What you need to know about Open Houses


20 things you need to know about Open Houses – Etiquette

First of all, why go to an Open House?  Isn’t it a hassle?  Actually, going to an open house is a very good idea for a lot of reasons.

It’s a great way to explore a neighbourhood, see the style of homes available.  Many exteriors are not what you’ll find inside.  A typical 80’s build may now be quite contemporary?    You can buy brick veneer for inteior walls (that looks historical and cool), and do almost anything to a room to change its style.   EVERYONE it seems is on Houzz and Pinterest and watches HGTV so keep that in mind because “Suburban”  doesn’t necessarily mean dated.  It’s a geographical location, not a style statement.  With the proliferation of companies leaving the core because office space is cheaper on the outskirts, means many people choose the suburbs for financial reasons.  Typically very smart people.  Even the clubs and cool restaurants are losing space to condos downtown and they are moving to the Villages in the near 905.   Follow your tribe!     Besides suburban/urban is now a bonifide old-school way of thinking. Outdated and not really that relevant anymore. Things have changed drastically due to increased prices in the core and many people working remotely rather than going to an office.    Many townies have moved to the burbs and maybe of your style mavens are here already.   Telling you what’s cool and the next ‘it’ thing to do and they do so from the comfort of their house or condo in the burbs.    It’s a fact and it’s way cheaper.

Last but not least its a good use of time during the search. Your agent may be running one of their own and not available to take you on the rounds that afternoon.  Houses that just listed, well get to these right away.  At least be able to Y’aye or Nay them by seeing them.   Open Houses are important sources of feedback for homeowners and for agents to evaluate demand in the market.  It’s not just about picking up buyers.  You can pack quite a few viewings in a 2 hours span that might take a couple days to do appointment by appointment.  As a Seller, you’ll come to value Open House feedback after each Open House.


An Open House is likely the best way to get a fuller idea of the property rather than relying on the photos.  Many photos (shockingly!) are still shot with wide-angle lenses so the room looks much larger than it should.   Also, the trend of Interior Design Vignettes seems to be growing more popular (Instagram style shots) and don’t really tell you about the rooms and what the flow of or the natural light is all about.  Go and see for yourself.  Get a feel for the space and don’t rely on photos.

You can check out the ‘buying competition’ in an area and have time with the listing agent who knows the home better than your buyer agent.  The listing agents know the house intimately.  Strike up a conversation and ask questions about the house and area.  You could find a gem!

OK, so you’re ready to embark.  What should you keep in mind?

Open House Etiquette:


#1:  Don’t park in the driveway and don’t block the open house sign for others to see.  It’s considered thoughtless.   Let the seller sell their home without you interfering in others knowing it’s open.

#2  You don’t have to knock on the door or ring the bell, they are expecting you.   Step in, remove your shoes, and put them in a place that doesn’t stop the door from closing. If it’s raining, or wintery, keep your wet shoes off the hardwood floors.

#3 If the agent isn’t right there to greet you, then offer a “hello!” as they may be showing the home to others, or just in another room.   Check-in, it’s someone’s home not a retail store where you can wander at will.

#4  Sign in.   You can always tell the agent not to put you on any mailing lists.  They are NOT supposed to anyway,  without your permission.  Be polite about it. They are there to ensure the safety of the home and network with those that have questions.   The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) advises agents to view your ID.  How would it feel to have 20 people you don’t know,  just wander around your home.   See this step from the seller’s point of view.

#5  Agents do NOT have to let you see the home.  If you are inhospitable, aggressive or rude, they are within their rights to refuse you access.  They are charged with looking after the homeowners home.

#6  Let them know if you have an agent and ask if you can use that info on the sign in.  Be honest and friendly.  It’s an Open House and the agent is there to ensure the safety of the home.   Both of you are people first and foremost.  Be respectful.

#7 If you’re not an active buyer, that’s ok too.  Most people who are going to sell a home, start their research months before they are ready and realtors know this very well.  It’s also a good time to interview agents and see how they run an open house on your behalf.    (Agents know this too).

#8 Don’t corner the agent or interject if they are speaking with someone.  That’s rude regardless of the situation.    If they’re busy, stand nearby and browse the brochure.  They will try to wrap up their discussion to speak with you.  Perhaps revisit the next room and come back…   it’s also ok to join a conversation if it’s already in progress and the conversation is ‘general’ in nature, (questions about the house).

#9 Set aside any stereotypical feelings you may have toward agents.  Most agents are professionals and the old Glengarry Glenross or Mad Men types are becoming the rarity.  Having a nice light-hearted conversation provides an additional edge over other buyers if you end up in an offer.  You don’t need to tell your life story or all your search details, but conversing politely is expected in our society.

#10 If you are in love with the place, keep it to yourself.  Overt interest may be noticed by another buyer who may adjust their strategy if they know you are going to offer on the house too.

Things to be aware of:

#11  You may be recorded without the Open House Agent even knowing.  Keep heavy critique or your OPINION about styling or possessions to yourself.    Alternatively making it known,   We’ve found it!  might be caught on camera.  If I was a homeowner I’d bargain harder with those types!   You would too!

#12 You can open anything EXCEPT dresser drawers etc.  Opening and peering into closets and cupboards is normal but this is not an “All-access Backstage Pass”   You need to see storage capabilities of the home, but it’s not ok to go rifling through cupboards, or (gasp!)  remove items for a deeper look.   Default to always asking permission.  Do NOT open the medicine cupboard.  No home was ever rejected based on a medicine cabinet, like ever.  Don’t be that person.

#13 Taking Photos/videos is a big NO! No!.  This is somebody else’s private home, not a furniture showroom, so respect their privacy.  The agent has taken photos and provided them on the brochure for you.

#14 Don’t use the washroom without asking.  It’s not a public bathroom.  How would you feel?

#15 Don’t overstay your welcome.  If the Open home closes at 4pm, be mindful of the time. The seller usually vacates the house so potential buyers feel comfortable enough to ask pointed questions.  They are typically waiting to come home.


#16 Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions.  The lowest price a seller will go and their motivation for moving are two questions the agent is NOT ALLOWED to answer.  Not sure who’s checklist on the internet that went on but it made the rounds by mistake.   It can’t be disclosed because it could affect negotiations. The agent is there to act in the best interest of the seller not the best interest of a would-be buyer.  They are fulfilling their legal duty to the seller.

#17 Focus on the property, not the styling.  If you don’t like the paint colour that’s a $42 fix and makes you look silly when you bring it up.  Again, the big ticket item is the house.  You aren’t buying their furniture or décor items, you are buying the house or condo.

#18.  Don’t lounge on their furniture and don’t let your children jump or lay on beds, handle toys belonging to the seller’s child.  It’s absolutely not OK for a child to run unattended at the Open House.   It’s not ok to eat the fruit from the fruit bowl or help yourself to things in the fridge.

At an Open House, the old saying:  “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” is the etiquette.   If the property didn’t meet your expectations, save that conversation for a private chat in your vehicle.  It’s ok to mention what didn’t work for your criteria, but this is not an episode of Judge Judy.

#19 Check in with the agent to give them feedback before you leave.  It’s very rude to just slip out of the house and frankly makes you look like a skulking thief (to be blunt).   The homeowners have let you through their home, your duty is to leave constructive feedback about the home.  It’s not a design critique.

Reminder:  All the lights are turned on for the open house so when you leave a room, leave them on.  Leave the doors to rooms open too.  Respect locked doors.

#20   –  Don’t bring your pets.  That is a complete and total no-no.  Even if it’s in your purse.  Guide animals are different, but that should be arranged during a proper showing because the homeowners may be allergic to your animal.