Open house displays are a great thing to look for when shopping for a new home. Without any kind of appointment, you can just show up and take a look at the house, with an experienced realtor there to answer any questions that you might have. In all, these events tend to be friendly and engaging.
However, there are certain rules for this situation. In many cases, these rules are not made entirely clear to all visitors. In order to help those who are not as familiar with the social conventions of an event like this, we present our list of the seven most important tips on open-house etiquette.
Point of Etiquette #1: Dress For The Occasion
When you are looking at a potential new home, make sure you bear in mind the fact that it isn’t your home yet. As such, you should politely comply with any requests that the realtor might make. For instance, open house visitors will often be asked to remove their shoes in order to avoid tracking up the carpet with outside dirt.
For this reason, it’s not a bad idea to wear slip-on shoes to an event like this. You already know that you will probably need to take them off, so your choice of shoes doesn’t matter as long as they can be removed quickly.
As for the rest of your attire, you should simply try to look as respectable as you can. No one will take you seriously if you show up in an old T-shirt and a pair of cutoff shorts, as they will assume that you don’t have the money to buy the place anyway. At the same time, you don’t need to break out the tuxedo or that fancy ball gown. Just dress like a casual professional, and you should have no issues.
Point of Etiquette #2: Don’t Go Snooping
Like we said earlier, it’s important to remember that this isn’t your home quite yet. As such, you should avoid opening doors or checking things out in a very close fashion. Yes, it is true that a home buyer has every right to check out a potential investment. However, this is not the time for a deep search. Right now, you’re just giving the place a cursory look to see if it meets your standards.
If you really want to see some aspect of the house in more detail, ask the guide for assistance. They will almost certainly have no problem showing you any part of the home that you want to see, but you should have the courtesy to let them do their job.
This is also polite because it shows a certain degree of trust in the realtor. By allowing them to show you everything, you are giving them the chance to give you the best sales pitch they can give. At the same time, we will say this: Any realtor guide who avoids your questions or refuses to show you certain details is a red flag. When you see that kind of evasive behavior, it’s a good bet that there is something to hide.
In such a case, you will want to bear in mind that one little flaw is not necessarily a deal-breaker. In fact, a small flaw in the home can be a great tool in your arsenal of negotiation. If you go to the realty company and point out the flaw, you might be able to use that flaw as leverage to get a lower price.
Point of Etiquette #3: Don’t Use The Furniture
In many cases, home sellers will choose to pre-furnish a home so that it will look more appealing to home buyers. There are entire companies that specialize in furniture and furnishing rentals of this kind. By doing this, they not only make the home look more pleasant, but they also allow the potential buyer to more accurately imagine what they can do with that space.
If you show up to an open house, and you see that the house is furnished, don’t use the furniture. This whole thing won’t take that long, so there’s just no need to sit down unless you have some kind of medical issue. Remember that this furniture is not included with the home, and thus, there is no need for you to test it. Also, flopping down on the couch might indicate to the seller that you aren’t really interested.
If you aren’t dressed nicely, and you start lounging on the furniture, people might even think that you are some kind of hobo who wandered in to use the couch! Obviously, you don’t want to stand out. As the old Japanese proverb says, “the nail that sticks out the furthers will be hammered the hardest.” While no one at an open house is likely to hammer you, it is nevertheless good to avoid drawing attention to yourself. After all, no one is there to see you.
One more important point: Sometimes, an open house will be conducted in a residence that is currently occupied. When this is the case, you should definitely avoid touching anything that doesn’t belong to you. Even if it turns out that you have no interest in buying the home, you should still respect the home’s current residents and stay off their furniture.
Point of Etiquette #4: Ask Before Taking Photos
In an age where people seem to spend about half their lives posting pictures to social media, it might seem as if there is nothing wrong with taking plenty of pictures during an open house. Indeed, most people do take plenty of pictures at an open house, so that they can show their loved ones the results of the day’s activities.
In spite of all this, you need to make sure that it is okay before you start snapping away. Once again, some open houses are done in places that still have occupants. Therefore, you might be taking pictures of someone’s home and belongings without their permission. While there is nothing illegal about this, it is considered to be very rude.
The good news is that this won’t usually be a problem. Most realtor guides will be happy to let you snap some pictures, although they may limit the number that can be taken. Just make sure that you ask politely first. Taking notes is considered to be just fine, so you can use a notebook if your open house event does not allow pictures. If you have a decent memory, a sheet of notes should be good enough for later evaluation.
Point of Etiquette #5: Don’t Waste Time
In many cases, open house events will consist of a series of short tours. In this way, the realtor can show the house to as many people as possible. You should remember that showing the house to as many people as possible is the entire point of an open house event. Thus, you should have the courtesy to avoid wasting the guide’s time.
You can and should ask questions of someone who is trying to sell you a very expensive item. However, you should keep those questions brief and get straight to the point. If you get an answer that you don’t like, don’t attempt to argue. In this situation, you are the one who controls the purse strings, so you don’t need to argue with anyone. Just make a note of the problem and keep going.
Even if your realtor gives you an unsatisfactory answer to a reasonable question, no one is there to hear you debate with the guide. Just remember that all these people are just as intelligent as you, and they will have to make an evaluation just as you do. It would be very rude of you to waste their time, and it will reduce the ability of other people to ask the questions that are important to them.
Point of Etiquette #6: Stay With The Group
As we mentioned before, these sorts of events will most often consist of a series of guided tours. When you are a part of such a group, it is important to avoid wandering off. Chances are, you have areas of special concern that you would like to examine more closely, but you need to move on when the group moves on.
If you wander off from the group, or if you hang behind when they move to the next room, they might think that you are up to no good. There are times in which criminals will come to an open house just to steal, and you don’t want someone to confuse you with one of those people. Most luxury home builders create homes that are designed for a high-end crowd that will naturally be more suspicious of thievery.
Point of Etiquette #7: Don’t Take An Adversarial Attitude
You should remember that this person who is giving the tour guide may very well be the same person with whom you need to negotiate the purchase of this home. As such, you really don’t want to make your guide angry. You can often get a better price through courtesy alone. To be honest, that may or may not work, but it’s certainly worth a try!
We have already mentioned the importance of avoiding arguments, but we should add the fact that you should not see the realtor as an adversary to be outsmarted. This kind of attitude is not conducive to good information-gathering, and it certainly doesn’t help with the negotiating side of things.
When buying your next home, whether it be from custom home builders or a current homeowner, you should never hesitate to ask for more information. However, an open house event is a time when you should be respectful and just listen. If this is difficult, we recommend that you try to stay focused on your purpose: To figure out if you want to buy this place or not! All other concerns should be secondary to that.