON’T arrive too early or too late.

Open houses have set hours for people to see a property while the sellers are out. Arriving too early may mean you appear while the agent is still setting up. There are no rules for how long you have to look at the house, but there’s an expectation that everyone is out by the time the open house is over because the sellers will likely be coming home.

“There are people that literally show up with 1 minute left and then want to stay for 20 minutes,” says Moussa. “Usually if it’s within the window [of the open house] I say, ‘come on in,’ and let them know we’re wrapping up in 2 minutes, so take a quick run around.” She says realtors are happy to schedule an appointment to come back if you’re interested in purchasing the home.

DO sign in.

Real estate agent helping a couple at open house.
Photo: istockphoto.com

When you enter an open house, the host will ask you to sign in—even if you’re just a looky-loo (which Moussa says is fine!). This request is because you’re going into somebody else’s home and the sellers have a right to know who’s been inside. This information is also for security. If things go missing, it’s important to have a record of who was in the house. If you do not want to provide your personal information, you can provide your real estate agent’s contact details instead.

DON’T worry about sharing your opinions.

Moussa says that real estate agents love honest feedback. As a potential buyer, you’re looking at the home through a unique lens, and some of the things you notice can give the seller’s agent some insights about the home. If it’s constructive feedback about things that stand in the way of you making an offer, it helps the seller and agent get a better sense of potential roadblocks for making a sale.

DO ask if you should remove your shoes.

Real estate agent shows young couple an open house in the dining area.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Many sellers ask buyers to take off their shoes or wear disposable booties. If you’re in an open house where this hasn’t been stated or it’s not obvious that you should remove your footwear, always ask the host. Taking off your shoes is a courtesy if the home has new carpets, wood flooring, or it’s been a wet day. 

However, there are instances where you can wear your shoes in an open house. Moussa says there are some houses where she wouldn’t take her shoes off, such as homes with dirty or damaged carpets or floors.

DON’T use the washroom in the home.

Open houses are usually immaculate for guests, making the home look and smell its best. If you want to be a polite guest, refrain from using the bathroom during your tour of the house. Try to use the facilities elsewhere before you show up.

Of course, there are exceptions. The washrooms are usually reserved for children, and other emergencies, but in an ideal open house the washroom is looked at but not used.

DO examine everything coming with the house.

Female real estate agent showing kitchen furniture to mid adult couple
Photo: istockphoto.com

Anything you have to do to evaluate the home is fair play, so bring your measuring tape, snap photos, and take a good look at what you’re potentially buying. Open cupboards, cabinets, closets, and pantries to assess their quality. If it’s part of the home sale, you’re free to scrutinize. However, this is not an invitation to snoop. Do not open drawers to furniture pieces not included in the sale.

DON’T monopolize the host’s time.

You may be the only one or one of several families milling about at an open house. The hosting agent is happy to answer your questions and engage with you, but they also need to spread their time amongst all visitors.

Moussa has experience with this situation, saying, “Sometimes somebody wants a full buyer consultation right then, and they have a million questions about the home buying process or about that particular home. And there’s people that are walking in and I haven’t had a chance to say hi to them yet.” If you want to schedule a more in-depth discussion with the agent, get their contact information and call later, freeing them up to chat with everyone at the open house.

DO keep an eye on your children.

Real estate agent showing open house to young couple with infant and toddler.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Children are absolutely welcome to come to open houses, and many people bring the family when checking out a prospective new home. When you bring kids along, the expectation is that they will behave, that they will not disrupt others or damage property, and that you will keep an eye on them.

This is especially important at open houses with water features, like pools or ponds. If parents aren’t paying attention to their children in the backyard, it can be a dangerous situation.

DON’T give feedback in earshot of other visitors.

Though agents want to hear your honest feedback on a property, the etiquette is to have this conversation in private. Agents generally want to avoid visitors speaking negatively about the house in front of potential buyers who might love it. Your opinions about the kitchen style or choice of cabinets may not be universal, and may take away from others’ initial impressions.

DO return the material handouts if you’re not interested in the home.

Real estate marketing materials can be quite costly, especially multi-page premium-quality brochures. If you know for certain during the open house that this is not the home for you, consider leaving the brochure behind. It’s more environmentally-friendly to leave these materials at the open house for somebody who is actually interested rather than throw them away or recycle them.

DON’T hide the fact you’re working with an agent.

Real estate agents hold open houses for many reasons. One is to sell a particular home, and another is to network and grow their client list. The hosting agent should ask you if you’re working with an agent. If they don’t, it’s polite to let them know if you are already committed to working with somebody else. Agents don’t want to accidentally step on the toes of other agents by trying to engage with somebody else’s client who hasn’t disclosed that they already have a realtor.