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Open House Etiquette - Buyers and Sellers

You’re running errands on a sunny Saturday afternoon and on your way home you see balloons and directional signs leading to a nearby open house. Are you the type who stops by for a quick tour? Maybe it’s a home in your neighborhood that you’ve always admired, or maybe you just want to see how it compares in value to your own home. On the other hand, perhaps you’re a serious buyer and are genuinely interested in a possible purchase. Either way, be mindful of showing consideration for both the listing agent showing the home as well as the seller who owns the home.

Do’s:

  • They’re called “Open Houses” for a reason. Unless posted otherwise, you may assume that you’re expected to walk into the home without ringing the doorbell.
  • If shoe covers are provided, use them. If not, make sure your shoes are free from mud or debris that would track through the house. Only take off your shoes if the host asks you to, or if there’s a posted sign instructing you to do so. Taking your shoes off automatically and/or going barefoot implies a level of familiarity that you, as a guest in the home, should not assume.
  • Introduce yourself to the agent representing the home, and sign the guest book if asked to do so. There’s no shame in stopping by an open house just for quick look—even if you have no intention of buying—but be up-front with the agent on site about your intentions. Let them know if you’re a neighbor; often times agents and/or other potential buyers will value your take on the neighborhood, i.e., traffic patterns, schools, shopping, etc.
  • If you’re a serious buyer already working with an agent, share that information with the open house agent. If you haven’t yet chosen an agent with whom to work, an open house provides the ideal setting to interview possible candidates.
  • Be mindful of other guests in the home and wait to enter a room until any other visitors who are already there have moved on to another room.
  • Ask questions! Find out about the age of the home, any improvements that may have been recently made (such as a new furnace or roof), and ask how long the home has been on the market. You may also inquire about the seller’s motivation to sell and whether or not there are any offers that have already been made, so that you can assess how competitive the market is for that particular home.
  • If you bring children with you, keep them near you at all times. Don’t allow children to roam the house unsupervised.
  • Be mindful of the posted time for the open house and don’t arrive too early or too late. While most agents are on the clock 24/7, be respectful of their time, as well as the seller’s (who have to be out of the home for the duration of the open house and are likely anxious to return).

Don’ts

  • Be mindful not to monopolize the agent’s time, especially if there are other guests in the home.
  • While it’s fine to open a closet or cupboard door here or there to assess available storage space, don’t rummage through the homeowner’s belongings. You’re there to look at the home, not to size up the contents of the medicine cabinet. Ask yourself if you would want people doing the same in your own home.
  • Do not test light switches, appliances, or plumbing fixtures. If you’re interested enough in the home to become serious about buying it, you’ll have an opportunity later, with your home inspector, to thoroughly assess all aspects of the home.
  • Similarly, leave personal property such as musical instruments, books, and décor alone. Again—would you want someone getting up close and personal with items in your home?
  • Often, the open house host will have snacks and/or drinks available for the taking. Be respectful about where and how much you consume, and don’t allow children to treat the refreshments as an all-you-can-eat buffet.
  • Curb your comments and criticisms, unless asked by the host to share. If you suspect a possible issue, take it up with listing agent, or discuss it privately with your realtor. Don’t tour the home while announcing your unsubstantiated thoughts aloud, as you risk offending the listing agent and/or spreading misinformation to other potential buyers.
  • Don’t assume you’re free to take photos of the property—ask first.
  • Be cognizant of your appearance, especially if you want to be taken seriously as a buyer. While you needn’t dress to the nines, consider wearing something other than stretchy pants and flip-flops.

Tips for Sellers

  • Prepare for your open house by giving your home a thorough cleaning. A clean home sends the message that it has been well-cared for and properly maintained.
  • Tidy counter tops in the kitchen and bathrooms. You may want to remove items that typically populate your counter space so that you can show it to best advantage. A cluttered space tells potential buyers that perhaps there’s not enough storage room in the home. Likewise, tidy closets imply ample space.
  • Don’t forget to spruce up the exterior of your home, even if just blowing away dead leaves and general yard debris. Remember that the front door and porch gives the first impression to potential buyers; make certain to create a positive one.
  • You may wish to remove prescription medications from easily-accessible drawers and cabinets. While not one wants to think that open house attendees would rifle through personal belongings and/or take something from the home, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Opinions on whether or not to display family photos varies. Some agents feel that keeping family photos on the walls gives buyers the sense that the home is well-loved and cared for. Others feel that all personal items, photos, etc. should be removed so that potential buyers can better picture themselves living there. Consult with your trusted realtor to decide which route to take.
  • When your home first hits the market, consider going away for the weekend to better enable your realtor to show the home and host open houses. New listings generate buyer interest immediately, and you may find it less stressful to leave the home vacant for a few days, rather than having to come and go at a moment’s notice every time the realtor books a new showing.

When you’re ready to consider purchasing a new home, remember that Sheffield Homes has been building homes in the Denver metro area and in northern Colorado for more than 40 years. If you’ve been to every open house and still can’t find what you’re looking for, give us a call! We’ll work with you to design the home that best suits your needs, wants, and budget.

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6777 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO 80003
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