What REALTORS® are really thinking during an open house

I was told soon after becoming a REALTOR® by an older, wiser colleague that she didn’t do open houses because they didn’t sell homes, they sold REALTORS®. I now believe this is true.

The theory is that someone who comes to see an open house isn’t usually interested in buying that particular house, but is at least thinking about buying another one, opening the door to picking up a new client.

In other words, open houses are like the REALTORS®’ Sunday afternoon equivalent of hanging around a bar, but with better lighting and no booze. And just like your local pub, there are rules of etiquette we hope everyone will follow. Here are the main ones:

1) Sign the Registration Log. Most of the time the registration logs I’ve dutifully asked buyers to sign have ended up so devoid of personal detail, they could have been redacted by CSIS.

I suppose buyers are afraid I’ll spam them with unwanted emails, call them relentlessly or show at their door unexpectedly. You’d think they’ve talked to my old boyfriends.

But without a proper sign-in sheet, completed accurately, the homeowner has no way of knowing who has been through their house, and they are entitled to that information.

Be considerate. Sign your real name; provide your phone number and email. You can’t really follow up with “Mickey Mouse,” can you?

2) If you’re a nosy neighbour, be discreet. Nosy neighbours are people who have never actually been inside their neighbours’ homes, despite living beside them for years, and they are dying to find out what they’re like. We’re fine with that: we don’t mind nosy neighbours at all.

What we don’t like are the neighbours who gossip loudly in front of prospective buyers about the raccoons that died in the attic and how long it took for the smell to go away.

If you think there are things we should know about the house, please do tell us! But, talk to us in private, first. We’ll deal with disclosure, thanks.

3) Don’t monopolize our time if you have no intention of ever buying anything.  Ah, the tire kickers. We have them at every open house; people who drop by with absolutely no intention of buying.

I had a tire kicker show up at an open house of mine several years after I’d met her at another one. She’d been going to open houses for years … so long that when I first met her, she was pregnant; the “baby” was now in second grade.

She opened the conversation by saying she and her husband had no plans to buy but she saw my sign and wanted to drop by to say “hi.” She stayed for at least half an hour and although it was great catching up on her life changes, I had dozens of other people going through I also needed to keep an eye on.

4) Leave your children (and pets) at home. An open house is not a Sunday at the park with the family: you are inside someone else’s home and you are a stranger.

Even the best behaved children may not understand why they cannot jump on the beds, open chests of drawers, pull toys off the shelf or practice potty training. Leave them at home if you can. If you can’t, bring something to keep them distracted so they don’t entertain themselves with the seller’s belongings. This is not a store where if you break it, you can buy it.

As for pets, I had someone get quite mad at me because I wouldn’t let them carry their small dog into an open house. I love dogs! But, I don’t even want to think about the potential liability, no matter how friendly and well-trained it is.

5) Do not move, open, use or photograph anything without permission. I’ve had people go through an open house and think it’s all right to open the owner’s chests of drawers and look through their belongings. It isn’t. You can look at anything that comes with the house but the owner’s personal belongings are out of bounds.

That goes for taking pictures, as well. Don’t assume it’s okay to take photographs of the interior of someone else’s home. Home owners have a right to privacy; they don’t give it up just because they agreed to hold an open house. If you’re not sure, ask.

6) Show up on time. It’s very common to have people show up after the open house has ended, asking to be let in.

I can’t speak for other REALTORS®, but when my open house is over, I’m tired. I’ve usually been tied up all day and am ready to get home, have something to eat and enjoy what’s left of my weekend.

If I’ve set an open house to end at 4:00 p.m., that’s when my seller’s permission for me to host it has ended, as well. We usually host open houses with a two hour window. If you miss it, call us; our numbers are on the sign. We’ll be happy to arrange a private viewing.

Peggy Blair is a sales representative with Royal LePage Team Realty in Ottawa. A former lawyer, she writes the bloopers column for REM Magazine and is the award-winning author of the Inspector Ramirez series published by Penguin Canada and Simon and Schuster Canada as well as internationally. Her most recent book, Hungry Ghosts, is now in bookstores.

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