Here’s a fun topic for Humpday!
How many of you out there attend open houses for sport? Anyone? Care to anonymously confirm?
I’d like to address to topic of etiquette at an open house, and depending on whether you’re a buyer, or a seller, you may agree or disagree with my sentiments.
Let’s look at ten areas of interest pertaining to the property, and the open house…
Agree, or disagree.
I’m soliciting opinions here, folks.
Here are ten points that I think require our attention, and I’m providing my opinion based on both my representation of sellers and home-owners, as well as my guiding buyers through the process, while trying to represent their interests and respect the rights of a property-owner.
Much of this is common sense.
And then, there are points that might make me sound rude.
1) Access To Property
First and foremost, folks, let me remind you that it is not a right to enter an open house. It is a privilege.
The salty, jaded, Realtor-hating market bears would suggest otherwise. But I just know that the home-owner in you all, would agree. Dig deep on this one, and you’ll come around.
This is not just an asset. It’s not just a property. It’s not just a house or a condo.
It’s a home.
So please don’t take this the wrong way, but for those people out there that feel that once the “OPEN HOUSE” sign is up on the lawn, they have free reign in and out of the property, I would say that you are sorely mistaken.
Quite often we lack sensitivity when dealing with people’s homes. They do become assets. When staging a property for sale, we encourage our sellers to “de-personalize.” But that doesn’t mean that this isn’t still somebody’s pride and joy, and buyers need to remember that.
To be fair, I’m using the term “buyers” here, when I should be using the term “visitors.” Because let’s face it: many of the people who attend open houses are exactly that: visitors. They’re not buyers, and it is buyers that the home owner/seller is seeking.
But whoever enters another person’s domicile, whether that person is looking to purchase a home, or looking to kill two hours, must have respect for the home itself, and the people who have faith in mankind when they open the front door.
2) Personal Information
You’re attending an open house on the weekend, and the listing agent inside the property is foaming at the mouth as you walk up the front steps, I know, I know.
You absolutely hate having to talk to an agent who is only there to pick up buyers, and who latches on to you like a toddler with separation anxiety.
I understand all of that, and when I’m working open houses, I try to stay out of people’s way, and simply represent the seller.
However, the seller has every right to know who is coming in and out of his or her home.
And if a “visitor” to the home has a problem with that, then they should turn around and walk out.
When I run an open house, I don’t have a sign-in sheet. I’m not there to pick up buyers, as I said, I’m there to represent the seller, and answer questions, but also to ensure that there’s no funny business.
But if another Realtor asks for your information, or even your ID, then you can decide if: a) they’re looking to get your information to harass you and pick you up as a buyer, or, b) keep track of who is entering the house. And if you don’t want to give your information, then you don’t have to. You can leave, and come back with your agent through a booked showing. If you don’t have an agent, then you can call the brokerage, and ask to see the property. Either way, if a seller wants his or her agent to keep track of who is coming through the house, than that supersedes a “visitor’s” desire to not identify him or herself.
3) Unfettered Access
Once again, this is a continuation of Points #1 and #2.
Just as it’s not a right, but rather a privilege to enter another person’s home during an open house, it’s also not a right to be able to walk around without supervision.
If an agent says, “Let me show you upstairs,” he might be looking to give you a sales pitch, as I mentioned in Point #2. Or, he might be looking to represent his seller’s best interests, and ensure that you – whether you look shady or not, are going to respect the home.
I recall a situation where a visitor to the open house found the garage locked, and asked if he could see inside. I said, “No problem, just let me see this couple out (there were two other people, just about to leave), and I’ll lock the front door, and show you.”
He replied, “I don’t need you to go with me, I can take the key.”
I was really surprised, but then again, in the context of this blog post, I shouldn’t have been.
I said, “I understand, if you could just wait two minutes, it’s not a problem.” Kill them with kindness, right?
He said, “I can unlock the garage door for myself, I don’t want to wait until you deal with other people, I can go outside and look myself. What am I missing here?”
