Etiquette is defined as a customary code of polite behavior in social and professional settings – the behavior exhibited in interactions with family, friends, coworkers or strangers. When looking for a home, it is easy to get swept up in the emotion and excitement, and in some cases the frustration of the process. This can easily lead to overlooking the unwritten rules of the etiquette-based kind. And yes, as with most any social or professional interaction, real estate is no exception.
Here are some basic Do's and Don'ts in regard to home search etiquette.
Know your budget: It is no help to anyone, especially to a buyer, to be looking at properties that they cannot afford. Take the time to get the mortgage pre-approval prior to beginning to look at properties. This runs in line with not asking a real estate professional to show you homes that you do not intend to buy or are beyond the budget and capability of buying. Doing so wastes the seller's time in prepping the home to show, the realtor's time and ultimately the buyer's time.
Be on time: There is a lot that goes into scheduling multiple showings and there are multiple parties involved in making the showing happen. Being on time is not only a demonstration of respect for everyone's time, but it also ensures a buyer ample time to view the property.
Respect the seller's privacy: When viewing a property, it is not a carte-blanche invitation to look into every drawer—particularly bathroom and closet drawers. Opening closets and kitchen cabinets to get a general feeling of the space is fine but moving things around and touching the seller's personal belongings is not OK. Remember that the property tour is to get the general idea of the space, not to gawk at family photos on the wall or admire one's fashion sense from the clothes in the closet.
Mum's the word: In the age of technology, it has become more common than not for homeowners to have external and internal camera security systems set up or to have audio recording set up in the house. It is best to follow the "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" rule. And that includes standing by the front door. The last thing a buyer or real estate professional wants to do is offend the seller, especially if it is a property that is under serious consideration for making an offer.
Take a lot of notes: This helps make the debrief process easier. Always ask permission from the real estate professional or homeowner (in the rare case that they are there) prior to taking any photos or video.
Don't make one's self at home: This should be an obvious one, but the home and the personal belongings in it belong to the seller. Stretching out on the bed, having a couch sit or a seat at the dining room table is not at all appropriate. The home is open to view, but not test drive what it might feel like to stretch out and watch the game. In addition, keep the hands to one's self. In the age of COVID and all the other lovely germs floating about, best to keep the touching to a minimum. If a seller requests that shoes be removed, take off the shoes. Seller wants people to wear a mask? Wear the mask. It is important to remember that while the seller wants to sell, the home is still theirs and their wishes should be respected.
Keep the entourage to a minimum: Try to keep the showing to two or three people. While it may seem like fun to get the bestie, the aunt and uncle and third cousin's opinion, try to keep that initial tour to the essential parties only.
Respect for other's time and space: The bottom line is to remember the golden rule: Treat other's time and space as one would like to be treated and respected. If there is a question about what is customary or acceptable, ask the real estate professional. They are there to guide a buyer through the process, and that includes real estate etiquette. Kindness and respect go a long way; remember that one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar.