Display proper etiquette when viewing homes

Dear Heather

We have just started looking for property. This will be our first home. We wanted to go to open houses; how do they work?

First time buyer

Dear First time Buyer

Open houses can be an interesting experience for first-time buyers and seasoned buyers alike ó especially if the owners are still living in the home.

So, what are the rules for open houses? Whatís proper etiquette? And how should you as a buyer behave when attending an open house?

Treat the host agent with respect

The first ó and most important ó rule of open-house etiquette is to treat your host with respect. Itís important that youíre polite and respectful, the agent will likely ask for your name and contact details, this is important not only so they can follow up with you afterwards, but also the owners will want to know who has been through their house, for liability reasons.

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 youíd like to be treated if you had a bunch of strangers walking through your house.

Donít be late

If you know the open house is going to be from 12 noon to 1pm, donít arrive at 5 minutes before the end of the open house and never after the Closing Time. The Real Estate Agent might be going on to show other properties afterwards or even have to host another open house.

Donít take a seat

Particularly if the owners are still living in the house, itís disrespectful to sit on their furniture without their invitation to do so. You donít need to know if the couch is comfortable in order to make a decision about the property. You are going to purchase the house not the furniture.

Donít expect a personal guided tour

Know that the Realtor cannot spend every minute with you. That is the purpose of an open house, so multiple people can view within a short space of time gaining maximum exposure for the property.

Sure you may have specific questions regarding the property or want to look more thoroughly, in which case schedule a follow-up appointment. The agent has to be respectful and welcoming to all attendees, so donít monopolise their time to the extent that they cannot help anybody else.

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 thatís usually fine, itís important that you ask before you snap any photo or video.

Remember, if the owners are still living in the property, thatís 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.

Be efficient

When attending an open house, itís important that youíre efficient and get in and out in a reasonable amount of time. While open houses typically run for an hour or more, thereís no need to spend more than 10 to 15 minutes walking through the house.

Tour the entire property, take notes, ask any questions, then leave. By using your time efficiently, youíre respecting the hosts and allowing them to show the property to other potential buyers.

Donít overstep your boundaries

Itís important when touring an open house that you donít overstep your boundaries. Itís OK to look in the master closet to check for spaciousness; itís not OK to rummage through the drawers. Itís OK to open the refrigerator to make sure itís working properly; itís not OK to grab a bottle of water out of it.

Itís OK to explore the property, but itís not OK to treat it as if it was your own. Use the rule of thumb, if it were your house would you want a stranger to do that?

Donít criticise the property while youíre still in it

Chances are, there are going to be a few open houses you attend where you absolutely hate the property. And thatís OK!

Seeing properties that arenít the right fit for you and your family is just part of the process of buying a home.

However, itís important to remember that the open house youíre attending is a house that belongs to someone. And badmouthing the home while youíre still inside it is just bad form. Even if the owner isnít in the house, you never know who might overhear you, like the real estate agent, a neighbour, a workman or even the other people viewing; you never know they might be friends of the owner.

We all have different tastes and circumstances; donít be the person who judges without knowing the circumstances.

You wouldnít want someone you invited into your home to criticise it. So donít do the same at an open house. Wait until after you leave to share your criticisms with your partner, family, or agent.

The last word

If you are diligently working with an agent who has shown you multiple properties, tell them you are interested in viewing the open house property.

They can then either arrange to accompany you to the open house, or arrange a private appointment for you either before or afterwards, which can sometimes be a more relaxing experience.

Attending an open house can be a great way to find your dream home. And now that you know the proper etiquette, itís time to get out there and start exploring!

ē Heather Chilvers is among Coldwell Banker Bermuda Realtyís Leading Sales Representatives. She has been working in Real Estate for 28 years. If you have a question for Heather, please contact her at or 332 1793. All questions will be treated confidentially. Please go on to Heatherís Facebook page ó Ask Heather Chilvers Real Estate ó to like and share this article