I ignored his question, showed the couple out the front door, locked it, then headed back to show him the garage.
To answer his question, “What am I missing here?” what he doesn’t quite understand is that I don’t know him. He’s alone in an open house. He wants the key to a garage where the owner has several very expensive bikes, and there’s an automatic garage door that opens to a laneway.
I don’t suspect this person was a thief.
But I also don’t owe him anything, and he certainly has no right to demand access to the garage, which the owner keeps locked, without my presence.
Notice a theme here, folks?
This is all common sense (or should be), and it’s about representing and protecting the seller.
As crazy as this sounds, there are people who walk right past the “PLEASE REMOVE SHOES” sign, with their shoes on.
I just don’t understand it.
My brother lived in Riverdale for several years, and he had one of those “Please Don’t Let Your Pet Pee On The Lawn” signs, because the grass was dying and he basically had to dig it up, and lay down fresh sod (ask a home owner about how hard it is to get dogs to stop peeing, once other dogs start).
Imagine my brother’s surprise when he looks out his window one day and sees a dog peeing right next to the sign, and the dog’s owner standing idly by.
You will probably suggest that the owner was doing this on purpose, to spite the home owner and his sign. But some people are just damn clueless, and can’t see what’s right in front of them.
Who walks into an open house and doesn’t take their shoes off when there’s a sign?
I think I’ll get some pushback on this point, but regardless…
If you’re entering somebody’s home, and that home is for sale, and you don’t like it, or don’t like the price, would it be so unreasonable as to keep that to yourself?
I think it’s tacky for people to walk through an open house and poo-poo it.
Many of the people who do this, to be quite honest, are people who can’t afford the home. I see this all the time.
But you know the guy in the basement that says, “There’s a problem with this foundation, for sure” – he’s not a home inspector. He’s just saying that, to say it.
When you’re at a restaurant, you don’t lean over to the table next to you and say, “I bet the cook wipes his nose with his sleeve before he makes salads like the one you have.”
I have no issue with people talking, discussing, investigating, etc.
The issue I have is when people go out of their way to make remarks when others are around. It’s petty, vindictive, and as I said – it’s almost always done out of frustration and jealousy.
Real estate is expensive.
Real estate in Toronto is expensive.
The house that you want to buy, that’s up for sale, that has an open house, that has 100 people going through on Saturday, costs more than you want to pay.
I get it.
But when you show up, looking for a fight, what purpose does that serve?
Picture the person that walks into the open house, seeks out the agent, and says, “So, is this priced for one of those goddam bidding wars?”
The person already knows the answer. He or she is just looking for a confrontation.
I see this more than you’d think, and call me naive, but I see no real end game.
This point isn’t like #1 above, where it’s not up for debate. You’re free to give attitude to the listing agent if you want to, and you can take out all your inner demons and market frustrations if you want. I just don’t see the value.
7) “Trying Out” The Features
The house you’re touring is somebody’s home.
It’s not Sleep Country Canada.
You’re looking at the house, not the bed.
Do you know how many times I see people do the turn-around, raise arms to the side, fall-backwards on the bed?
Have we, as a society, lost all social understanding? Why would a person think this is a reasonable action?
I’m not saying you can’t sit down on the living room chair to tie your shoes as you leave the open house.
But use common sense, which continues to be the theme here.
I’ve seen people take their shoes and socks off, sit down on the edge of the pool, and put their feet in the water.
If you’re a guest at a pool party, there’s no issue here. But what makes a person think this is a normal course of action at an open house?
Open the kitchen cupboards, no problem. Maybe you’re being nosey, but under the guise of, “I want to see what kind of storage space this kitchen has,” you can get away with it.
Open the top drawer to the dresser, and you can’t get away with it.
You’re looking for panties.
There’s no other explanation. You want to see if the woman pictured in the photo on the wall is a size small, medium, or large, and what style she prefers. You want to know the colours, and cut.
