Now that the spring market is here/approaching, there are some do's and don'ts that I'd like to share with you if you're thinking of going to an open house OR if you're thinking of having one yourself. If you're working with a Realtor which, of course, you should be, they will go over all of the safety issues with you.
If you're GOING to an open house, I'd like to give you some information.
But just because you're in a hot buyer's market doesn't mean you should waltz into every open house and demand things. (Though you might get them if the seller is motivated enough.)
Restrain yourself and stick to these rules of open house etiquette to ensure a pleasant house hunting experience:
If you're giving up an hour on a Sunday, you might as well set aside the entire afternoon. Research properties you want to see and schedule your day so you hit up open houses in one area, move on to the next area and so on. Allow yourself enough time to see each home and travel to the next one.
Wear a Comfortable + Appropriate Outfit
It's not a fashion show so leave the Armani suit and Jimmy Choos at home. That said, a tank top and Daisy Dukes are inappropriate. Keep it reasonable. Plus, you're going to do a lot of walking through rooms and up and down stairs so wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
Even if you dread dealing with real estate agents, don't give the agent hosting the open house the cold shoulder. Smile and greet them. Sign in. If the agent seems pushy or is trying to solicit your business, kindly tell him you already have an agent. Thank him when you leave.
This isn't social hour, so after you've greeted the host, get down to business. Prepared sellers will hand out a property description sheet with information like square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms and special features. Use it to take notes and check off things as you walk through the house. If square footage is important to you, bring a tape measure.
Ask Before Taking Photos + Videos
Remember, in many cases, the home is still someone's private residence so before you snap a photo or pull out the camcorder, ask permission.
Some homes for sale are empty and staged with fake furniture, such as airbeds and cardboard box couches. So make sure you check it's real before plopping on the sofa.
Make sure there's enough storage space in the home, but don't go through someone else's private belongings. Check the width and depth of the closets, kitchen and bathroom drawers, cupboards and cabinets. And while you're at it, see if anything is broken or squeaks.
Hold the Criticism Until After You Leave
Like you learned in kindergarten, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. Again, the seller still calls the place home, so don't badmouth it during the tour. Who knows who may be listening -- the seller, a neighbor, a friend? If you end up in a multiple offer situation where price and terms are similar, you don't want the seller choosing the other buyer because he heard you criticizing his home.
Meaning YOU divulging details about your situation, such as how your home search is going and when you need to move. While there's nothing wrong with a little chit-chat, keep the conversation focused on the property. And use your best poker face. Even if you've walked into your ultimate dream home, don't show any emotion.
Remember, the agent works for the seller so you don't want to share any information that could compromise your bargaining position. Think Miranda rights -- anything you say can and will be used against you in a potential negotiation.
Ask Probing Questions, Politely
It's okay to ask about the seller's motivation and if there are any offers. Find out if there are special assessments or other fees. And it doesn't hurt to get the agent's insight on the neighborhood and nearby schools.
Sometimes the open house agent is filling in for the actual listing agent and won't know anything about the property, or he/she can't answer certain questions (like those that fall under fair housing laws). It can be frustrating, but keep cool and ask where you can get the information.
They may be your competition, but they may know something you don't about the property or neighborhood, such as the barking dog next door. Listen to other guests' reactions to the home and engage in polite conversation. You don't have to divulge details of your own search, but you never know what someone else might say.
BE ON TIME - Don't come early and don't come late! Both the Realtor and homeowner have been working to get everything prepared for the open house at certain times. Please respect both the Realtor's time and especially the homeowner's times. I can't tell you how many times people have approached me after I've locked up and removing the signs, asking if they could come in. If you can't make the times noted for the open house, call the Realtor! We'd be happy to arrange a more convenient time for you.
Signing in - lease understand that signing in protects the owner of the property. Should something happen, we need a log of who was there.”
If you are under contract with a Realtor, let the hosting Realtor know when you walk in. I want to respect your relationship with your Realtor. This will also allow the hosting Realtor to talk to other people who are not currently represented.
Give everyone their space - If there are other visitors at the same open house, give them space! Don't follow them into rooms. If they go upstairs - go downstairs. Just as you want your space, they also want theirs.
Be Considerate - Remember, someone lives in this house and to talk about how awful the cupboards are or what an awful painting that is is just bad manners. Keep your design ideas to yourself.
Plumbing - Please try to do your 'business' before coming to the open house. Emergencies happen, I get it, but if you can visit a Tim Horton's before coming to the open house, it's adviseable. You never know when a toilet could overflow!
Nosey Neighbors - I love nosey neighbors! Come on in and look around! However, if there are other people in the house who are actual buyers, please let me speak to them and don't take up my time telling me about when you bought your house or the neighbor across the street. I know you're just being friendly and if I'm alone, that's fine, but I am there to do a job and that is to help the home owner sell their house so if that isn't something you can help me with, please be respectful of my time.
Sign in - The seller has every right to know who is coming in and out of their home. If a visitor has a problem with that, they should turn around and walk out.
Many times, the seller insists that I get a list of everyone who has entered their home and they have that right.
Remember, it's a priviledge to be able to enter another person's home during an open house.
I recall a situation where a visitor to the open house found the garage locked, and asked if he could see inside. I said, “No problem, just let me see this couple out (there were two other people, just about to leave), and I’ll lock the front door, and show you.”
He replied, “I don’t need you to go with me, I can take the key.”
I was really surprised, but then again, in the context of this blog post, I shouldn’t have been.
I said, “I understand, if you could just wait two minutes, it’s not a problem.” Kill them with kindness, right?
He said, “I can unlock the garage door for myself, I don’t want to wait until you deal with other people, I can go outside and look myself. What am I missing here?”
I ignored his question, showed the couple out the front door, locked it, then headed back to show him the garage.
To answer his question, “What am I missing here?” what he doesn’t quite understand is that I don’t know him. He’s alone in an open house. He wants the key to a garage where the owner has several very expensive bikes, and there’s an automatic garage door that opens to a laneway.
I don’t suspect this person was a thief.
But I also don’t owe him anything, and he certainly has no right to demand access to the garage, which the owner keeps locked, without my presence.
If you’re entering somebody’s home, and that home is for sale, and you don’t like it, or don’t like the price, would it be so unreasonable as to keep that to yourself?
I think it’s tacky for people to walk through an open house and poo-poo it.
Many of the people who do this, to be quite honest, are people who can’t afford the home. I see this all the time.
But you know the guy in the basement that says, “There’s a problem with this foundation, for sure” – he’s not a home inspector. He’s just saying that, to say it.
When you’re at a restaurant, you don’t lean over to the table next to you and say, “I bet the cook wipes his nose with his sleeve before he makes salads like the one you have.”
I have no issue with people talking, discussing, investigating, etc.
The issue I have is when people go out of their way to make remarks when others are around. It’s petty, vindictive, and as I said – it’s almost always done out of frustration and jealousy.