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Open House Etiquette for Home Buyers

Open House Do's and Don'ts

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Open House

One standard of open house etiquette says you don't have to knock before entering.

© Elizabeth Weintraub
A favorite pastime of many people -- whether in the market to buy a home or simply curious -- is to attend a Sunday Open House. In fact, checking out open houses is almost a religious experience in California. Everybody goes to open houses.

If you're wondering about the proper open house etiquette or have questions about the role of the agent holding the house open, here are suggestions to help make your open house visit productive.

Agent Roles at Open Houses

Because not all real estate agents host open houses in the same manner, you can't always be certain who will answer the door. Could be the listing agent, a neighbor, a buyer's agent or even the seller. One thing is for certain. You do not need to ring the door bell or knock, unless there is a sign posted instructing you to do so. Open the door and walk in. If you don't see an agent, call out "hello," just in case the agent is, um, otherwise occupied in a private room.

Here are types of agents you may encounter:

  • Standing at the front door to greet you. This type of agent will shake your hand, introduce himself or herself, get your name, hand you a flyer and say, "Go on through at your own pace." The agent might even follow you to point out features and answer questions you didn't realize you had.

  • In the driveway, asleep behind the wheel of her car. This agent might leave the door ajar and never get up to greet you. Free free to go inside anyway. Make a note of the agent's name and promise yourself you will never call this company nor the agent.

  • Reading a book in another room. The non-engaging type agent will say, "There is information on the counter. If you have any questions, let me know." Generally, this is an agent who didn't really want to hold open the home but is doing it so she can tell her seller she did.

Is the Open House Agent the Listing Agent?

The best way to find out if the agent holding the open is the listing agent is to ask. You can't always count on the fact that the agent's name will be on the For Sale sign or that the agent will be wearing a name badge. Sometimes two agents co-list a home. If you buy through this agent, and your state allows it, you could find yourself in dual agency.

More often than not, the agent holding the listing open will not be the listing agent but an associate agent. This agent will be hoping to represent a buyer to buy that home or, for that matter, any other home.

Open House Home Buyers With Agent Representation

If you are already working with an agent, you should pass on this information to the agent hosting the open. Realtors are required to ask buyers if the buyer is working with another agent, but sometimes they have a memory lapse.

The easiest way to inform the agent you meet that you are working with another agent is to walk in with your agent's card in hand. Just give it to the other agent and say, "This is my agent." Armed with this information, the agent at the home will not try to solicit you.

Open House Home Buyers Without Agent Representation

If you have not yet decided on an agent, let the agent at the home know that you are still shopping for a buyer's agent. Maybe you will want to interview the agent to determine if you want to work with that person. Ask the tough questions to get the right answers.

Open houses are a good way to find an agent because you will meet face-to-face. You can witness the agent in action as well.

Open House Buyers Who Stop on a Whim

Often, buyers will drop in on an open house simply because it is open. Maybe it's a home that you've often admired on that street and are curious to see what it looks like inside. If that's the case, just tell the agent you have no inclination to buy. You can still tour the home. And who knows, more than one person has decided to buy a home because they unexpectedly and immediately fell in love with the house.

Neighbors Who Visit Open Houses

You might think the agent doesn't want you to come to the open house if you are a neighbor, but actually, the agent would love to show the home and get your feedback. Neighbors are a great source of information. In addition, you might have a friend or coworker who could be interested in the home. So don't feel embarrassed to admit to the agent that you are "a neighbor from down the street."

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.

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