All right, so you’re driving around the neighbourhood and you see an Open House sign and want to go take a look. Before you do, are there any rules you should know about? There are no set rules, and each agent will have a different approach, but here are my thoughts.
Take your shoes off at the front door, the way you would when you visit a friend’s house. The homeowner has spent all day cleaning to get ready; the last thing they want to do is find footprints on their new carpet.
If you have a pet with you, leave it outside or in the car. I actually had someone try to insist on bringing a dog into a home where the owners were allergic to dander. “I’ll carry it,” he said. “I’m afraid not,” was my response.
When it comes to children, leave them at home too unless they are extremely well-behaved or small enough that you can carry. Children who run through a house or jump on beds can break things or even get hurt; no realtor or home owner should ever have to deal with that situation because you can’t control your own kids.
Sign the register. Give full information, not fictitious emails and phone numbers, and print legibly. I know you don’t want to be spammed by the realtor later on, but the homeowner is entitled to know who was through their home. And if something is stolen, the police want to know who was there, as will the insurer. It happens.
If you don’t want to be contacted, tell the realtor. Otherwise, we have an obligation, legally, to contact anyone who expressed an interest in the house once we get an offer; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to follow up with people from an Open House only to find out the emails they gave me were made up. Some realtors are already asking for people to produce their ID at Open Houses; I’m tipping towards that myself.
Don’t badmouth the house in front of other buyers. It’s one thing to criticize the food in a restaurant where you’re paying for it. Here, you are getting a free look inside someone else’s home. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean everyone around you feels the same way. If the realtor asks you for feedback, be honest about what you do and don’t like but don’t talk it down in front of the other buyers; you’re interfering at that point with the agent’s job, which is to get the property sold.
Do not open chests of drawers, armoires, wardrobes, desk drawers, etc. Do not touch the art. These are the homeowner’s personal possessions. Similarly, do not take photographs of anything unless you’ve first asked the agent if it’s all right.
If you are working with another realtor, be sure to tell the agent at the Open House. There are laws and ethical codes that prevent us from communicating with another realtor’s client.
If you are interested in the home, let the agent know so he or she can keep you in the loop re. offers. You are not obliged to deal with the Open House agent if you’re interested in putting in an offer; in fact, I recommend you get your own. But if you don’t tell the agent about your interest, until you have your own agent, you won’t know what’s going on. Just because the property shows as active on Realtor.ca doesn’t mean it’s still available; there is a 24-48 lag time on the information that appears on that website. While you’re dithering, the property might be sold.
Be on time. If the Open House is scheduled for 2-4, don’t show up after 4 when the agent is trying to shut things down. This happens all the time and it drives me crazy; I’m in the middle of shutting off the lights and locking up when a car pulls up to the front door. At that point in time, I’ve been tied up all day, getting signs up at intersections in the morning, printing off Feature Sheets, getting to the house, turning lights on, even putting out refreshments. I need to lock up, pick up all the Open House sandwich boards I’ve left around the neighbourhood, report to the sellers, and get home to my own family. Please don’t expect me to stay late just so you can peek inside a house you have no real interest in buying.