“Professional Open-Housers”


4 minute read

October 4, 2007

Are you bored?

Do you not have anything to do with your Saturday or Sunday afternoons?

Why not grab a friend, make up a couple of fake names, and take up the hobby known as “open-housing”….


I’m not trying to sound like a jerk when I complain about these “professional-open-housers,” it’s just that more often than not, they feel like it is their right to be there.

Let me explain.

When I hold an open house, its intention is to showcase the property I’m trying to sell to the pool of potential buyers, and do so at the most convenient time.  The average person works Monday-Friday, 9-to-5, so it makes sense that holding an open house on Saturday and Sunday 2-4PM would suit most people.

But many people make it their “hobby” to view as many open houses as possible on the weekends, with absolutely no intention of buying.  If you’re in the market to buy or sell, or think you will be one day, fine!  I have no issues with anybody who is genuinely interested, or, becoming interested-in, real estate.  It’s the people that substitute gardening, photography, online-poker, bike-riding, or painting with going to public open houses that bother me.

I have a hobby, several in fact.  When I was a kid, I collected sports cards.

But my hobbies never interfered with other people’s work, invaded the privacy of others, and they sure didn’t waste people’s time.

Take last weekend, for example.  I’m working an open house in North Toronto, and the door opens and I see a mother and a daughter.  Right away, I know they are professional-open-housers, or “tire-kickers” as they are also quite affectionately known.  They give a very sheepish “hello,” and try not to make direct eye contact.  Their goal is to get through the front door and avoid my sales pitch (I’m not a pushy sales agent, but most people just assume this), and head upstairs, downstairs, or to the backyard without having to talk to me.

I introduce myself and shake their hands, but they don’t give their names.  They don’t want anything to do with me, they just want to see the house.  Now, I’m not asking a lot, I just know that if a sincere buyer were to show up, he or she would have no problem saying hello and introducing him or herself, and maybe….ya know…..talking about the house that’s for sale!!

These two women, who I assume use their hobby to do some mother/daughter bonding, spent twice as long in the house as any other people who showed up that day.

What do they do in there?


That’s right—they look at family photos, they see what people have in their cupboards and in their medicine cabinets.  They want to see how other people live.  Maybe this house is better than theirs, or maybe, just maybe it’s even WORSE!  They want to catch a glimpse of the high society, or they want to revel in the squalor that other people are forced to live in!

This gives them fulfillment, and it makes me very upset.

They look for decorating tips, or what new kitchen appliances people are buying these days.  They compare paint colors with that of their own house, and look for original features of the house such as stained glass, gumwood trim, or leaded windows—something they might see on HGTV.

The part that gets me the most is that they think it is their right to be there.  They assume the OPEN HOUSE sign is an engraved invitation for them.

A few months back, I actually called somebody on this.  Another mother/daughter team came inside, and I let them do their thing.  The open house was quite dead, so it was hard not to notice when they spent ten full minutes upstairs.  Ordinarily, I wouldn’t say anything to these people, but when the mother took two feature sheets, and then asked “Don’t you have any of these in COLOR,” I lost it.

I asked this lady, “Is this for your scrapbook?”  Her jaw dropped.

“What is that supposed to mean?” she asked.

I began, “Do you mind if I come over to your house later and root through your sock drawer?  Seriously, I want to know if you keep socks with holes in the bottom or ones where the elastics are all worn out.”

She would have made a terrible poker player.  She went through four different facial expressions as she figured out what angle to play and what excuse to use.  She explained that she was looking for a house in this neighborhood, and I explained that I can give you a stranger’s life story within five minutes of meeting the person, so it didn’t take much to see that she and her daughter were just stopping in at one of the many open houses they planned on seeing that day.

The daughter looked like she had been caught red-handed, and sort of motioned to the mother to leave.  But the mother wanted to have words with me, so what could I do?

“You know, young man, your sign outside says ‘Open House.’  So don’t pretend like I’m doing anything out of line by coming inside here and having my fair look like anybody else.”

That’s what really gets me.  She makes it sound like it’s her God-given right to be there.  She has no respect for the privacy of the person trying to sell his or her house.

It’s really unfortunate that her life is so mundane that she needs to have a virtual window into the lives of others to keep her motor running.

I just hope that one day, when it comes time for that lady to sell her own house, she opens her door to the general public and absolutely ANYBODY who wants to come inside.  And if what goes around truly does come around, perhaps she’ll come home at 4:05PM to find a complete nut-job has made his way upstairs to her bedroom and is standing in front of her full-length mirror, wearing her fur coat, hair-curlers, and a pair of her most expensive Manolo Blahniks…

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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1 Comment

  1. eastsidelady

    at 6:52 am

    Having sold 2 houses in my life so far, I can relate to the open house experience of strangers inspecting my house. Besides the mother/daughter day-trippers you described, there are neighbours & friends who want an intimate look into my family’s life & decorating style… the trophies & certificates, family photos & mementoes, and of course any decorating faux-pas…. C’mon David, you’re taking all the fun out of this fun and free pastime!

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