First-time Home-buyers: Do you know the open house protocol

Visiting open houses seems to be an enjoyable past-time for families to do on a Sunday afternoon, taking in the excitement of seeing how other people live. Open houses can also be a popular activity with neighbours in close proximity to the property, simply for curiosity or because they may wish to recommend a close friend or family member to purchase. The above scenarios are both perfectly acceptable and welcomed because the more people that come through the better, but it is important to be honest with the agent about your intentions. This will save you both time and energy. Even if you don’t state your purpose for visiting, the hosting agent will be able to tell who the serious buyers are and will most likely pay their attention to them. As a first-time homebuyer, you may have questions about the etiquette of viewing an open house, especially if you are a serious buyer.

Open houses are an important part of the real estate process, local realtors contend, and there is a code of etiquette that prospective buyers should follow. This guide should help steer you in the right direction and hopefully answer some of your questions.


Before you can enter a home, you have to know where you’re going. Most open houses take place on Sunday afternoons (only once a week). If you’re giving up an hour on a Sunday, you might as well set aside the entire afternoon to see as many homes as you can so that you can compare with fresh eyes and don’t have to wait a whole week until you see the next one. Make sure to research properties you want to see and schedule your day so that you visit 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 as most open houses last 2-3 hours. Depending on the temperature of the market, you won’t have much time to waste – efficiency is key in a hot market.


Most open houses you visit will have a sign-in sheet – don’t be afraid to fill it out. Most people these days are weary of sharing their information, hoping to prevent “junk-mail” flooding their inboxes, which is understandable in most other situations. However, if you are a serious buyer, letting the agent know who you are will be very beneficial if the house you are currently visiting doesn’t work out – likely the agent will have similar homes that may suit your needs in the future. After all, the agent won’t contact you if you ask them not to.  Signing-in at an open-house is important for a variety of reasons.

·        Real estate agents have a mutual respect for each other and want to honour those relationships. Agents don’t want to offend other agents by calling on each others client – this is a no-no.

·        Signing-in allows the hosting agent/broker to keep track of the number of people who attend the open house and note where they are from, all information they like to share with the homeowners.

·        Signing-in is also very important for safety reasons as agents are in a vulnerable position. Knowing who has been in the house adds a layer of security. Depending on the market, some agents may even ask you to present your photo ID upon entering so, make sure you bring that with you on your travels as well.


Once you’ve exchanged pleasantries with the host, it’s time to get down to business. It is quite common that you will receive a property description sheet with information detailing the square footage, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms and special features. Take full advantage of this and use it to take notes and check off things you like and don’t like as you walk through the house. If square footage is important to you, feel free to bring a tape measure.


Taking photos of the house during your walk-through is typically acceptable, but before you do it, ask the host’s permission. Keep in mind that the home is still someone’s private residence, in many cases.


Remembering that you are in someone else’s home, it is important to respect their property and belongings. With your checklist in hand, make sure there’s enough storage space in the home, but don’t go through someone else’s private belongings. To be specific, check the width and depth of the closets, kitchen and bathroom drawers, cupboards and cabinets, items that are attached the property for sale and not the private wardrobes and side tables of the current owner. While you’re at it, check if anything is broken or squeaking by turning door knobs, testing faucets, etc. Avoid bringing food or drinks into the home in order to prevent potential spills, stains, or crumbs on furniture or other surfaces. What about bathroom use? I would advise visitors to not use the bathroom unless it is an emergency and if your shoes are dirty, please leave them at the door.


If you can, try to listen to other guests’ reactions to the home and perhaps engage in polite conversation. Avoid disclosing personal details about your house hunting adventures, the purpose of this is to hear what other people have to say. They may be your competition, but they may know something you don’t about the property or neighbourhood!

At the end of the day, it all boils down to being a decent person and showing that you are a respectful guest. If you are thinking about putting in a potential offer, it is especially important to show your etiquette as it may eventually come down to you and someone else, and the host will have noticed your behaviour. After all, if you are in the market, you are likely hosting your own open houses and you should act in a way that you would expect your guests to act in your home. Best of luck – the adventure awaits!

Feel free to contact me at any time with any other questions you may have!  Or download my FREE eBook using the button below to find out some key tips to ensure you don’t over pay for your home.

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2017-07-27T01:16:26+00:00July 27th, 2017|First Time Home Buyer, General Real Estate Info|