House-Hunting Etiquette

House Hunting Etiquette

When it comes time to start viewing homes, it is important that you leave a great first impression on the seller and their agent. Believe it or not, your actions during a showing just might be the deciding factor when it comes down to winning a contract, especially in a highly competitive sellers’ market.

When you hear the word “etiquette” you may only think about manners at the dinner table, but house hunting comes with some unwritten rules as well. Sellers have certain expectations for those touring their home. After all, it is still their property. We pulled together some of the most common “rules” for viewing homes to help set you up for success.

 DO: Stick to Your Budget & Be Serious

The first step in the home-buying process is obtaining a pre-approval. This lets you know how much of a home loan you can actually be approved for so that you can shop for homes within your real budget. It also lets a seller know that you are capable of obtaining financing in the event of an offer. 

This is important information to have when you begin viewing homes so that you can stick to touring homes you could actually be approved to purchase. From your real estate agent, to the seller (who likely spends time preparing for every showing), to yourself; looking at homes you can’t actually afford is a huge waste of everyone’s time. 

On that same note, you should only make showing appointments for homes that you are serious about. This doesn’t mean that you have to know that you want to put an offer in on the home before you view it, but you should only tour homes that you would seriously consider purchasing.

How much home can you afford?

DO: Be on Time for the Viewing

We mentioned first impressions, and nothing leaves a poor first impression like being late. Regardless of who is giving you the tour of the home, it is important that you arrive in a timely manner. In a competitive market, there may be multiple showings back to back and one late arrival throws off the whole schedule which can become problematic and frustrating.

DO: Leave Children at Home

While it is perfectly understandable that you may want to include your children in the home-buying process, we advise that you try to leave children (especially young children) home during the initial viewing. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Children often require a lot of your attention, and you really want to be able to spend undivided time with the home. Having distractions can cause you to miss important features of the home.
  • Children may not want to spend time in the home and might become restless. This is a huge decision and you want to be able to spend the time needed looking through the home.
  • Children are curious, and might accidentally open drawers and other areas of the home that the seller wishes to remain private (we’ll talk about this later).

If you should find that you must bring children, you should take extra care to ensure that they are respectful of the home that you are viewing. After all, you are guests in the home, and you don’t want problems to arise from your viewing should you decide that this home is “the one”.

DO: Remove Your Shoes at the Door (or Be Prepared to Cover Them)

Removing your shoes at the door might be a common courtesy in many cases, but you should also know that there are some cultures that require that shoes be removed. Many agents will provide disposable shoe covers or “booties” for those who tour the home to wear. If you are unsure, you can always ask your agent what to do.

DO: Respect the Seller’s Privacy

You are touring the home, and as we said earlier, this is a big decision. Of course, you need to be able to see the spaces of the home in order to decide if it is the one for you. When viewing a home it is perfectly acceptable to open all of the doors including bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, etc. You can also look inside any appliances that are staying with the home. 

What you should avoid, however, is more private personal areas such as dresser drawers, nightstands, and medicine cabinets. Occasionally, a seller might specify areas of the home (such as a safe room) containing personal information that they do not want to be viewed. You should respect this request.

DON’T: Cancel Last Minute

You should always give adequate notice if you must cancel a showing. Your agent is taking time out of their day, possibly driving long distances to meet you at the showing, and the sellers must make arrangements to leave the home, often bringing kids and pets with them. It can be very disruptive to coordinate just one showing. Nothing is more frustrating than going through all that just to find out that the potential buyer isn’t even coming. While unavoidable situations may arise, you should do everything you can to avoid a last-minute cancellation.

DON’T: Bring Food or Drinks

This might seem obvious, but it is worth pointing out. You do not want to risk dropping crumbs or spilling drinks on the surfaces of a home that isn’t yours. So, eat that snack and finish your coffee before the showing or save it for when you are done. You should never bring food or drinks into a home with you during a viewing.

Don't discuss more than you need to at a home viewing

DON’T: Discuss More Than You Have to During the Viewing

Take good notes, so that you can remember and discuss the home with your agent later on. These days, many homeowners have video doorbells and in-home security systems which often contain microphones. You might put yourself at a disadvantage if you discuss your thoughts on the home or your strategy for making an offer and the homeowner is listening in. You should always treat a viewing as if the seller and/or their agent can hear everything you say and see everything you do. Never trash talk the home or the seller while in or around the home as it could come back to haunt you later.

DON’T: Get Too Comfortable 

Of course, the sellers want you to be able to envision yourself living in their home, but that doesn't mean you should make yourself at home during a viewing. It is not yours (yet!). Don’t lay on the bed or kick up your feet on the recliner. As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t touch or use any of the personal belongings in the home. Unless it is an absolute emergency, you should avoid using the bathroom during a showing, and you should always check to make sure the water is on first. Should using the bathroom be unavoidable, you should be clean and leave it as you found it.

If you are serious about the home, it would be acceptable to flush the toilet and run the sinks to check the plumbing, but it is best to get the permission of the seller or listing broker before doing so.

In Conclusion

Following these simple tips will help you leave a great first impression and keep all parties happy. This could give you an edge when it comes to making an offer. The best thing you can do is to follow the Golden Rule - treat others as you would wish to be treated. As you tour homes, put yourself in the seller’s shoes when you consider how to behave during viewings. Be respectful of everyone’s time, privacy, and specific requests. Common courtesy just may help you win a contract!

Our local real estate experts have helped hundreds of people purchase homes in the Greater St. Louis area. Our division of responsibility and team concept allows every member to perfect their skills in their area of expertise, providing our clients with what we like to call "Simply Exceptional Service."

We would love the opportunity to help you not only navigate viewings, but the entire home-buying process. Purchasing a home should be an exciting time in your life, and we want to help take the stress out of the process with our expertise and guidance. Contact us today to let us know how we can help you find your perfect home!

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