It’s April, which means the spring real estate market is kicking into high gear. Lots of buyers and sellers wait until the spring to list their home or start their house hunting. With the market — and showings — at their peak in the next two months, we thought we’d share our top tips for house hunting etiquette.
We’ve learned over the years that following these basic rules of house hunting etiquette goes a long way in making sellers and their agents happy (and more inclined to accept YOUR offer). So here are our top DO’s and DON’Ts for house hunting etiquette this spring.
House hunting do’s
Know Your Budget. This one is essential. Take the time to get pre-approved for a mortgage before heading out. It does not help you to see homes you cannot afford. Stick to your budget.
Be On Time. This almost goes without saying but remember to be respectful of everyone’s time – your Realtor’s, the homeowners, the seller’s agent, as well as your own. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to set up showings and coordinate multiple schedules.
Leave the Kids at Home. When you get close to settling on “the” home, we will absolutely go back for a visit with the kids. However, when you are just starting out and touring homes and neighborhoods for the first time, line up a sitter. Doing so will allow you and your Realtor focus better and cover more ground.
Be Open to Going Shoeless. Most sellers won’t require you to take off your shoes, but be prepared. Leave the lace up shoes at home and wear slips ons.
Be Respectful of The Sellers’ Privacy. While opening closets and cabinets to check out the space is generally fine, avoid opening dresser drawers or examining family photos on the walls.
Mum’s The Word. As mom always said, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” This rule holds true when house hunting as well. The sellers may be within earshot (hello, nanny cams!) and you don’t want to offend them, especially if it’s a house you’re seriously considering. This goes the other way as well. If you love the house, play it cool. You wouldn’t want to tip your hand before the negotiations. Wait until you’re in the car with your Realtor to share your thoughts.
Take Lots of Notes. Be sure you take plenty of notes on the homes you are touring so you can debrief with your Realtor and any other decision-makers at the end of the day. Always ask permission (from one of the agents or the homeowner if they are present) if you want to take any photos of the home.
House hunting don’t’s
Look at Listings Above Your Budget. Doing so wastes everyone’s time and energy, from your agent to the sellers’ agent to the homeowners, who likely spend a fair amount a time preparing for each showing. Plus, seeing homes you cannot afford to purchase generally sets up unrealistic expectations in what you can purchase (and makes those you can seem like a let down).
Ask To Go Out Last Minute. 24 hours’ notice is typically best, especially when touring homes that are still occupied. We will always try to see what we can set up, but if you know you want to see a property, please give as much notice as possible to increase chances we can get in to see it.
Cancel at the Last Minute. On the flip side, don’t cancel on a whim. Your Realtor (and the seller) has done a great deal of legwork to set up your tour – coordinating the showings, mapping out a route. It takes more time to undo it all. So unless a true emergency, please don’t cancel on your agent at the 11th hour.
Block Access. This one is pretty common sense, don’t block the driveway or box in another car when parking at a house you are touring.
Bring Food or Drink into a Home You Are Touring. Again, it is common sense, but let’s avoid any risk of spilling a latte on the white carpet.
Bring an Entourage. Try to keep your group to no more than two or three. If your parents are coming to town and you want to go back to a property you are considering, we are always happy to accommodate. But try not to have visitors or casual friends tag along on your initial tours.
Go Solo. Once you have signed with a Realtor, do not tour any properties without your agent. It’s fine to attend Open Houses on your own, but always let the listing agent know you are working with a Realtor. Also, when in the home, stay with your Realtor while touring. Avoid wandering off on your own or letting your kids run around in the house.
Make Yourself at Home. This is not your home (yet). Please don’t stretch out on any sofas or beds or test out any recliners in homes you are touring. Likewise, please don’t let your kids grab items in the home or attempt to play the piano (we’ve seen it before!) or with toys around the house. This should also be an obvious one, but please don’t take anything from the home other than listing materials. You should also avoid using the home’s bathroom unless it’s a true emergency.
Don’t Stay TOO Long. Generally, unless a home is very large (or small), 30 minutes is plenty of time for a showing. Spending two hours there on an initial visit is not necessary and generally frowned upon by all. Also, avoid multiple visits without taking any action.
Show the Love. Do NOT tell the seller’s Realtor or the agent holding the open how much you love the home. You don’t want to tip your hand to the listing agent in any way.
The Bottom Line: Follow this basic house hunting etiquette to keep all parties happy. Follow the Golden Rule – treat others in the process as you would wish to be treated. Respect everyone’s time, privacy and requests. Trust us, agents prefer to work with other agents and homebuyers who are respectful and considerate.
If we can help you find our dream home this spring, please reach out. We are always happy to help.
The Goodhart Group is McEnearney Associates’ top-producing team. In 2016, they helped 120 clients achieve their real estate goals. Led by Sue & Allison Goodhart, they have been named a Top Agent by both Washingtonian and Northern Virginia magazines. The Goodhart Group can be reached at 703-362-3221 or email@example.com.