You want to know if the master of the house wears standard white jockey briefs, or if he has Andrew Christian fully stocked. Is there, or isn’t there a “pouch” adorning the front of these undergarments? Pray-tell!
You opened the drawer on the nightstand, next to the bed, for a reason. You weren’t looking to see if there was a copy of the home inspection in there. You wanted to know if they use a higher-end, water soluble personal lubricant, or if they’re unimaginative, and just buy KY at Pharma Plus.
We know where this could end up, if I went on.
And we know that this happens at open houses, and just how offside it is.
Kids are an essential part of the open house process, no doubt about it.
For starters, many buyers have kids with them on weekends, and can’t get to an open house without their kids. I get it. There’s no “open house daycare” available for parents to utilize so they can attend open houses alone.
And secondly, kids will be moving into the house eventually, so some parents want to get the kids in there as part of the search process. I get that too. I don’t know how much “say” the kids will have, but that’s up to the parents.
However, as many of you can imagine, many buyers suffer from a lack of understanding of Point #1 above, in that they fail to realize this is somebody’s house, and they let their kids run amok. See Point #3 as well.
I’ve personally witnessed buyers come in, with three kids in tow, and say, “Okay guys, go have a look!” and encourage their children to run around, unsupervised.
I’ve witnessed parents say, “Go play hide-and-seek with your brother!”
I’m sorry guys, but as per Point #1, attending an open house is a privilege, not a right. And if you want your kids to play hide-and-seek, then take them to a park, or an indoor play. Don’t take them to an open house.
Now some parents take their kids to open houses instead of taking them to an indoor play, ie. as an activity, or an outing. I’ve seen parents tell their kids, “Go take a feature sheet!” I’m not cheap; I have a couple hundred thousand dollars per year in expenses, but it’s the principle behind seeing a woman tell her kids to take “one of each” of the feature sheet, floor plan, home inspection summary, area amenities, and MLS listing that bothers me. I’m also not an environmentalist (although I did proudly switch from plastic water bottles to a metal thermos this year), but I hate to see three kids take a combined 48 pieces of paper, and know that this is going in the trash within an hour.
Last but not least, many parents take their kids to open houses to feed them lunch.
Yes, we know many open houses serve lunch – especially the agent open houses, which are during weekdays from 11am to 1pm. I can’t tell you how many parents show up and tell their kids, “Run and grab a sandwich.” It’s the same point as above; I’m not cheap, I just don’t like the false pretenses of attending an open house to feed your children.
You all knew this was coming, right?
In fact, many of you would have led with this point.
What is the etiquette about using the toilet at an open house?
It’s sort of a double-edged sword. Not one of you wants the public using your toilet when your home is for sale, but many of you feel it’s not an issue if you’re attending an open house, or you’re on a showing, and you need to use the toilet.
Then many of you suggest that using the toilet all depends on………you know………the specific use.
I’ve seen everything there is to see when it comes to this topic.
January of 2013, I wrote this blog: “The Worst Thing That’s Ever Happened.”
I can’t give you the Coles Notes on this one. Just read it.
But ask every agent, and they’ll tell you a story about an open house, and a toilet.
One I don’t think I’ve ever had occasion to tell before – it was one of my first open houses ever, back in 2004, around Victoria Park & Lawrence. A woman walked up the front steps, and said, verbatim, “Do you mind if I use your bathroom? I just ate a shi!t ton of chilli.”
Folks, on my life. Word for word.
It’s so insane, that you just can’t make it up. At first, I thought it had to be a joke. I thought it was a test, either from the listing agent, or somebody at my brokerage. It was just nuts! I mean, chilli? Really?
But every real estate agent has a story like that one, probably more.
And yet no two people can agree on what the etiquette is on toilets at an open house, or a showing. You have all used the toilet, for #1, at a showing before. Don’t tell me you haven’t…
So there you have it, excuse the lack of brevity.
Let me know which points you agree on, and which you don’t.
And if I’ve missed anything, or more importantly – if you want to know if something is offside or not, ask the question in the comments below.