Rules of Engagement for Home Buyers: Open-House Etiquette

Apr, 09, 2012

It’s Sunday afternoon, and even though you can smell the chocolate chip cookies baking in the kitchen, you pray this will be your last open house. My husband and I spent a year looking at real estate, and we felt this way every Sunday. If you’re in the process of looking for a new home, your search will be smoother if you follow these rules of engagement at each open house.

Do’s and Don’ts

• Don’t park in the owner’s driveway.

• If the property has been listed in the paper or online, or a realty sign is posted out front, there’s no need to knock or ring the bell before entering.

• Wipe your feet on the doormat, especially on a rainy day!

• If you are not greeted by a sales rep or agent, call out to let him or her know you are present.

• The open-house rep may or may not be the listing agent. Either way, he or she is in charge
• If you have any questions about procedure, ask the rep or agent, but don’t monopolize his or her time. Alain-Martin Pierret of Sotheby’s Healdsburg advises, “Never bombard the agent with too many questions, as this agent must remain available to all visitors.”

• If asked to sign a register, do so with your name and contact info. The agent may use it as marketing info.

• If you are already working with an agent, that’s okay; just let the agent on site know.

• If you are a neighbor who is curious about the home, don’t waste the agent’s time asking information. The open-house information sheet will be available for you to take home.

• Be respectful of the home and its contents, even if it is obviously staged. Says Agnes Williams of Alain Pinel Realtors in Menlo Park, “A home is a very personal and special place. While at an open house, always ask permission from the agent if you wish to take photos of the interior of the home.”

• Never touch personal items in the house or open drawers or closed doors.

• Ask permission before using the bathroom. It’s a private home, after all.

• Avoid saying anything negative about the home while on site. If it did not meet your expectations, save that conversation for the ride home.

• An agent or sale rep at an open house is a professional who is there to provide information, offer a guided tour, and answer any questions; treat him or her with respect.

• If you don’t like what you see, keep looking. As the saying goes, sometimes we have to kiss a lot of frogs before we find the prince. Happy house hunting!

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler’s Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (, certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on and

Follow Lisa Mirza Grotts on Twitter.[/author_info] [/author]

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