11 Things You Should Never Ever Do at an Open House
Open houses can be exciting, no matter whether you’re actively house-hunting or just a nosy Nellie. These events offer a pressure-free (okay, mostly pressure-free) way to scout out any homes on your radar—and maybe even find your dream space. But staying on your best behavior at an open house is paramount: After all, the seller’s agent is right there. Act like a loon and they’ll pass on the memo to their client, who may decide not to accept your offer. Keep yourself from self-sabotaging your chance at that dream home by avoiding these 11 open-house behaviors scream that “Trouble!” to realtors.
1. Put in an offer.
But that’s what open houses are for, right? Not so much, says Svetlana Choi, an agent with Warburg Realty in New York City. Even if the open house is clearly full of eager beavers, hold your bid.
“If potential buyers are seriously interested and see a lot of activity at an open house, they need to be discreet when inquiring whether there are offers,” Svetlana says. “A buyer should never enter into negotiations at an open house.”
Instead, step out of the house for a chat with your agent—ideally out of earshot of any other potential bidders. Stop at a nearby coffee shop or brewery to pull together the details. Your agent will help you remain cautious, yet competitive.
Are your kids enrolled in the school just down the block? Shh. Are you on a short lease? Shh! Agents may ask prying questions designed to get these answers. Stay silent and don’t share anything that will put you at a disadvantage.
“I’m collecting this data on you to bring to my clients in the negotiation,” says Tommy Choi, the president-elect of the Chicago Association of Realtors. “If our listing is at $500,000 and you’ve told us you’re pre-approved for up to $600,000, I’m going to tell my sellers to dig in their heels. We know you can afford way more.”
3. Show too much excitement.
“Yes!,” you might be thinking, “This is the perfect space for me.”
But keep those thoughts to yourself: “I want my buyers to be excited about the prospect of the apartment we’re seeing,” says Josh Heyer, an agent with Triplemint real estate in Manhattan, “but reacting emotionally and showing too much excitement in front of the seller’s agent reduces our leverage in negotiation. Keep your cards close to your chest.”
Think of buying a home like you’re playing a game of chess: You don’t want to tip off your next move. Getting a great deal becomes harder when the sellers know you’re pumped. They’ll be more likely to push upward on the price—leaving you spending more for a place you adore.
4. Leave your shoes on.
“It’s good form and arguably respectful to take the time to remove your shoes when viewing an open house,” says Lance Marrs, a broker in Portland, Oregon. Doing so will show the agent you respect the property—and give you a small edge up against other buyers.
5. Ply the agent with too many questions.
There’s a lot of value in asking the right questions—but don’t nag the showing agent, especially if there are sheets available listing the home’s details. (And at most open houses, there will be.)
“Asking a million questions, especially if it’s a competitive situation, will telegraph that you are difficult and fussy,” says Lyssa Seward, a realtor based in Alexandria, Virginia. Yes, you have a right to know the property’s detail—but have your agent talk to the selling agent. You’ll get the same result without looking overbearing.
6. Succumb to shyness.
Don’t ask too many questions, but also but don’t ask no questions at all. Yes, skip the obvious or overbearing— but feel free to ask the agent important questions that could affect your decision.
“Asking about the condition of the roof or the appliance isn’t coming across as confrontational or rude,” says Tommy. “You’re making a significant investment.”
7. Rush through.
You may have 20 properties to get through, but don’t rush. Give each property the time and attention it deserves.
“Rushing through open houses can be viewed as disrespectful, so whether you are interested or not, slow down and take a little extra time to take it all in, ” says Marrs.
8. Use the bathroom.
Nothing ruins the mood the showing agent has carefully constructed more than a loud, stinky flush. Go to a coffee shop if you’re desperate.
“Potential buyers should never use the bathroom at an open house,” says Collette Rabba, an Ontario-based realtor. “Some agents have started taping the toilets closed because it makes them look bad when the sellers come home to find an unflushed turd. It’s really not cool, even if your kid is desperate. Don’t do it.”
9. Be too boisterous or rude.
It’s not just the house that’s on display at the open house: You are too, says Svetlana.
“Potential buyers should not appear overbearing, impatient, and loud,” she says. Agents will relay buyer behavior to the seller, and if they’re put off by your boisterous attitude or lack of manners, they may recommend not accepting your offer.
Plus, some building co-ops actually require the agent’s input during the approval process, Svetlana says. Even if the seller overrides their concerns, the board may not be so inclined.
10. Critique the home.
You won’t love everything you see. Some homes are slathered in a terrible paint job, and others have weed-ridden yards. And who possibly thought that half-wall between the toilet and a shower was a good idea? No matter how incisive and intelligent your comments may be, keep them to yourself.
“Hold off on vocal critique during an open house,” Heyer says. “The seller’s agent could very easily have a close relationship with the seller or be the seller themselves.” In this case, you’re just being rude. The agent may also represent another home that you do end up loving and your critique could turn off the agent to a future offer. “It’s better to be safe than sorry,” he says.
11. Leave your children unmanned.
Doing the open-house circuit in the summer when little Timmy’s off school may be the only time you have. But if your children can’t behave themselves, you must leave them at home.
“Having children unattended at an open house is a no-no,” says Pat Vosburgh, a Saint Petersburg, Florida-based realtor. Don’t make unruly kids another worry for the poor showing agent. “Keeping kids under control is a must. If they break anything there can be problems and issues.”
After all, your goal is to look good so the sellers accept your offer. If the agent only remembers you as “the family with kids who could not stay quiet,” your bid may be destined to fail.