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Open house etiquette for buyers

By Addy Whitburn

Open houses are part and parcel of property hunting, but not everyone understands there’s an etiquette to these inspections. 

No one wants to buy a lemon, so a certain amount of prodding and poking is only to be expected. But how much is too much?

Can you walk straight in? Do you need ID? What should you wear? What should you ask? Is it ok to open cupboards? We answer all these questions and more.

What you can do at an open house

Jane Schumann, an associate director with Raine & Horne Double Bay, explains what would-be buyers can do when they attend an open house.

1. Ask questions

The agent is there to sell the property, so ask as many questions as you like, Schumann says. Also feel free to call the agent after the open house if you have additional questions. Common questions that buyers ask include:

  • has the property been renovated?
  • why are the owners selling?
  • have you received any offers for the property?
  • are big developments planned nearby?
  • how long has the property been on the market?
  • are there any known issues with the property, the land or the neighbours’ properties?

2. Check if anything is broken or squeaks

It’s totally okay to open kitchen cupboards, check the pressure on a tap, or see if the shed door squeaks, according to Schumann. And as long as you’re polite about it, it’s also fine to use a tape measure to check dimensions.

3. Take photos or video, with permission

While online listings include more photos, video and floor plans than ever before, it’s generally considered acceptable for would-be buyers to take photos or videos at an open house. But make sure you check with the agent before doing so, just to be safe.

4. Make yourself at home, within reason

When thinking about buying a property, it’s natural to want to know how it “feels”, so feel free to sit down on the couch or at the kitchen counter, Schumann says.

But jumping on the bed is definitely off limits.

5. Wear what you’re comfortable in

Ever wondered “what should I wear to an open house?” Well, don’t worry.

Schumann says buyers shouldn’t be concerned about what they’re wearing, especially as most opens are held at weekends, when people are in relax mode.

What you shouldn’t do at an open house

What you shouldn’t do at an open house generally comes down to basic manners.

1. Loudly criticise the property

“It’s normal to find flaws in a property when you inspect it, but it’s rude to walk around loudly criticising everything you see,” Schumann says.

Instead, call the agent after the open to discuss any issues.

2. Bring coffee or go barefoot

It’s common courtesy not to bring drinks into a home which could make a mess if dropped, Schumann says. And even when inspecting a beachside property, it’s not appropriate to rock up barefoot, either.

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3. Bring kids with muddy sports shoes

Open houses are often held on Saturdays and families with busy lives may fit them in between other commitments. “But please, don’t let kids in muddy boots come through a house; consider the owners,” Schumann says.

4. Snoop

There’s a difference between taking a quick look at how deep a bathroom cupboard is and being a sticky-beak, going through someone’s personal possessions.

While it should go without saying: don’t snoop.

5. Be rude

The best way to build rapport with an agent is to be polite, Schumann says. “You do get some people that are rude for different reasons, but the agent is there doing a job for the owner, so the best approach is to be polite and communicate with the agent.”

What about ID?

Schumann says there’s no legal requirement in Australia to provide ID when attending an open house, but many agents ask potential buyers to sign a log when they enter, rather than just walk in.

“A good agency will have more than one agent at an open house, so you should be greeted at the door. It is somebody’s home, so we ask for people to sign in and provide a contact number,” she says.

“If you don’t want a follow-up phone call from the agent, simply say that on the day.”

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