Whether you are selling your home or in the market to buy a house, the open house will be part of the process. The following rules of open house etiquette can be divided into etiquette for sellers and etiquette for buyers.
Etiquette for Sellers
If you are selling your property, you probably are quite aware that potential buyers aren’t interested in buying your house, they are interested in buying their home. Sellers who do best with open houses are those who move out of the home or even do some serious staging. That way they can emotionally detach from the house, and remove their presence so buyers can imagine themselves living in the home. The least a seller can do is depersonalize all the rooms and arrange furniture for maximum flow, in addition to letting the light shine in and fixing whatever is broken. Think about your safety and remove from public view any small and expensive items (put jewelry, watches and cash deep in closets, or even inside a safe). Sellers sometimes forget they are always marketing their home for sale, no matter what time of day, especially when they hold an open house. Sellers should heed these rules of etiquette:
- Let the listing agent host the open houses. It will keep you from hovering over people touring your property and from saying something that delivers a negative connotation.
- When you leave, take your pets, all your pets, with you. Dogs, cats, birds, and other domestic pets do more harm than their cuteness can overcome.
- If you do stay, dress nicely. We’re not talking about formal attire, but you should be presentable and fade into the background.
- Move your car out of the driveway to make room for people coming to view your home.
- Leave key documents in plain sight, such items as an appraisal, home inspection, warranty, and like documents if you have them.
Etiquette for Buyers
When you take a day to tour open houses, you ought to be productive and really learn something so you ultimately make a good decision. Here are the rules of etiquette for buyers:
- If you feel that once the “OPEN HOUSE” sign is up on the lawn, you have free reign in and out of the property, remember you are entering someone else’s HOME. You can open the kitchen cupboards, no problem, but there’s no need to open the drawers of furniture that the sellers are taking with them.
- Please fill out the sign in sheet if one is provided. The sellers’ agent is just trying to keep track of who is entering the house.
- Kids will be moving into the house eventually, so some parents want to get the kids in there as part of the search process. But if you have a choice during an open house, leave the kids at home. The notion that your children will be so engrossed with the moment isn’t at parity with the reality. You can always make an appointment for a showing if you are really interested in the property and take the kids with you. If you have no choice and must take the kids, keep them with you every step of the away.
- Don’t let the small talk be the only talk. Sure, you can pay compliments and have a bit of chit-chat, but don’t let that be the only conversation. Ask pointed questions and do it politely.
- Dress appropriately. It might be the Valley of the Sun, but tee shirts, shorts, and sandals are not the appropriate attire when you’re touring open houses.
- Be prepared before you go. Bring a small tape measure, a notepad or tablet, and a camera or use your smartphone to take photos. Before you snap any pictures, be sure to ask the host if it’s okay with them.
- Last but certainly not least, do not try to negotiate a deal on-the-spot. You’ll be “in the moment” emotionally and that can only lead to trouble, maybe even a big dose of buyer’s remorse.