Open House Etiquette and Tips

Looking at a home for sale, and buying a home, are not snap decisions.  One must plan out carefully and thoughtfully before any money exchange hands.  Open house are often an important part of the homebuyer’s journey.   Use open houses as an opportunity to ask questions and to imagine how the house can work as your home.   Also be mindful of some common open house rules of etiquette when viewing a home for sale.

Have a game plan and be prepared.   Work with your realtor and research properties you want to see and then schedule your day accordingly.   Be sure to bring a notepad, a folder (many realtors will offer you spec sheets) and a camera. 

The big picture.  When attending an open house, begin by looking at the big picture.  This includes the neighborhood and the overall conditions of the house (exterior, outside sheds, patio, the roof, etc.). Drive around the neighborhood at different times of the day and walk around the house.  Keep an eye out for any potential maintenance issues such as missing roof shingles, peeling paint, cracks in the foundation, etc.

Be friendly to the hosting realtor.  Different people have different levels of comfort with realtors that are not their own realtor.  Don’t give the hosting realtor of the open house the cold shoulder. Smile and greet them. Sign in and say “thank you” when you leave.

Can I take a picture?   In many cases, the homes you are visiting are still someone’s private residence.  Before you take a picture or start to record a video, ask for permission.

Ask the realtor key questions.  There are a long list of questions you can ask during an open house.  For certain you should ask key questions such as these: 

  • When was the house built?
  • What renovations were made and when?
  • When was the home listed?

Examine the house itself!  Many sellers will stage their home before open houses and there are, of course, many benefits to staging for all parties.  Don’t, however, put too much focus on what’s inside the house.  Look to the big ticket items:  the location, the windows, and the age of the house, etc.

Look for signs of water damage.  Note any signs of mold on the walls or if the rooms are not properly ventilated. What does the tub look like? Has it been caulked recently?

Examine and measure, but don’t rummage through, storage spaces.  You want to make sure the home for sale includes enough storage space. but don’t go through someone else’s private belongings.  Examine, look possible defects and feel free to measure, but try not to touch personal items. 

Keep options to yourself.  You don’t want to give away how you’re feeling about the home for sale right away. If you imply it’s the perfect home for you then that negates your ability to negotiate. If they seller is present with the realtor and you are heard being too critical, the seller may take it personally and possibly even it hold it against you should you enter negotiations.