A New Perspective: The etiquette of open houses | Real Estate Advice

The walls have ears — so do the listing agents. In other words — prospective buyers, take note: it helps your cause to make a good impression.

The personal stories of one Realtor’s battles and triumphs in the highly-competitive Bay Area Real Estate Market, seeking to illuminate and humanize the very real ups-and-downs of homeownership.

You wouldn’t necessarily know it from our reputations as scrappy, gritty, enthusiastic salespeople, but Realtors actually employ a great deal of etiquette when it comes to the art of the deal. Knowing that we’ll likely be facing one another time and again, the savvy Realtor makes a habit of being respectful to their colleagues, texting when they are showing a property, and keeping the appropriate parties informed as to whether they’ll be submitting an offer or not.

Having sold hundreds of homes at this point in the game, I believe “secret” Agents should be left to the world of James Bond . . .(Although he wasn’t so secret, come to think of it. “Bond, James Bond.” What kind of international spy introduces himself?) As a rule, Agents don’t like covert operators. We want to know one’s intentions, and that’s true for Buyers as well.

That being said, there’s a right and a wrong way to declare your interest. With Covid having forced so many Buyers underground for the last few years, prospective Buyers need to dust off . . . well, their dust, and better understand the impressions they make when walking through an Open House.

“This place needs a LOT of work!”
“Wow, that pest report was shockingly high!”
“Was everything done with permits?”

Just to be clear, I’m not saying these aren’t completely reasonable and valid questions or comments; they are. It’s just that you want to save them for your Agent – not the Sellers’ Agent, and NOT at the Sunday Open House within earshot of  other guests (thank you very much).

If we proceed with the understanding that nearly every property is going to receive multiple offers, it behooves Buyers to understand that Sellers are far more likely to choose the Buyer that raved about their house, as opposed to the one who picked it apart, especially in front of others.

With that in mind, here are the DOs and DON’Ts of Open House etiquette:
  • DO introduce yourself to the Agent manning the Open House.
  • DO identify your Buyer’s Agent.
  • DO openly admire the home (even if you’re on the fence).
  • DO spend enough time there to get a general overview. (It may be your only opportunity.)
  • DO tour the neighborhood at different times of the day.
  • DO have a cookie (they’re homemade!)
  • DON’T arrive with a highlighted disclosure package and tons of questions. (This isn’t a deposition.)
  • DON’T grill the Agent about the home, pest, or sewer lateral report at the Sunday Open (Let your Agent do that later.)
  • DON’T pitch a tent at the Open House and outstay your welcome. (Agents need to be available to speak with others.)
  • DON’T loudly make negative comments about the house in an effort to downplay the property to others. (It makes Agents defensive, and it never works in your favor.)
  • DO thank the Agent on your way out. (Final impressions count.)

​Forget about the contingency-free offer carrying the day. (They’re ALL contingency-free.) When Buyers walk through a house, they should understand that they are essentially auditioning, and should know that the Agent is listening AND watching their body language. The last thing we want a Seller to do is to get into a deal with anyone who is contentious, worried, anxious, or fearful. (Agents don’t want that combo either.)

Who guides the Sellers?

The Agents do, which is why we send up warning flags when we get the “heebie-jeebies”(that’s a technical term.) with respect to problematic Buyers, In fact, we feel just as strongly about Agents that fail to follow our instructions, submit sloppy offers, or jump the line. Unfortunately, there are a lot of new Agents out there with very little training. (Please get some.) In short, selling a house can be a virtual mine field. Better to navigate the course with experienced Buyers and Agents who understand the rocky terrain and are prepared to act in good faith and with good speed.

Regardless of what you believe, experienced Agents aren’t looking for an adversarial relationship, but one of collaboration. We know that a win-win plays out best in the long run for everyone involved. So be polite, be engaged, and be respectful. That’s just common courtesy.

How can we help you?

Julie Gardner & Sarah Abel | Compass Realty

Not just Realtors, but consultants in all things house and home, we’re here to educate, explore, examine and refer . . . In short, you may count on us to take care of your home as if it were our own and anyone who knows us, knows we take pretty darn good care of our homes.

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